For the July LP Supper Club, Mr SW had a great idea: We’d showcase culinary school techniques pulled from his massive collection of Culinary Institute books. The only catch was that we had to prepare light, summery dishes and try not to make too much food.
On the menu:
Mushroom and Goat Cheese Strudel with Madeira Sauce (The Sassy Writer)
Corn Fritters (Mr SW)
Fish Salad With Grapefruit Emulsion (Me)
Chocolate Souffle (Kevin)
The Sassy Writer kicked off the meal with a mushroom and goat cheese strudel. Even saying the word strudel makes me sweat. Phyllo dough is so paper thin that not tearing it requires the patience of Mother Theresa. The Sassy Writer meticulously spread butter between 5 sheets of phyllo dough and then filled the dough with a sautéed mixture of shitake mushrooms, goat cheese, and a vegetarian demi glace with madeira. Even though the dish sounded heavy, it came out wonderfully light thanks to the airiness of the phyllo and a serving of salad with a delicious vinaigrette to “cut the butter.” I absolutely adored this dish, although I will say it was hearty enough for an entrée. I’d definitely make this dish; I’m no longer afraid of phyllo, especially when I see that you don’t have to be perfect—you just need to get the butter between each sheet.
Mr SW showed off the culinary technique of frying with a mouthwatering corn fritter. Corn kernals gave the fritters a hearty texture that is unlike any of the fritters I’ve tried. The fritters also contained red bell peppers and habanero jack cheese plus some guajillo peppers in the batter for an extra kick. The fritters were served with Tapatio hot sauce. So delicious!
I was tasked with the entrée—a daunting challenge for a vegetarian in a room full of carnivores. I took the easy way out by reverting to my veg-aquarian ways. I selected a fish salad with grapefruit emulsion, mostly because it was a cold dish and citrus is always yummy on a hot day. At Central Market earlier that day, I was disappointed by the white fish selection that consisted of only tilapia, haddock and sea bass. I chose haddock, although I had never eaten that fish before. When I was removing the skin, I was pleasantly surprised by how sweet the haddock smelled—a lot like crab.
Borrowing from the French Culinary Institute book, I decided to poach the fish à la nage (swimming), although the fish would not be served in the broth. I combined carrots, onions, parsley, a garnis bouquet (that is, thyme, parsley stems, black pepper corns, and a bay leaf wrapped in cheesecloth), pinot grigio, white wine vinegar and water in a Ziploc bag. I then added the fish and dropped the entire thing into Kevin’s newly constructed sous vide machine. Then I whipped up a chive and spinach oil (made with vegetable oil) and a grapefruit emulsion with extra-virgin olive oil, blanched lemon zest and the juice of 5 grapefruit. The grapefruit emulsion wasn’t just pretty; it was so yummy and possibly one of my favorite components of the night.
To plate, I mixed chilled haddock, celery root, homemade mayo, shallots, lemon juice and avocado to form the salad. I then piled the salad into a ring mold for a perfect circle. Next I poured the grapefruit emulsion around the salad, and dotted the emulsion with chive and spinach oil and cut chives. I topped the salad with broccoli sprouts and fried yucca root.
Sounds impressive, no? Strangely, my biggest challenge was making mayonnaise. First, I decided to cut the recipe in thirds. But then I forgot and only cut the oil by half. I noticed when the mix refused to stiffen. So, then I went back and added more of the other ingredients (vinegar, mustard powder, egg yolks), but by then the entire thing was broken. Luckily, Mr SW saved the day. He referred to a book called “Ratio” by Michael Ruhlman (which I now highly recommend), which clued us in that mayo can sense when you’re afraid of it. So, after some major shit-talking from Kevin and Mr SW, I combined one egg yolk and vinegar in the blender and then slowly drizzled in the broken mixture. Wow, what a difference!
Kevin made dessert—finally something I could taste (unless he secretly added duck fat to it)! I have to say that I’ve made a couple of breakfast souffles, and I’ve never been much of a fan. So, while I encouraged Kevin’s choice, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this dish. But boy was I wrong! Kevin’s souffles were perfectly cooked, and perhaps that’s the difference between his and mine. The chocolate souffle was so rich with the bittersweet chocolate, yet also light. How can a dessert be both rich and light? It’s an enigma—a delicious enigma.
In case you’re keeping track, the culinary school techniques we showcased included frying, strudel making, souffle creating, fish poaching, and emulsion and infused oil making (these are not official terms). I’d say we definitely hit some major categories with this supper club. Plus, this one might have been our best yet because all of the dishes were spot on and there was no clear favorite. Next month we’re leaving the cooking to the real experts and checking out DFW’s Restaurant Week. See a list of the participating restaurants and make your reservations. Maybe we’ll see you there.