Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tasty Eating's Feast of the Seven Fishes

Two years ago, I decided to celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve with Mr. M&P for our holiday dinner together. And that was the best decision I made. On that night, I made some of my most ambitious and beautiful dishes to date. It was a lot of hard work but I was very happy with my results. Unfortunately, last year I got so stressed out and anxious about repeating the success of the meal, that I chickened out last minute. In fact, I didn't end up cooking anything and instead we went out to dinner. Looking back, I completely regret my decision last year but it was probably best for my stress level. However, I wasn't going to allow that for this year. I started planning much earlier and prepped myself mentally first then physically later.
And so I present to you, my Feast of the Seven Fishes for 2013. The first course involves a sturgeon and caviar terrine from Paris that I was saving with some butter toasted brioche.

The soft meat of the sturgeon with little pops of caviar in every bite spread on a buttery rich brioche toast. The terrine itself was a bit fishy and the texture was a bit too soft. It reminded us of canned tuna but fancier. Overall, we probably wouldn't buy this again.
Moving on. The second course was an oyster chowder with fried bacon bits. The base of the chowder was made ahead of time using yukon gold potatoes, onions, fish stock, and cream. At the last minute, I shucked some oysters and added them to the hot chowder gently cooking them until just slightly done. I left them whole so that they retained their briny goodness. I also added any oyster liquor from the shucking. The crispy bacon on top added just the right amount of smokey crunch.
The third course was a bit lighter to balance out the meal. This is bagna cauda which is an anchovy and garlic butter sauce served warm with a side of vegetable crudite. The anchovies just melt into the butter with the pungent garlic. The sauce just screams flavor. The crisp, fresh vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, red bell peppers) are the perfect pairing for this strong flavored dip.
The fourth dish was also light but cooked this time. Jumbo seared scallops served over minty pea puree and hot chili oil. Buying good quality scallops like dry scallops are key. They sear incredibly well without letting any water out. Those chemically treated scallops are not the kind you want. The sweetness of the scallops, the freshness of the pea puree (which I should have made more smooth), and the heat of the chili oil was just wonderful together. A really good balance of flavors.
And now we're going back to heavier dishes with the fifth dish. This is a lump crab and shiitake mushroom chawanmushi. This steamed Japanese soft egg custard is so delicate in texture and flavor. Using something equally delicate like crab meat is ideal. The mushrooms adds meatiness and the litter of scallions adds just the right touch of freshness. I also included some fried shiitake mushrooms on top for something crunchy. Those thinly sliced mushrooms were so good. Salty and earthy chips. They almost tasted like bacon. Almost.
The sixth dish was very luxurious. I made some sticky rice with a touch of vinegar then added a layer of thinly sliced cucumbers and finished with with a healthy helping of prepped sea urchin brushed with a bit of ponzu (citrus laced soy sauce). The salty, briny sea urchin with the super fresh crunchy cucumbers and sweet sticky rice. Man oh man, this was delicious. If you like sea urchin, you would love this dish. So simple.
The seventh and final dish was a nod to Mas Farmhouse. This is a rare yellowfin tuna steak with soy sauce browned butter, microgreens, and crispy shallots. Although my dish wasn't nearly as good as the one found at the restaurant, I still really liked this. Tender, meaty fresh tuna with caramelized buttery and salty soy sauce topped with fresh greens and super crunchy onions. The sauce really makes this dish whole.
You didn't think I would end the meal there, did you? Of course I had to have a dessert as well. Since the meal was delicate in nature, I didn't want to muck it up with a heavy and overly sweet dessert. So I made chocolate mousse. Big in flavor, light in texture. The perfect ending to a wonderful meal.
Another successful Feast of the Seven Fishes checked off. I'm very happy that I decided to go ahead and do it again. Anxiety aside, prep is the key.

2 comments:

  1. Whoa nelly that all looks delicious. Bagna cauda, I've had on menus before and eaten but didn't fully explore what it is. That sounds like it'd be amazing on spaghetti. I have all those ingredients at home. Except garlic (I ran out!) ... I think I will take a peek and whip this up this weekend... yummm

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    Replies
    1. Oh that would go really well with pasta. A super simple and quick sauce. You would definitely enjoy it. Maybe with a bit of bottarga on top?

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