Dinner Guest Notes
There are no pictures of last night's dinner with Francine and Lucas, but I thought I would go over the menu and include some notes.
Aperetif, brined picholine olives and local thin sliced dried sausages. The olives were a different kind from the ones we usually get at the market. I got them at the olive oil store on the quai last week, after tasting them in the shop. They aren't aged in any way. They get picholines straight from the tree and put them up immediately in a salt and water brine. Nothing else. I really enjoyed the clean fresh taste of these picholines. The sausage came from our friend in the Bugey, who keeps herds of foraging black pigs. We had envisioned serving a muscat, but Lucas brought a very nice 1999 Chateau Barriere Monbazilliac, all the better!
First course, Autumn veloute with wild pheasant hen and caramelized shallots. The soup was a continuation of a soup I have had going, with a recent addition of duck and chicken stock, rutabaga, and parsley root. This was pureed and strained. For service, I sliced shallots in a julienne and slowly cooked them until they began to caramelize, then added shredded wild pheasant breast and finely siced pheasant skin to brown and slightly crispen. I placed a mound of the shallots and pheasant on the top of each bowl of soup. Around each mound of pheasant, I drizzled garlic infused olive oil. For the wine, we had pulled a 2003 Pouilly sur Loire and had it chilled and ready, but Loic opened the wrong bottle - a Cote du Rhone. When he came and told me, we gave it a quick taste and both agreed that we could go both ways with this soup, being slightly spicy and smoky and topped with the wild game. We decided to stick with the Cote du Rhone Chateau Ruth 2003.
Second course, Rolled lamb saddle cut into slices served with reduction sauce, herb infused soissons, and steamed vitelotte potatoes. The lamb was beautiful, sliced crosswise, very nice. I dry braised it with a splash of duck/chicken stock at the bottom of the casserole. Prep included buttering and salting the outside, slipping bay leaves close to the skin, and tucking thyme around the meat to let it infuse with the juices. Lucas also brought a simply lovely bottle of 2001 Chateau Sesquieres Cabardes, which he chose specifically for the lamb. It was perfect.
Note to self: don't ever throw your battery operated instant read thermometer into the dish water, ever, ever again! Bad girl. I tossed it in the sink with all the rest after I made the caramel sauce for dessert, and somehow the water got run on it. When I receive guests, I always do best testing the meat by temperature. Too many distractions and too much chance of cooking something improperly. Since my thermometer conked out, I went by touch and feeling method, and the meat was fine, but it's not a good idea to take risks that way. About the potatoes - let them cook longer. Don't bring out the soissons and potatoes until you have already sliced the lamb saddle medallions. It would have been much better if I had let them gently continue to steam together while I was carving the meat and served them all at once, and put the jus on them instead of serving it seperately.
Palate cleanser, Arugula with light white Modena balsamic sauce and crushed green peppercorns. This might have been better as mixed greens. Note to self: Take the time to choose greens carefully.
Cheese plate - St. Nectaire, Comte, St. Marcellin, Tomme au Marc, producer's Sechon.
Dessert, individual cheesecakes with salted butter caramel sauce. I used too many eggs in the cheesecake, having split the recipe in half. The original recipe called for 3 eggs and instead of breaking in 3 eggs and splitting that in half I chose 2 smallish eggs. It tasted vaguely eggy to me. Everyone seemed to like it but I think I could have done better. Next time make the crust thinner. I could have made these cheesecakes smaller. Perhaps a white chocolate mousse with the caramel sauce would have been better. The sauce was fine, using the Fleuron les Glieres butter and a touch of added fleur de sel. We served a thimble of the house vin de noix with this dessert.
About the sauce: My initial attempt at the sauce was a dud because I let the sugar cook slightly too long and used creme fraiche, not having regular whipping cream. It had not only the bitter burnt flavor, sugar's flavor reinforced the flavor of the creme fraiche, and it seemed to have a strange sour undertone to it. It could have been interesting if I hadn't burned the sugar. Since this sauce literally takes about 4 minutes to make, I could easily do it again. I made the second sauce with milk and it was technically perfect. Unfortunately, it had very little personality in comparison to the first one. Therefore I mixed 1/3 bitter sour caramel sauce with 2/3 perfect pretty caramel sauce made with milk, and voila, a sauce with a hint of complexity. Just right. I spread it on my breakfast toast just to be sure this morning.
I want to do this lamb saddle again, stuffing it next time. I should think of a better use of the vitelotte potatoes.
We really enjoyed the great conversation and the super personalities of these two interesting people! Conversation highlights - telling our respective 'how we met' stories, Francines tales of the slopes, Lucas and his adventures abroad - all in all a great evening!