Thursday, June 10, 2010

And so it begins...

It’s absolutely fascinating to see how the creative mind works. I experience it daily at my day job. You see I work at a very large ad agency, and creative ideas are our daily bread. I have the pleasure of working with some amazing creative talent and see how they develop their ideas to execution. My job role does not have any part in the creation process, I work more on the strategic process of defining who we are talking to and making sure that the execution is in line with what the client’s needs are. At the end of the day, it’s very executional and not very creative. However, this all changes when I begin to plan a dinner and the creative process that follows is how my creative mind works.

When we embarked on executing this idea of special dinners every Thursday, I made it a clear challenge to myself that I would not be creating dishes that I was very familiar with, but instead taking myself out of my comfort zone and working on anything and everything I could. Which lead to the inspiration for this week.

Our original invitees for the week were two women, one pregnant and with a tight diet and the other a health nut with a vegan heart (but not vegan at all). I decided to create something based on the audience and their dietary needs. So I began with the easiest part, the main plate.

A fish, what fish? But wait Tamy (my wife) hates fish. But she liked the fish we had at our wedding. Sea Bass. Can’t go wrong with a sea bass, but what do with it? Sauce? Garnishes? Yes, Cilantro pasta! Sauce? Hhhmmm (we’re eating Peruvian later tonight so my mind goes directly there) Aji Amarillo. YES an Aji Amarillo sauce with a goat cheese base. Do we need a veggie? How about broccolini with mushrooms? No that’s two greens and a yellow, the color scheme would be totally off and look bad. Do we need a third? No forget it. We have our main dish.

Now for an appetizer…
We started considering something with mushrooms, Tamy suggested stuffed mushrooms, hhmmm doesn’t quite fit with the main dish. There needs to be some connection between one dish and the other. We go through the entire process of creating a dish (which we might use later) of stuffed mushrooms with bacon bits, brie cheese. Sounds delicious but not for this dinner.

Finally I decide to go with a salad, a refreshing salad, yet still one that is unusual. Arugula, mango, papaya, Tamy suggests cucumber (delicious) and an orange/lime ginger dressing. Perfect!


“What about dessert?” she asks. Well, I am nor really the dessert guy. Why? Well because dessert is much more of a science, too much or too little of any ingredient and your soufflé doesn’t rise, your mousse stays liquid, or your tart tastes flat. You see, I am much more the style of cook that puts in what ‘feels’ right, not an exact recipe to the teaspoon (so please follow my recipes as that, they are not exact!). To that note, I would wait until the last minute to see what I was going to do with dessert, but I promise, no cop out by buying ice cream or anything else like that.

So the day arrives and I have added one additional friend to the list of invitees, a former co-worker that just moved into the city, he would make a great addition to the group. What seemed to be a short day at work ended up being a lengthy one followed by a running trip through Whole Foods buying all the ingredients. Long story short, I arrive home at 7:45 guest are arriving at 8 and I have not even begun unpacking the ingredients. Prioritization is of essence, but I work very well under pressure and especially in the kitchen (mind you that the mess I leave behind after cooking, under these circumstances, is huge). So I begin with dessert first as this takes the longest cooking time in the fridge. This is what I prepared:

Coconut/Mango Mousse
1 Mango
1 can of Coconut Milk
2 Egg whites
1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 envelope of gelatin
½ cup of sugar (cane sugar)
Grated ginger (fresh)
Grated lime peel

Combine the coconut milk, the egg whites, whipping cream, ginger and sugar in a bowl and beat well with a hand mix until the mix will begins to foam up. Transfer to a double boiler until it simmers then mix in the gelatin, stir. Pour mix into 6 separate bowls.
Dice mango into small cubes and place in each bowl.
Place bowls in the fridge for approximately 3 hours.
When removing from fridge before serving, grind a little lime peel for color and flavor.

Next up, I took time to begin what I should have done from the beginning, but with the longest plate out of the way, I prepped the main plate and appetizer. Had everything cut up and ready to go so it would be a much easier process on preparing the dishes. I prepared all dishes more or less at the same time, however I held off on cooking the fish until the appetizer was almost finished. So here are the remaining 3 dishes starting with the appetizer:

Arugula Papaya/Cucumber Salad
1 bag of Arugula
2 cups of diced papaya
1 cup of thinly sliced cucumber

1 lemon
½ cup of orange juice
¼ of a cup of olive oil
Honey (to taste)
Grated ginger (fresh)

For the dressing, squeeze the juice out of the lemon and mix all the ingredients together. Please note that the honey is for additional sweetness, I prefer to add approximately two spoonfuls, but this is to taste.
Mix the dressing in with the arugula just before serving. Serve arugula first then add the papaya and cucumber on top.

Now for the main dishes:

Chilean Sea Bass with Aji Amarillo/Goat Cheese sauce
1 Aji Amarillo chile
1 yellow onion
2 cups of dry white wine
3 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 roll of goat cheese
4 pieces of Chilean sea bass

Place 2 tbs of butter into a small sauce pan, melt then place chopped onions until soft. Add wine and aji and let it reduce for 10 minutes. Add whipping cream and salt and pepper to flavor. Pass mix through food processor or blender, then strain into sauce pan. Melt the goat cheese into the mix. Sauce should look thick.

Cook fish on a skillet just before serving. Total cooking time is about 8 to 10 minutes. Melt butter in skillet and place previously salt & peppered fish steak into skillet. Let it cook for 4 minutes then turn. Serve on dish then use sauce as a garnish on top of filet.

Cilantro Pasta
2 cups of chopped cilantro
1 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of mustard
2 egg yolks

Place chopped cilantro, mustard, egg yolks, portion of olive oil, salt & pepper into a food processor/blender. Begin to process at slow and slowly pour in the olive oil (should be a hair thin pour) sauce begins to take form and gets thick.
Cook pasta & drain. Replace hot pasta into pot and mix in cilantro sauce (pasta needs to still be hot). Sauce will cook onto the pasta.

As for serving, my personal choice was to serve the fish with a spoonful of sauce on top as well as a spoonful garnish on the side. The pasta was rolled and served on the other side of the fish.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the dinner, and now for the recipes!!!... I will definitely try to reproduce them!!!
    Love you guys!!