December 14, 2004

a big dinner on an ordinary day

Thursday, December 9

This must be the most sophisticated salad that I have ever made. Even though I rarely make cold green salad anyways.

This was the result of my attempt to reproduce the salad I had had in a French restaurant in Boulder called Brasserie Ten Ten. The salad was called Salade Parisian, or "(w)atercress and frisee salad tossed with Roquefort cheese, sliced fennel, caramelized walnuts, sliced asparagus, Burgundy poached pears, sundried figs and a lemon white truffle vinaigrette".

Now that I have cited the description of the salad from their menu, I have just realized that I didn't quite have an accurate memory of the dish. All I remembered about the salad was Roquefort, fennel, walnuts, Burgundy-poached pears, and dried figs on the greens. Asparagus was totally missing, and somehow, I got it into my head that there had been "caramelized onions and walnuts" instead of "caramelized walnuts". I did remember the walnuts had been caramelized, but I nevertheless thought there had been caramelized onions. Did I taste onion anyways? I am not sure... my taste memory is that reliable.

So, now I can't really call this salad a reproduction of the salad I had in the restaurant, but it is rather an inspiration, really. Above all, I gave a few changes to (what I remembered as) the original, by substituting Gorgonzola for Roquefort, poaching a pear in regular red wine (not Burgandy) and with a dash of ground nutmeg and clove, roasted walnuts sprinkled with brown sugar rather than caramelizing walnuts, and skipped fennel (I don't like anise-y herbs). I also used a totally different sort of dressing - the one I made in the summer, a recipe from Amanda Hesser's Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.). And of course I made caramelized onions by patiently sauteing a large amount of sliced maui sweet onions.

When the assembled was assembled, it looked quite pretty, even if it was actually remotely similar to the original. I remembered that a balanced taste of the wine-poached pear slices, bittersweet walnuts, mellow Roquefort, and aromatic fig together fold in the well-dressed greens - and my version somewhat leaned toward a sweeter side, as the dressing was rather sweet because of the boiled down balsamic vinegar in it. I should probably have squeezed a wedge of lemon or something to balance it out. Gorgonzola tuned out to be a picante kind, and tasted a bit too strong in this salad. Overall, my salad might not have been exactly as sophisticated-tasting as I had wished, but it was a mellow salad that went well with the main dish.

The main dish that I made to pair with the salad was a chicken dish, based on a recipe called coquelets rotis longtemps au citron, au thym, a l'ail et au beurre, or slow-roasted baby chickens with citron, thyme, garlic, and butter. It was from Trish Deseine's Mes petits plats preferes (2002, Marabout), my reliable collection of easy-to-prepare French recipes. The name of the dish shows what it is, and that was it; I lightly browned some chicken and then roasted them with the peel and juice of half a lemon and a lime together with butter and thyme.

Did you notice something? I forgot to put garlic. Ugh. It was still a delicious, yet rather ordinary dish, for good or bad. It certainly got better the following day though, with the taste of citrons and the herb being more pronounced.

I rarely prepare three-course meals at home (or anywhere else, really), but this time I did fix dessert to follow the salad and chicken. I made ginger and pear madeleines, or more precisely, I baked them. I had made the batter several weeks before and kept it in the freezer, ready to bake in mini-muffin pans.

I had a recipe for ginger madeleines from a friend, and I had one soon-to-be-rotten ripe pear, so I decided to use the pear in the madeleines. I poached the pear in a little fresh ginger juice without added sugar and finished with Poire Williams, and then topped the madeleines which themselves had fresh ginger juice and chopped crystallized ginger.

The madeline batter froze beautifully, and all I did today was taking the pan out of the freezer, popped it in the oven, and baked them for slightly longer than specified in the recipe (I might have done it a bit too much, though). Ginger-infused pear went perfectly well with double-ginger madeleines. We loved them.

Oh it took me well half a day to prepare all this (what took me the most time was caramelizing onions, which wasn't even needed in the salad that I had tried to make) and it was all consumed in a tick....


Reid said...

Hi Chika,

I can see how the preparation of this meal took a long time. The end result is fantastic. I love how the salad looks and can just imagine the flavors. The combination must be wonderful. The chicken sounds great as I am a big fan of citrus. Dessert, I probably wouldn't be able to eat any after the rest of the food. Great job!

Estelle said...

Along with trying macaroons, you need to get a real madeleine mold in France!

Cat said...

such a classy salad! its very pretty, is the flower edible as well? :) mmmm flowers. yummy.

chika said...

Hi there,

Reid - oh sure you can, just wait for an hour or so and you'll always have a room for a tiny tea cake!

Estelle - I actually have a madeleine pan in Japan (along with a lot of other cake pans and baking equipemtn...) but have never brought it over here. I was thinking about buying silicone or glassfiber one, but I figured I wouldn't bake madeleines that often to get my money's worth from them :P

Cat - that wasn't edible, unfortunately... but it smelled lovely and sure made the plate look pretty!

chika said...


equipment! excuse me :P