Battle: Game & Cocoa

2011.Sep.21 Wednesday · 1 comment

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“If my memory serves me correctly…”

– Chairman Kaga, Iron Chef

I swore that if I did another Iron Chef style dinner that I’d ban chocolate as one of the ingredients, given that in all five previous iterations, that was one of the two ingredients selected. Okay, this time they said “cocoa”, but still. I just forgot to say so until it had already been selected. So the requests were “venison” and “cocoa”. The first turned problematic as we’re not in hunting season here, which meant that anything I might find in the venison world was going to be frozen. Not necessarily a problem, but it’s also been a few months since hunting season, and sure enough, it turned out that no one except one supplier had anything left. He told me he had a few kilos of lomo remaining and I ordered it up. Then he called me back to say it wasn’t lomo, but shoulder, so the few kilos included the bone and there was really only about a kilo and a half of meat, not enough for a three-day series of dinners – and, that it was so covered in freezer burn that he wasn’t even sure that it was from this year’s hunt. Needless to say, venison got scrapped.

The selector of venison had said that he was amenable to alternatives, which was good because there wasn’t really much choice – and I decided on rabbit and goat and let him know. Then the fun of the menu came into play. With two (really three I guess) core ingredients, I don’t necessarily plan on both of them going into every dish – I’m not sure that a rabbit based dessert would be a good idea, though I suppose goat cheese would have been fine. I decided on three dishes with some intersection, and two that just focused on one or the other. Thankfully, I have more than the chairman’s allotted hour in which to plan a menu.

Pumpernickel rolls

With the general theme I knew I wanted a dark bread, and bringing cocoa into the mix I immediately thought of dusting off my pumpernickel recipe. So, fresh pumpernickel rolls. That’s one of those flavors I miss from NYC. My favorite quick breakfast on the run used to be a pumpernickel bagel with scallion cream cheese.

Prawn Chorizo, Black Fennel Puree, Apple Mayo

I decided to bring back the shellfish chorizo that I was playing around with way back… and I went back to the inspiring source, Aki and Alex’s Ideas in Food and the dish they put together. Not an exact re-creation, the Activa still isn’t really an option here, though likely these days I could have found some had I really been up for looking, so I stuck with the egg white option as last time – the texture is lighter and a little more crumbly than theirs turns out because of that, but it still works. I loved their idea for black fennel puree and it came out beautifully – look for that to be used in more upcoming dishes (like this coming weekend with duck). In place of the butter beans, fresh favas, and in place of the shrimp oil mayo and pickled apples – I came up with a white chocolate and apple mayo – something else you’re going to see coming up again. Freshly made mayo with apple cider vinegar, then I mixed in a little horseradish, some grated white chocolate, and a good amount of apple puree (very finely blended applesauce without flavorings). Big kudos to A&A for their inspiring work!

Goat consomme and cocoa spaetzle

Given that I was working with goat for the main course, I knew I was going to have the bones leftover to work with, and a soup based on those was a natural. I decided to go with a completely clarified goat consommé made from the roasted bones. To work in the cocoa I thought some cocoa flavored spaetzle would pair nicely. Rounding out the flavors, shaved red onions, cilantro, and a dusting around the rim of crushed wasabi peas for a little kick.

Rabbit Loin, Lentils, Brussels Sprouts

This was my favorite course of the evening and one that I’ll bring back at some point. Rabbit loin, seasoned, rolled and tied, then seared off and cooked to just medium. Served over slow cooked lentils flavored with tomato, oregano, bacon and morcilla sausages. Scattered around, fried brussels sprouts tossed with a smoked, hot mustard dressing (smoked hot mustard, sweet wine, Hawaiian sea salt, black pepper, and julienned mint). And a topping of fresh radish sprouts. Love this dish! And based on the plates being practically licked clean, it seemed so did most of the guests.

Goat Moussaka

A fairly classic take on moussaka, individual style, using leg of goat for the meat in place of the lamb, and adding cocoa into the spice mix to work with our theme. Quite happy with this dish as well, but hmm, coming after that rabbit dish… I’d reverse the order on these if I did them together again.

Chocolate Habanero Pionono

Bringing in some flavors that aren’t really the first ones people think of when it comes to dessert… A cocoa pionono (jelly roll sheet cake) spiked with habanero chili powder, filled with a dark chocolate and olive oil mousse, and sitting in a pool of caramel that’s thinned down with apple juice and finished off with just enough sea salt to register. Looks of surprise and then delight seemed to race around the room. The first two nights, a complete hit. The third night, a couple of people for whom the habanero was just a bit much, though they lapped up the mousse and sauce with gusto.

On a final note, you’ll be seeing a change starting today (well actually last night if you’ve already looked) in the Casa S website. I’m not going to post menus anymore, but simply the key flavors that I’m going to be using. More flexibility for me – not that I couldn’t make changes whenever I felt like it anyway, but this gives a little air of mystery to it, as well as, hopefully, eliminating the occasional complaint from someone who reserved specifically because they thought a particular dish sounded like what they wanted to eat. Sometimes I’m tempted to not post anything at all and leave it totally as a surprise. We shall see.


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