With the deadline for our project looming and just days away, I spent the past weekend continuously working on all the details. Looking back, I’m glad I started weeks ago – there was a lot of cooking, shopping, prepping, research, plating and photographing involved. I plated and photographed dishes two and three times before I was happy with the final result.
My menu’s theme is Sunday dinner in Paris, a special meal for family – where the food is part comfort, part sophisticated and made with a lot of love. I begin the meal with an Amuse Bouche – a savory gougère (baked pastry dough with the addition of cheese similar to a popover) with a white bean and roasted garlic purée. My first real course is a butternut & acorn squash soup which is puréed. The soup is garnished with crème fraîche, pepitos (roasted pumpkin seeds) and drops of pumpkin seed oil. The velvety soup is wonderful for this time of year, the color and depth of flavor make it a real winner.
Next, a fish course – sautéed sea scallops with mussels in a saffron broth. I served this dish in a real scallop shell on a bed of smoked salt that I mixed with smoked paprika to produce a pink “sand” under the shell. The dish presented itself beautifully and photographed well. I must have spent at least three to four hours on that dish alone.
Before my meat course I wanted to have a palate cleanser so I whipped up a citrus & mint granité – which was so easy to make! Simply make some simple syrup, I added the juice of a couple of lemons and an orange plus the zest. To thin out the mixture and extend it, I added about a cup of water. Poured in a metal pan and right into the freezer. The granité must be raked every 30 minutes to produce ice shards. The granité was a gorgeous canary yellow and the chiffonade of mint a nice contrast.
For my meat course, a rack of lamb persillé with a parsnip and potato purée, sautéed swiss chard with garlic chips and a niçoise olive tapenade. The first time I made this dish I plated it in a hurry and it looked too messy – but it was delicious! So I knew I would have to make it again, and re-think the plating design.
A digestif salad follows, heirloom tomato with baby greens, endive and radish with a sherry shallot vinaigrette. I think I was the most astounded how beautifully this dish photographed.
Lastly, a tarte tatin with lavender-scented crème Chantilly. The tarte is an upside-down caramelized apple tart with puff pastry. A classic French dessert that I’ve never made before – so it was a challenge on my first shot. Happily it turned out well and I had many slices after I photographed the finished tarte.
A few more items to finish before handing in my project, wine pairings, costing sheet and a summary needs to be edited. After all that, it needs to be printed and bound for final review by three different Chefs. I have a lot of work still ahead of me!