Saturday, November 22

Nat's Feast!

If you've ever watched the movie "Babette's Feast" or "The Big Night", you know how genuine culinary feast should look. Maybe you were that lucky to experience one…

My daughter preparing roasted tomato
If not, let me describe one for you:
The indefinite amount of gourmet meals coming your way in a particular order and you just sit and wait for the next gastronomical surprise.  
Similarly defined on web: "A large, elaborately prepared meal, usually for many persons and often accompanied by entertainment; banquet."
All these dishes were created from scratch by my daughter for her sister's big birthday feast!

I've been before to some of those occasions: weddings, etc..", organized few, but never in my own home taking a part in supporting role!
Well, that is exactly what happened for my younger daughter's birthday, when her older sister decided to make the big feast for the whole family. When she decided it, I had to agree, and hope for the best! I just payed for all the surprise food. Yes, I didn't even know what, or how many meals were being made etc.. I offered help, but she said, "no, just don't come into the kitchen and be ready to fill your stomach!"
I wasn't ready for this at all. Nobody was! We knew that she could make some snacks and sweets, but no one expected a 3 star Michelin dinner (actually a tasting menu)!
It was weekend so we had a time. She came home with bags on previous days and also the day of the big dinner. No requests, but I was again offering help, as a sous-chef, to chop! But no, she wanted all the credits and she made that clear.
After cooking for so many years, it was quite different and unusual for me to just sit and wait for the dinner to be served! So I went weaving to my craft room.

She started in the afternoon, around 2 pm, with preparations and chopping. Some fine and subtle aromas, started to emerge around six or seven in the evening. Everyone was already hungry but more over curious. We didn't even know, what's on that tasting menu tonight!
Just to mention - she made it all from scratch,
After all was done, she was happy to give me all her recipes, that I am now proudly showing here.

I'll put my comments beside every dish. But before I do that, I'd just like to quickly mention that I was the only one ready and able to finish all the dishes. And soon you'll find out why.
At the end, we were not only full and content but all in shock. The way she organized everything, prepared and finaly executed every meal to an amazing perfection!

There is one Michelin star chef that I know, and that one lives in my home!

Around 8pm, our feast started...

8:03 pm 
Full bowl with these spongy bakes arrived first at the table. Brown, shiny with hard to resist aroma that filled the room.

1/2 cup warm homogenized milk (125 ml)
1/8 cup sugar (30 ml)
1/8 cup unsalted butter, melted (30 ml)
1/4 Tbsp salt (3.5 ml)
1.5 cup all-purpose flour (375 ml)
1/2 egg
1/2 envelope (1/8-ounces) active dry yeast
flour, for bench flour
1/2 egg
1/2 Tbsp milk (7.5 ml)
1. In a small bowl, combine sugar with ½ cup warm milk and mix well. Add the yeast and stir. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes, until it foams.
2. In another bowl, combine the egg and remaining ½ cup warm milk and melted butter
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and salt by hand. Add the yeast mixture and the egg mixture. With the stand mixer, start mixing the dough on low speed. Increase speed as flour is incorporated. Continue to mix until dough comes together. Increase machine speed, knead dough until it comes together.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put the dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave overnight in the fridge or alternatively let proof until doubled in a warm spot for 45 minutes.
1. Punch down dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Tear off pieces of the dough and form sixteen 1 ½-inch balls. Roll them onto a surface to make smooth. Place in a buttered 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan. Let rest, covered, in a warm spot, until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
2. Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk to make an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the top of the buns with the egg wash. Bake the dinner buns for about 13 to 15 minutes or until they are golden brown. Serve warm and pull apart at the table.

8:07 pm
Birthday girl's favourite, came as a first course, topped with tosted piece of baguette and great surprise at the bottom  -  grated Griere pillow.  It was actually great twist to the ordinary styled Onion soup.


1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups thinly vertically sliced Walla Walla or other sweet onion
2 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup dry white wine
4 cups less-sodium beef broth
1/8 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 (1-ounce) slices French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 (1-ounce) slices reduced-fat, reduced-sodium Swiss cheese (such as Alpine Lace)

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan; sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in sugar, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Stir in wine, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours.
Preheat broiler.
Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until toasted, turning after 1 minute.

Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a jelly-roll pan. Ladle 1 cup soup into each bowl. Divide bread evenly among bowls; top each serving with 1 cheese slice. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

 8:24 pm
It's hard to pick a favourite between all these amazing dishes, but this one could be mine. With a great combination of citrus and fennel and arugula, it achieved just perfect balance for one's taste buds.

For the scallops:
1 lb. dry large sea scallops
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into six  pieces
2 Tbs. finely diced shallot (1 medium shallot)
1/4 cup dry white vermouth or dry white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley and chives
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 lemon wedges for serving
Remove the tough abductor muscle from the side of each scallop (some scallops are sold with the muscle already removed). If you feel any grit on the scallops, rinse them under cold water. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels; surface moisture impedes browning. 
Heat a 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the oil and butter, if using, and heat until quite hot. Pat the scallops dry once more and put them in the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Season with salt and pepper and let sear undisturbed until one side is browned and crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the scallops and sear until the second side is well browned and the scallops are almost firm to the touch, 2 to 4 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, transfer the scallops to a plate, and set them in a warm spot. Let the pan cool for a minute before you make the sauce.
Return the pan to medium heat. Add a piece of the butter (1/2 Tbs.) and the shallots and sauté until the shallots begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add the vermouth or wine and simmer until reduced by about half, another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the herbs and lemon zest. Reduce the heat to low, add the remaining butter, and whisk constantly until the butter melts into the sauce. Return the scallops and any accumulated juices to the pan. Gently roll the scallops in the sauce to warm them through. Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side to squeeze over the scallops.

1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1/8 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tbs. minced shallot
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
Scant 1/8 tsp. minced garlic
1/8 tsp. Dijon mustard
3/4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 Tbs. hazelnut oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small fennel bulb
2.5 oz. arugula, trimmed, washed, and dried (about 5 cups)
1/8 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Toast the fennel seeds lightly in a small skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let the seeds cool. Chop them coarsely.

Combine the orange juice, lemon juice, shallot, orange zest, and garlic in a small bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes and then stir in the fennel seeds and Dijon mustard. Whisk in the olive oil and hazelnut oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut off the top and bottom of the fennel bulb. Cut it in half lengthwise. Lay one half flat on its cut surface and slice crosswise as thinly as possible. Stop slicing when you hit the core (a little core is all right, but you don't want wide areas of core in your slices). Repeat with the second half. You should have about 1-1/2 cups sliced fennel.

Put the sliced fennel in a large bowl with the arugula and toasted hazelnuts. Toss with enough of the dressing to lightly coat the leaves (you may not need all of the dressing). Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

8:46 pm
My second favourite or shared first place, spiciness just right, baked to perfection, and on fennel bed…Visually superb as well.

Lemon juice
Red pepper flakes/chilli powder

9:21 PM
Last seafood of the night, just in satisfying amount and cooked with preserved juices. Very light.

Cook salmon. Add dressing from the scallop bed salad overtop.

9:47 pm
Strong, with loads of veggies and chunks of beef, just needed little bit more cooking to soften completely the meat. Otherwise, great comfort bowl of stew for these cold days!


1 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac
1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
1 can (2 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley.

9:49 pm
Another winner! Possibly in average, would top the list among all family members. Family and friend's favourite. With slow roasted tomatoes, and goat cheese, what could go wrong?! 
And do I have to mention that the dough shells were made from scratch, as well?
Presentation: 10

2.5tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 medium tomatoes or large romas, cored, halved crosswise, seeded
1 small garlic cloves, thinly slivered
1 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, divided
1/2 cup coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup soft fresh goat cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 large eggs
1/8 cup whipping cream
1/6 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
1 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
8 to 12 tablespoons ice water
Sift flour and salt together into a medium bowl. Add shortening, and mix in with fingertips until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add just enough ice water to form a dough. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic, and place in refrigerator for a few minutes before rolling out.
DIRECTIONS for tart filling
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; brush foil with 1 tablespoon oil. Place tomato halves, cut side up, on baking sheet. Sprinkle garlic and 1 tablespoon thyme over tomatoes; drizzle remaining 1/4 cup oil over. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake until tomatoes begin to shrink and are slightly dried but still soft, about 2 hours. Cool tomatoes on sheet. DO AHEAD Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store in single layer in covered container in refrigerator.
Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface to 13-inch square. Transfer pastry to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom, pressing pastry firmly onto bottom and sides of pan. Trim overhang to 3/4 inch. Fold overhang in and press, pushing crust 1/4 inch above pan. Pierce crust all over with fork; chill 30 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line pastry with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans; bake until crust edges are golden, piercing with fork if crust bubbles, about 12 minutes longer. Cool crust 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Meanwhile, using fork, mash mozzarella cheese, goat cheese, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme together in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add eggs and cream and stir until mixture is well blended. Spread cheese filling evenly in crust. Arrange tomato halves in filling, cut side up. Place olives between tomatoes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Bake until filling is puffed and set, about 35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Push up pan bottom, releasing sides. Serve tart warm.

10:11 pm


I didn't expect crepes to be so good in savoury version, but this is something everyone should attempt to make for the parties and maybe serve cut small pieces. Combination of mushrooms and chicken in creamy sauce is irresistible.
Since most of the "participants" stopped at this point, few left that I had for lunch tomorrow. 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 cups chicken stock, hot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon milk
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Essence, recipe follows
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
3/4 teaspoons minced garlic
4 ounces mushrooms (such as button and shiitake), stems trimmed, wiped clean, and roughly chopped
1/8 pound baked ham, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/8 cup dry sherry
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 tablespoon chopped green onions
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
3/8 cup grated Parmesan
In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened into a pale blond roux, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the hot stock in a steady stream, whisking to incorporate. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently with a heavy wooden spoon until thick. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper, and stir to incorporate. Slowly whisk in the cream and simmer, stirring, until well incorporated and thickened. Remove from the heat and very lightly film the top with the milk to prevent a skin from forming.

In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the diced chicken, season lightly with Essence, and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. To the fat and juices in the pan add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring, until they have given off their water and are starting to color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ham and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the sherry and bring to a boil, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add the tarragon and green onions, and return the chicken to the pan. Stir well to blend and cook until the sherry has evaporated. Reduce the heat to low and stir in enough of the cream sauce to bind and thicken, 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Place the crepes on a work surface. One at a time, spoon the filling along the bottom third of each crepe, about 3 tablespoons per crepe, and roll into a cylinder to enclose the filling. Place, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining crepes.

To the remaining cream sauce, add the Gruyere and stir to incorporate. Spoon the sauce evenly over the crepes. (NOTE: The crepes can be tightly covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1 day or frozen for 3 days at this point. Bring to room temperature before baking.)

Bake until warmed through and the top starts to become bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the Parmesan. Bake until the cheese is melted and the topping is golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes.

after 10 pm
Blueberry tart with custard

We vere definitively all completely filled by now, but when she brought these tarts, there was no one who could resist! Oh yes, we had to press that stomach somehow and find place for these.
No one regretted. But don't think what you see is what you get, because among all the juicy blueberries and custard there is a thin layer of dark chocolate waiting for you in the middle. It's electrifying!

Tart shell from the sundried tomato tart recipe
Ingredients for custard
2 large free-range egg yolks
2 tsp cornflour
25g/1oz caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, or ½ tsp good-quality vanilla extract
250ml/9fl oz whole milk
250ml/9fl oz double cream
Preparation method
Put the egg yolks in a medium saucepan with the cornflour and sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan, or add the vanilla extract, and use a metal whisk to combine all the ingredients.
Gradually whisk in the milk and cream then place the pan over a low heat and cook gently for 6-8 minutes, whisking constantly, until smooth and thick. (Do not allow the custard to boil.)
Put blueberries in a pan and whisk them around until the water evaporates for the most part ~20 mins
1.     Take tart shells.
2.     Place a thin layer of dark chocolate on the bottom of the tart
3.     Place some custard on top of the chocolate
4.     Top with as much blueberry compote as you want

Orange/ chocolate filled crepes 

Since the birthday girl is huge fan of real ordinary crepes, her sister left some from the savoury crepes dish to fill with chocolate and orange juice. 
I had to admit, i had only bite of the crepes, I couldn't finally find place for all crepe, but since she made these before, and I tried them, she forgive me. Although, great crepes!

As in "Fable for Culinary France" says about Babette: "The conversations that Babette overhears from the kitchen tell her that the meal is working its magic. ...As the madeleine dipped in a cup of tea gives inexpressible joy to Proust's narrator by resurrecting his childhood, so Babette's feast carries her and her guests to another, better world. I made them happy," Babette says with pride. That happiness is the accomplishment of great art and of great love, of the material with which the artist works, and of the public that she serves. Only toward the end of the meal does Babette allow herself to savour the magnificent old burgundy that she has dispensed so prodigally. Only at the very end does she eat the incomparable meal that she has prepared (even then she remains standing). " , I could say exactly the same about my daughter and her feast. she didn't even tried it before the end. 

What a birthday present for her sister! And she finished almost every dish!

Our feast was over in some late hours. What a party! And do I have to mention that there was almost no leftovers.
Bravo Nat! Pure 10!

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