Monday, September 21, 2009

It seemed like a good idea at the time....

Yes, the title has an ellipsis with 4 full stops. What does this mean? It means something really something is about to be something. I wanted to emphasize something. But I digress.

Before travelling to NYC, I decided that we (as in Siew Fong and I, not you and I) should take the opportunity to dine, at least once in our life, at a incredibly fancy restaurant. We had been to good restaurants, some even classed as 'fancy'. But I had never, at least by my recollection, been to a truly recognized fancy restaurant, as recognized by a biased and commercial guide such as Michelin. So I researched restaurants with at least 2 Michelin stars in NYC. The first couple I tried to reserve were closed the week we were in NYC, but 3 star 'Le Bernardin' was open, and had an open table.

It turned out that this was one of the top rated places in NYC, by Zagat, and #1 in French cuisine. The kids were left with the geriatric relatives to fend for themselves. We donned finer clothing than usual to dine. Fortunately a tie was optional.

So we had the tasting menu, with matching wines. This meant really tiny servings of incredibly good food, served impeccably by affable staff for a pile of cash. Well, not a pile of cash, but a whole lot of electronic bits that would come back to us as Amex points. I can say that it was reasonable value for money.

One of the dishes served was a crispy bread crusted black bass served with a parsnip custard. Mmmm, parsnip custard. You have no idea how fabulous this was. It was so smooth, creamy, and even, dare I say it, tasty.

It had to be done at home. I knew it had to be done.

So on our return to Sydney, I went to the local fruit and veg shoppe, and got some turnips. And now you know my terrible secret: I often confuse parsnips and turnips. Not quite the end of the world, and probably not as horrible a prospect as having a national health plan.

So it was a turnip custard to be made. I just don't do fish. Fish is expensive, and far too easy to ruin. So I picked up my favorite budget cut of meat: pork neck, from the Chinese butcher. I blended up (meaning chucked in a blender) a handful of almonds slices and walnut meats. A bit of flour, an egg, and a bunch of cream later, and I had a batter. The pork neck, sliced into steaks by the overly friendly butcher (I am reasonably confident that I am now his friend, or brother, or something), was marinated in some cranberry jam and salt. I grilled the pork until done, dredged it in the nutty batter, and gave it a quick shallow fry in some oil to crisp it up. Don't you just love to dredge stuff, it's just so, so industrial.

Good Lord! I haven't described the manufacture of the turnip (not parsnip) custard! OK, so I peeled the turnips, chopped them into tiny cubes, and chucked them onto a steamer tray above a teeny lake of water in the pressure cooker. 15 minutes of pressure cooking later, and after a bit of cooling, I removed the turnipettes to the blender (I cleaned it after the nut affair). A bit of blending, an egg, some cream, a tiny bit of salt and pepper, and then a tinier bit of allspice, and I had a proto-mousse. To the ramekins Batman! Holy ramekin in a bath of water in the oven at 200 degrees C for 30 minutes Batman!. This would have been really clever if I knew what I was doing. While it was very smooth, it was a bit coagulated.

But it tasted divine. Not parsnip divine, but divine enough.

I served it all with some couscous and steamed asparagus. The pork didn't crisp very well, but tasted nice.

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