Rainy Days and M… err… Rainy Days

2012.Aug.13 Monday · 6 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

In some way I suppose, making up for the long dry spell we had, this last week Mother Nature decided to present us with a bit of water pouring from the sky. Out of, I think, nine days it rained seven of them – for much of it coming down in buckets. I don’t know what the official rainfall was, but there’s still standing water in the garden and the rain stopped yesterday morning. I could grow rice, or cranberries, alongside the patio.

Unfortunately all that rain also had an impact on business. A party of four from Brazil never made it to BA, their flight simply cancelled, a trio of Germans decided to hole up in their hotel and not venture forth, and two from New Orleans ended up on a flight that got held in Miami for a whopping eleven hours and didn’t even land until we were already serving cocktails (I offered that they were welcome to come late, but, understandably, they were dead tired and just wanted to go to their hotel). Add to that a couple of past visitors, one of whom came down with some sort of stomach bug, and we had a pretty quiet weekend. Lots of ingredients in the refrigerator to play around with yesterday and today.

Three of the dishes this weekend you’ve seen in recent weeks – they were popular enough that I wanted to bring them back – you’ll be seeing more and more of that. But, there will always be something new, you know?

Zucchini cheesecake

Playing off the textures of tomato dish that I presented a couple of times this past month, here, a little different take with a bit of zucchini. The cheesecake triangle packed with fresh zucchini, lemon zest and cinnamon, served with a crispy-chewy shard of cooked serrano ham, some zucchini “spaghetti” dressed in a Pernod, lemon and hazelnut oil vinaigrette, toasted pecans, slice of fried lemon, and chives.

For the soup course I brought back last week’s bean extravaganza, right down to the tempura fried celery leaves. Then, on to the semolina gnocchi and roasted/smoked vegetable plate that I presented at our recent experimental “casual night“.

Chicken ballotine, fondant potato, broccoli caponata

Okay, I called this a chicken ballotine dish, which is not technically correct as a true ballotine is a boned out leg or thigh of a bird that’s stuffed with “forcemeat”, wrapped in the skin of the bird, and then either braised or poached. But, it’s in the same vein – a boned out chicken leg seasoned with salt, pepper and dry vermouth, rolled up in its skin to form the traditional sausage shape, then tightly sealed in plastic wrap and poached “sous vide” style to a just cooked medium and held at that temperature. To finish, it’s browned off in a little olive oil and butter.

I’ve been playing around with fondant potatoes. If you’re not familiar with them, it’s worth becoming so as they’re among the most delicious and simple ways to serve a potato. I hate to actually pimp for Gordon Ramsey, but the truth is, the man can cook, regardless of his television show demeanor and lack of business acumen. And, here’s one of the best videos I’ve seen to show you how to make these:

The vegetable accompaniment was a broccoli caponata – playing off the artichoke caponata that I’d made in the above linked casual dinner, I substituted in broccoli for the traditional eggplant – like that even better! Over the weekend we had both a vegetarian and a pescetarian guest, so for the former I substituted in a baked white eggplant for the chicken, seasoned up the same way, and for the latter, a rolled up fillet of hake, cooked in the same sous vide and then sauteed method (just less time). Oh, and before someone jumps back to the fondant potatoes – I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock – works just as well.

For dessert, back to last weekend’s wow of a lúcuma tart with maple roasted strawberries and croutons, a hit once again.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly August 13, 2012 at 18:13

Sounds amazing Dan- I can’t believe I haven’t been back in over a year. There’s nothing better than potatoes on a rainy day….I made a “mil hojas de papa” the other day but it wasn’t amazing. Do you have a good recipe?

Katie August 13, 2012 at 19:43

Thanks for the video about the fondant potatoes, Dan. I wasn’t familiar with that preparation, but it sounds easy (and delicious!).

Regarding the pecans, did you find those here or did you bring them back with you from the U.S.? I’ve never seen them here.

dan August 13, 2012 at 20:11

I bought them here – when in season I can get them at most of the local dieteticas and/or gourmet shops. Sometimes they even have them in the supermarkets. There’s actually a whole pecan industry a bit north along the river. I was told today you can also buy them online through MercadoLibre – and I just looked, and it’s true – and quite reasonably priced, too!

Katie August 21, 2012 at 20:57

Thanks for the tip! I had no idea.

Miles September 3, 2012 at 20:40

Gordon Ramsey’s “lack of business acumen”. I take it you are being ironic given he’s made a fortune from cooking!

dan September 4, 2012 at 09:44

Actually, while he’s done well financially, most of his fortune has been made from television, and restaurant after restaurant that he’s opened, while on a personal level have may made him money (he gets paid as a “consultant” to them rather than directly owning them), the restaurants themselves have repeatedly been in financial difficulties for poor management. His restaurant group has been in bankruptcy proceedings for the last three years, and he spent years in battle with his now ex-business partner (and father-in-law, who owned 70% of the restaurant group) over financial irregularities.

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