Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday Night Menu

Friday's I cook most of the day making all kinds of fancy things for our special Friday night dinner. I try to make recipes that I never made before or use different ingredients that I may be unfamiliar with. Usually I end up doing Italian foods but this time was different, the menu:

-homemade goat's cheese on blackened crostini toasts with candied lemon
-pork, red pepper and pineapple kabobs, glazed with maple syrup
-tamale filled with spicy mole sauce and brown rice wrapped and baked in a banana leaf
-cayenne chocolate souffle on a bed of pillowy homemade vanilla, cardomum and cinnamon ice cream, and topped with a red dusted phyllo heart (for Valentine's day)

I had found a recipe for homemade ricotta cheese and wondered, what would happen if I use goat's milk (available at Whole Foods). It worked very nicely. Just heat the milk to just the boiling point with a bit of salt and add fresh lemon juice let the curds form for about 2 minutes and with a fine strainer, strain into cheesecloth, chill for 3 hours and you have fresh goat's cheese! For the candied lemon I cut the rind off and cut out supremes (just the flesh, no white pith) then add to simple syrup and let it simmer very gently for about 1 hour. I had never done that and wondered about it, we thought it was very good, but there must be a better place to use it like maybe in a mixed drink (we will work on that).

My idea for the main dish came because I had the pork idea and thought it was all quite sweet between the pineapple and maple syrup so I wanted to balance it with something spicy, and that's where the spicy mole sauce came in. For the pork I used pork butt and it worked well, I brined the 1" squares in a salt and sugar solution for 5 hours to be sure it was tender, and then layered the pork, pineapple and red pepper (all cut in about 1" squares) on to skewers. Grilled them until they looked like they were 75% done and started brushing on maple syrup, sear the syrup right in there, it reminded me of Chinese food when I was done, the color and the crispy edges where the syrup had caramelized on there. I love grilled pineapple, you have to try that. The banana leaf thing was ok, it looked pretty and interesting, but It's not worth talking about, the mole sauce was good. I had never made that before it's roasting tomatoes and garlic in the oven and toasted spices on the stove top, grinding them up with some spicy chilies (the recipe said to soak dried ancho and guajullo chilies and puree them and strain them, but I immediately thought instead of that I would just use chipotle chilies in adobo sauce which they have in a can and you don't have to soften them, I just blended them and strained them. I also added some sugar and chocolate.

I added cayenne pepper to a chocolate souffle base that I make once in a while (and can be made ahead, chilled and baked just before you are ready to serve dessert) and made a custard based ice cream and got that chilling. When we were ready for dessert I poured the custard into the ice cream maker and popped the souffles in the oven and dessert was ready 20 minutes later. I think homemade ice cream is so good when it's freshly churned, that's why I made it at the very end and I had pictured a pillowy bed for the gooey chocolate souffles, topped with a heart shaped "phyllo cookie", I layered butter and walnuts between about 8-10 sheets and cut the shape, butter on top and sprinkled red sugar lightly over. It was good next time I might use a sugar cookie batter instead. Pictures of our dinner are below.

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