Cooking Notes from: The Dinner with the
Mysterious Dr. A’s Nephew or
How to Serve Six Courses
and Still Enjoy the Wine
This was a challenging menu to take on for a couple of reasons: One I had not tasted half of the wines, and two, I would have to cook, have a part in conversation and have time to eat, while producing a menu which mostly there was little mise en place for. I would have to actively cook while the guests were here.
The other challenge was that the seafood was to be purchased the day of the party leaving it as a last minute mystery. The rest of the menu also wasn’t set until about noon on day of this dinner party as I wanted to choose the farmer's markets' best offerings.
The Timeline: (Dinner was on Friday)
On Monday I ordered the cheese from Artisanal and it arrived on Wednesday
– read more about that order here.
On Wednesday the little eggplants, squash, Duck Eggs, Pomegranate and the potatoes were purchased at the Farmer’s Market.
On Thursday we decided to add the duck course as three reds for the lamb and cheese seemed too much. As a result we drove out Willowside Meats on Guerneville Rd to get Liberty Duck Breasts.
Jack also had to go to Sonoma so I had him stop at Oak Hill Farm, a lovely organic farm on Hwy 12 (the wine route) with a farmstand. There he procured golden beets, arugula and flowers.
I also defrosted and marinaded the Horned Dorset Boneless Lamb from Heritage Foods USA. I used an ample amount – 1/2c? of Pomegranate concentrate and olive oil. I did not add salt until just before searing it.
On Friday morning I went to Whole Foods and perused the fish counter – lots of choices. I bought the Eastern Wild Scallops as they were fresh and the Wild Prawns (albeit from Malaysia) as they were the best shrimp choice. I figured on 2 prawns per person. Other considerations for the second course had been Dover Sole or Petrale Sole.
I chose a fresh wild mushroom pasta from the Pasta Shop and some pre-made fresh Rocket Pesto from Pasta, etc. (a local company) to make the scallops a dish. I also opted for 2 rather than 3 scallops a person as there were now 3 first courses.
Things to do Friday:
1) Butter and salt on the table (we used Baratte des Gourmets and Himalaya pink salt)
2) Cook the golden beets
(leave the skins on and boil with 1/4c apple cider vinegar in the cooking water)
3) Wash the potatoes.
4) Seed pomegranate. Roll pomegranate hard on all sides to loosen seeds then cut and half and carefully pull out seeds without any of the bitter pulp.
5) Split the tiny squash and prep the little eggplants.
6) Pick rosemary and other herbs to garnish from the garden.
7) Re-tie lamb with pomegranate seeds and Rosemary (take it out at 4 for roasting at 6)
8) Pre-wash arugula and herbs.
9) Split pears and re-submerge in liquid
10) Drain yogurt (turned out not to be necessary).
11) Chop Scallions for Pancakes.
12) Split prawns and devein.
13) Preheat oven to 400°F.
One hour before guests arrived
Sear Duck and deglaze with ¼c of Crème de Cassis (from Edmond Briottet) and then place in oven for 8-10 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate until needed.
Make vinaigrette with Olio D'Olivia Olive Oil (Stephen Singer) and Crème de Cassis.
I made fish sauce mixture for pancakes and placed on the table. 1 part soy sauce, fish sauce and rice vinegar (seasoned)
Just before guests arrive
Crack Duck eggs and whisk them. Keep refrigerated.
Season and Sear Lamb on Stovetop, pour remaining marinade overtop to deglaze and place in oven. Add vegetables and potatoes to pan in 30 mins.
To make Pancakes:
2-3 tablespoons of Ghee into a high edged sauté pan on high. Add scallions to egg mixture and drop in the prawns into the eggs. Pour egg mixture into hot ghee making sure a split prawn gets into each pancake – I used a fork to arrange them. Cook until one side is golden and then flip. Drain on a rack or paper towels and serve immediately. I was able to do 4 pancakes at a time. Using only 4 of the 10 prawns I had calculated on (so I made the pancakes again the next day for lunch). Recipe adapted from In the Vietnamese Kitchen.
The Scallops I coated one side in Porcini mushroom flour from D’Artagnan before searing them in hot Ghee. When the pasta was done I drained it and add a bit of pesto to it. I plated it by placing a small nest of dressed pasta underneath the two scallops and garnished with drops of the pesto oil and a small fennel blossom.
The duck was served at room temperature as were the other ingredients. The “salad” was three thick slices of duck, three slices of golden beet (actually half slices as the beets were very large), a tiny pile of torn arugula dressed with 80/20 mixture of Stephen Singer’s Olio di Olivia and Crème de Cassis. Use 4-6 drops of aged balsamic vinegar to tie the plate together.
As the party was small I decided to use unique dishes for each course. The pancakes I served on small Japanese plates with Rosewood chopsticks and little pottery sake cups for the sauce.
Scallops were served in a Minton Florentine variation soup bowl from the 1930s which has a transfer of town scenery in the middle and the rim pattern is monochrome.
The Duck was on Jack’s great grandmother’s Limoges plates from the turn of the century.
The Lamb was served in shallow bowls – the Minton Coin pattern from the 1870s.
Cheese was on the Minton Arabesque pattern from the 1890s.
Dessert was served in teacup saucers of the Minton Faisan pattern of the 1870s.