Fat Asparagus Spears Bathed in Orange Sauce
I had the rest of the menu figured out, but what shall I make for the appetizer? I watched my favorite show "French Food at Home" and the first thing she was making that day was this asparagus dish, she called it a starter, so I thought OK that sounds like a good starter for our meal too. It was very good. Cook the asparagus until it's perfectly done in boiling salted water and shock it in cold water to set the color. Make the sauce by reducing the juice of two oranges then adding it to orange zest, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, olive oil and minced shallots that are first soaked in a little white wine vinegar. Arrange the asparagus on a platter and pour the sauce down the center, top with a hard cooked egg yolk, crumbled and a few shavings of Parmigiana Reggiano. We loved the sauce, it would be good on just about anything.
NY Strip Steak with Smokey Blue Cheese Sauce
The steak is just grilled on the charcoal grill and Tony added a bit of pecan wood to flavor it. I bought this smokey blue cheese thinking I will combine it with some heavy cream in a small pot and just melt the two together, first reducing the cream then adding the cheese. It was good, but the cheese was disappointing because in our opinion there was no smokey flavor at all. So I asked Tony to put some pecan wood on to give it that smokiness that the cheese was supposed to do. It was very nice, perfectly flavored.
Parsnip and Potato Puree
I didn't want to make "just mashed potatoes" I wanted to do something different. I saw the parsnips in the store and said..."parsnip and potatoes, hummmm"... So I got them and early in the day I baked about 6 Yukon Gold potatoes while I did some cleaning. When the were done and cooled slightly I cut them in half and squeezed them through a potato ricer (an easy way to get the skins off and it also doesn't overwork the potato to keep them light and fluffy). I heated some milk and just combined them with salt then into the refrigerator (with the idea that later just before serving I will boil some parsnips and heat the potatoes and combine them and finish them together). So I boiled 3 chopped up parsnips in salted water until soft, mashed them, added the pre-cooked potatoes with some butter, more hot milk and seasoning and it was perfect. Easy because of doing the potatoes early, it came together in minutes. I also used my immersion blender to quickly puree it smooth, if I did it too long they would be gummy, so just enough. The parsnips are sweet so it was really different and good with the steak.
Tony loves creamed spinach but it's something I never do, but I figured it's Friday Night Steak House, I gotta do it. You cook the spinach and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. In an empty skillet heat some heavy cream and reduce it with some freshly grated nutmeg, after about 5 minutes of reducing add the spinach and Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Cook it a few more minutes just until the right creaminess and it's done. Tony was very pleased with the taste. I was too.
Creme Brulee with Fresh Berries
I followed Ina Gardens recipe (Barefoot Contessa) it's on foodnetwork.com, she adds Grand Marnier Liqueur for flavor. It's just eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla and orange liqueur. It cooks in a hot water bath for 35 minutes and after coming to room temperature you chill it. When you serve it spoon some sugar over ( I used some vanilla sugar that I have; you just add spent vanilla pods to a jar and fill with sugar and the sugar takes on the vanilla flavor. I have had mine going for at least 10 years, just keep adding more sugar and spent vanilla beans). Torch the sugar and it caramelizes and after 20 seconds of cooling down it hardens and you crack it with your spoon and it's soooo goooood! I of course added some fresh berries to the tops after the sugar hardened. I macerated some blackberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries in some vanilla sugar and just left it on the counter for a few hours, covered with plastic wrap. When you do that it just makes them shiny and it creates it's own sweet, berry sauce.