Last week, I had the pleasure of preparing a six-course meal for some very special family friends' 35th Anniversary. While I had high hopes that they would thoroughly enjoy their meal, I did have some hesitation as I thought it might be cumbersome to put together such an extensive meal in their kitchen when they are not used to doing so. Fortunately, they were overjoyed and found the experience to be truly wonderful, and I am eager to share this dinner with you, and maybe even prepare one for you too in the near future!
35 years of marriage are denoted by both jade and coral, so after gaining some insight from my friends about their food preferences, I designed a menu including those ideas and more, inspired by these colors to really showcase this theme. As is expected, most of the meal revolved around vegetables, particularly green ones, but I actually chose some animal proteins to reflect the coral. With a Jewish background, I knew my friends would be fond of gravlax or smoked salmon having eaten it on many occasions, so I wanted to feature salmon somewhere in the progression. Having made gravlax numerous times while working at a Swedish restaurant, I landed on this style as the option. I also decided to use lamb - for my birthday this past year, I received an Inkbird Sous Vide system, and I was eager to test it out with a noteworthy cut of meat. Lamb loin is a delicious, elegant, succulent cut that does not really taste gamey at all. Plus, it would be easy to work with in a home kitchen and use as a platform for some lovely summer flavors, so it was a great choice for this dinner.
I conceptualized a snack around pizza, one of my friends' favored foods, for the first course. It consisted of chickpea cracker base topped with basil mascarpone, smoky chipotle and garlic-marinated cherry tomatoes, crispy tomato skin crunchies, and sliced Castelvetrano olives. The creaminess of the cheese and saltiness of the olives helped to cut through the umami and spice intensity of the tomatoes, and the cracker both served as a sturdy vessel for all the components as well as offered an earthy tone to mirror that of the tomatoes and further absorb their heat.
For the bread course, I baked a fennel challah accompanied by garlic scape pesto and jalapeño-infused honey. The licorice tones were so subtle but just enough to peak your interest and make your realize there was something distinctive to this challah. I like my challah ever so slightly toasted and just a little warm, which further brought out the fennel aroma and flavor. The more muted garlic flavor of the pesto and the honey added herbaceousness and heat on their own, but when served together, they created a condiment with lingering appeal. It started off strong with the spice and a punch of flavor and finished off with a lasting, hidden sweetness that was matched so well by the feathery, delicate richness of the challah. Another toast to theirs (and my) Jewish roots!
Now comes the gravlax, which was probably my favorite course! I cured it with some salt, a little sugar, coriander, cardamom, and spinach for two days, and while the green color did not bleed through, the flavor was definitely present and kept the salmon from tasting overly fishy. On the bottom was a pickled avocado purée with lime and coriander - the citrus notes in the coriander paired so well with the lime, enhancing the acidity in the sauce while removing some of its pungency. I also included some cucumber for a refreshing burst of coolness, charred baby broccoli florets for a little smokiness, broccoli stem curls for some abstract design elements and bite, and a pumpkin seed crumble seasoned with paprika, fried kale, and smoked salt for crunch. With each component offering its own definitive features, this dish ended up with so many captivating textures and flavors that when blended together, there truly was a celebratory party happening in your mouth!
Next, the entrée course and my infamous sous vide lamb loin. Marinated in wine, spices, herbs, and oil and cooked for six hours at 53°C, then quickly roasted in the oven at 450°F, the end result was the tenderest, juiciest piece of lamb I had ever tasted. It was cooked to an exact medium rare throughout and just melted in my mouth - I know, I preach about how I prefer to cook with vegetables, and I still do, but when you cook a piece of meat this well, eating it is certainly rewarding and satisfying.
Underneath the lamb was a simple zucchini pureé, roasted and blended with salt and pepper until it was smooth and velvety. Next to it was a whiskey and black plum chutney, sweetened only by the sugars of the plum and embellished by the herbal and savory notes in the whiskey. There were also crispy pillows of gnocchi made just with potatoes, flour, nutmeg, and salt. I prefer mine toasted, and after making them, I froze the gnocchi and baked them straight from the freezer at 450°F for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through so they were golden brown all around. I mixed the gnocchi with some green beans, toasted almonds, and jus remaining in the sous vide bag, providing a comforting combination to eat with the lamb. On top, I draped watercress to add just a little spice and to make certain that green was still prevalent in this dish in a relevant form.
I kept the fifth course extremely simple and clean - mint granita made with mint and rosemary from my garden, a touch of sugar, and water. Blended, strained, frozen, and scraped to make precious jade ice jewels. The perfect spoonful to cleanse the palate and freshen it up for the finale.
At last, we have arrived at the sixth and final course. While it might not seem like it, my original inspiration was peaches and cream and strawberry shortcake, and I interpreted these dishes in a way that completely turned them around. In this case, the cinnamon blondie was the biscuit, the lemon curd was the cream, the ruby chocolate nutella could be the strawberry, and the peaches were the peaches. The brown butter blondie was so light and decadent at the same time, moistened furthered by the nutella, curd, and peach topping; the juicy seared peaches decked out in bright lemon curd made for a mouthwatering pair popping with the essence of summer. Garnished with lemon verbena and served alongside a peach cocktail with vanilla vodka, St-Germain, crème de cassis, and lime, it was an ideal way to end this meal that was so representative of the beauty of this season's produce.
I prepped the meal almost in its entirety so that my friends only had to put the finishing touches on each dish, executing a little bit of cooking and plating on their own with the help of instructions and pictures, which I provided. Everything was packed individually and organized by dish too, so there was no guesswork involved; even the most naïve home cook could still end up with an amazing dinner!
As this hands-on, interactive approach to the meal went over so well, I am eager to offer the Syncopated experience to you too! If interested, please check out www.syncopated.com/celebrate-with-syncopated or send me a direct message at email@example.com to connect and find out more information. Even though summer is almost over and quarantine is continuing, we can still treat ourselves to a fancy restaurant meal at home - you may realize that this style of dining is even more to your liking!
Hope to collaborate with some of you soon on a meal you will surely remember!