I hosted dinner for four of our friends…that makes six plates! On the menu was tuna tartare, pasta puttanesca and crème brûlée! for dessert.
Tuna tartare, I knew it was going to be a hit. How you ask? When I made it in class, I had to taste it for seasoning before taking it Chef J for evaluation. Much to my displeasure, I grudgingly put RAW tuna on my spoon and tried it. And much to my surprise I thought the ingredients went well together, then shallot and cucumber created a freshness with lemon and the dijon mustard sauce there was a nice touch of acidity. With that said, I knew my tartare friends would enjoy it more than I did so I added it to tonight’s menu.
What is the difference between tartare and carpaccio? Great question, both are raw fish or meat however tartare should be cut in relatively the same size cubes whereas carpaccio is hammered into even thin slices of fish or meat.
This tuna tartare includes a lot of French-y ingredients- capers, tarragon, shallot, and cornichons. Then for crunch there is cucumber- a great component if you ask me, it helps with the soft tuna. It was served with a dijon mustard sauce.
Shout out to my sous chef and best friend, Kelsey, for helping me chopping all of these ingredients! That reminds me, she asked for this recipe, I need to make sure I send it to her.
Pasta Puttanesca, otherwise known as “Women of the Night.” The story of pasta puttanesca as told to me by Chef J in my culinary class, as stories go, there are probably a lot of different tales, however it was explained to me, as the meal between customers. Working street ladies would make this meal quickly between their nightly customers because it was fast and easy to do. This surprises me because it’s full of garlic, but maybe the smell of garlic masked something else? Either way, I find it to be delicious and therefore I really wanted to make it for others.
It’s a quick pasta sauce that contains a lot of flavors, garlic like I mentioned above, anchovies (I used anchovy paste like we did in school), tomatoes, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes (admittedly I was a little too heavy on my red pepper flakes this time).
The day before I made homemade noodles and let the dough rest in the fridge overnight. I then rolled it out with my KitchenAid mixer and cut it with my knife. I personally think homemade noodles are noticeably better and surprisingly easy to make if you have time to think about the meal beforehand.
I cooked the pasta and then tossed it with the sauce – I’m happy to say it pleased the crowd!
Dessert on the menu was crème brûlée! I made this because I knew it was my friend Brian’s favorite, it’s French and it’s fun (and easy?). I made the custard with heavy cream, sugar, egg yolks and real vanilla bean.
Can someone explain to my why vanilla beans are so expensive? I cut the beans and then scraped out all of that good vanilla. Also – if you want to get two bangs for your buck, you can then throw the used beans, after the inside is removed, in a cup a sugar and it will flavor the sugar overtime. You can use that sugar for anything like say coffee.
I infused the cream with the vanilla.
While the cream warms up and infuses with flavor, I blanchir the sugar and egg yolks. This French term is a fancy way of saying that I whisked it fast and hard until I get a ribbon just like the picture below.
After this I tempered in cream.
Tempering is when you add in the hot liquid to the non-heated ingredients slowly to avoid cooking the non-heated ingredients, in this case you want to temper the cream in to avoid scrambling the eggs. To do this, I simply poured a little (1/4 cup) of hot cream in with the egg mixture while whisking it quickly to make sure it was evenly distributed without cooking the eggs. This will warm up the ingredients slowly, I then added another 1/4 cup, whisked again, and then poured the rest of the warm cream into the egg mixture and whisked again until combined. Because I only have two hands and not four, I place a slightly wet towel under by bowl to keep it from moving as I whisk and pour at the same time.
I then strained the entire mixture to remove any large pieces of the vanilla bean. Some of the specks pass through the strainer – that’s okay because then you have proof you added real vanilla, letting your guests (or your paying customers) see it too!
Afterward, I filled up the ramekins so that the custard was easily distributed. Look at those beautiful vanilla bean specks!
Then I baked them using a bain marie. Another French term meaning a container of hot water usually used for slow cooking. Especially important for custards because the water allows a slow cooking while helping maintain temperature preventing curdling and when the water evaporates it keeps the custard from becoming dry.
The easiest way to make a bain marie, for this purpose, is to lay a wet paper towel down in a casserole dish to help prevent your ramekins from sliding around. Then, as I learned in school, fill in the the hot water after putting the pan in the oven, this helps prevent the water from splashing into the custard as you try to scoot the pan to the middle of the rack. I made sure the water was 3/4 up the side of the ramekin.
Once it’s baked, and cooled down to room temperature (in the bain marie) I put it in the fridge until dessert time.
To serve them, I created a thick-caramel-sugar-glass topping. Well, I should say I only did one of them, my sous chef, Kelsey, did the rest. She stepped in during the chaotic scramble to find more propane for the hand torch and the crying baby needing to be fed.
After culinary school, I was determined that a torch is a kitchen must have. I use it to caramelize sugar (like I did for this dessert) and brown the top of meringues for pies, basically it’s used to make dessert look pretty.
Another successful 24 Sundays! 14 dinners down, 10 more to go! I must say the pictures are getting much better, I hope my story telling is as well 🙂