A sort of homecoming + a simple, celebratory meal: Crab Ravioli in Saffron Cream
In the discoveries section, let's start with young coconut water. Not the milky, creamy stuff you buy in cans for curries, this nectar from young green coconuts is thin and subtly flavored. In my experience, people either love it or hate it, but regardless, your body will thank you for it. My facialist (I say that like she's on my permanent staff) tells me it's divine for the skin (ingested, not applied topically) and I read that, post-tsunami, it was administered intravenously to the critically dehydrated because its so rich in nutrients it can mimic human plasma. Full of potassium and electrolytes, it's nature's Gatorade, and as an oft-dehyrdated little flower myself, I'm a fan.
On to delights. Let's start with The Moss Room. If you've not yet explored The Academy of Sciences (Hello?? Penguins!), consider going on a Thursday night. If the idea of cocktailing while perusing exhibits sits well with you, and you prefer the bass of dj beats to the daytime squeals of kindergartners, it's a must. After checking out the Rainforest and the Planetarium, you can mosey on down (with ressies, of course) to The Moss Room, the museum's onsite restaurant, which serves all-organic, locally-farmed ingredients in delicious, innovative dishes from Charles Phan (Slanted Door, Heaven's Dog) and Loretta Keller (Coco500, Bizou). On the night we dined there, in fact, I was doubly delighted. Firstly, I was stunned when the sommelier announced he remembered the Huzz and me from a previous visit to Coco500. Not so exceptional except that it was four years ago! I remembered him too as he'd spent a good amount of time recommending wines that night, and I appreciated his attentiveness, but really, for him to remember us all these years later was sort of amazing. Maybe we asked something so oenophilically pedestrian, he made a mental note about us. But judging from his service and generousity, the guy's just a consummate pro.
Next delight was his in-depth discourse on biodynamic wine. I may have previously understood something about these wines being grown according to the earth's natural cycles, rather than by forcing farming techniques against the seasons. What I didn't know is how sort of Pagan and ritual-filled the growing techniques seem to the uninitiated. It's all lunar cycles and burying a cow horn filled with manure. Don't mock it though--the process is actually a means of optimizing soil fertility. And based on my tastings that night, they're doing something way right. I also learned though that bio-wines can be total hit-or-miss. Whereas science lets us manipulate or chemically-enhance wines if the growing season isn't to our liking, this methodology lets nature determine the outcome. Poor season? Poor wine. So it goes. I was also delighted to learn that one of our fave local wines, Grgich Hills (A Croatian family making California wines) is entirely biodynamic. Somehow, knowing they let nature lead makes me love them even more.
The next mini-delight: The "When Figs Fly" cocktail at Absinthe (PS: Jamie Lauren was robbed!) When brunching there (I love those who "brunch" as a verb almost as much as those who "summer")...anyway, whilst brunching at Absinthe, I typically go for a French 75 (how I adore those petite brandied cherries), but when my ladyfriend opted for this figgy spritzer, I wished I'd ordered the same. It's simply fig cordial and champagne with a thyme sprig stir. Totally figalicious.
Oh, and a final discovery, and one that makes an appearance on le menu below is the tomato vanilla jam from Lemon Bird Jams. Perhaps the flavor combo sounds odd to you, as it did to me on first receiving the sweet little jar from my sister-in-law, but Oh My Vanilla Beans, is it sublime! I've sampled other combinations from these jam elves since, but this one is truly superb. Enjoy en brioche avec paté per my directions, below.
And on now to the recipes for a simple, celebratory meal. In this case, it was my mother's tender 71st. My father reported that lobster is her decadent food of choice so he and I set out to make a meal around it. We settled on an amuse bouche of paté and tomato vanilla jam (that's the one!) on brioche, a frisée salad with blood oranges, roquefort and champagne citrus vinaigrette followed by the main event: lobster ravioli in saffron cream. And to close, a pear tart. However, once it became clear that fresh lump lobster meat was in short supply (and since I had no interest in steaming a live one), we settled for a pound of fresh lump Dungeness meat as ravioli filling. The result was, dare I say it, even better. I think the tender crab texture compared to the more plump lobster meat ended up being a superior filling for our little pasta pillows. So without further ado, Les Recettes du Menu Spécial Fêtes:
L'amuse bouche: Fois Gras Paté on Brioche with Tomato Vanilla or Fig Jam (we made both)
Firstly, brioche is my new favorite food group. With a flaky, delicate texture somewhere between pannetone and croissant, it's melt-in-your-mouth pastry heaven. If you don't care to make your own (I do, but not yet), you can buy loaves at Whole Foods. (Toast some for breks and enjoy with tea for a divine start to your day). In this case, I sliced, cubed and lightly toasted some of Heaven's Bread. Then, I topped it with a sliver of paté and a dollop of jam, alterating between the flavors named above. Finally, I plated it in what turned out to be a very-'80s checkerboard pattern. For a minute, I was back in Postrio's flamboyant dining room circa '93.
Next, le salade. Frisée tossed in Champagne Citrus Vinaigrette with Blood Orange Segments and Roquefort.
It couldn't be easier, or more refreshing. I cleaned the frisée then tossed it in a drizzle of 1 part champagne vinegar to 2 parts persian lime olive oil. (I love this stuff or it's lemony cousin, and both are easily found in various incarnations at Whole Foods or around the Ferry Building). Also, be sure to add a few fingerfuls sel de mer and some grindings of pepper. Toss well. Top with segments of blood orange, peeled and pithed, and garnish with a gooey hunk of rich roquefort.
And, finally, the Crab Ravioli in Saffron Cream
One of my favorite time-saving kitchen techniques, and not in that Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade way that involves the vile "tablescapes", is using wonton wrappers to make ravioli. You can find them, once again, at Whole Foods (why does it feel like I'm totally plugging them, today? Here are the facts: it's close, I'm lazy and they do have a stupid-awesome array of special ingredients). Anyway, the wonton wrappers. Simply brush the edges with egg wash (one lightly beaten egg), plop a little heap of crabmeat in the center and then encase the little package by topping with another wrapper and pinching the edges together. I set my father to work on these and he diligently fashioned 2o or so, estimating about 5 for each plate.
(Seen here: The commander gets his wonton on!)
For the cream sauce, I started by sautéeing a shallot in butter, adding white wine and reducing it, then adding cream, saffron, salt and pepper. When the pasta is plated and spooned with sauce, sprinkle some cayenne and lay a chive or two across the top. It's a simple recipe I found online here, and it's really pretty good. If I did it again, I'd add something to the crabmeat to add some layered flavor. I think corn and thinly sliced shallot would really add some delicious dimensions.
The aforementioned pear tart is also an afore-blogged recipe. Just search this blog and you'll find the pearticulars (ouch) in a long-ago post, I think alongside some superior spanakopita snaps. And with that, my long-abandoned cheeselings, I must close. Thanks for returning, and reading right down to the bitter end. Happy Paddy's Day, Erin Go Bragh and try not to act too much the eejit when you're pounding green beers down at P.J. McFinnegans tonight!