Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A toast to your strength and vigor

Yesterday my friend Ian celebrated his 26th birthday, just like how last month Sam's Mom celebrated her 32nd birthday. On Saturday Ian is holding his second annual wine and cheese pairing competition party to mark this occasion. I have in my possession two bottles of a wine that might win if paired with a sharp cheddar cheese; however, the wine is seriously so good, and was purchased at such a ridiculous discount, that I really don't want to share it with anyone, let alone put it out among 20 other wines in a contest. I guess this goes against a lot of principles of hospitality and sharing wine, as well as my general weltanschauung of life as an endless series of competitions--but for real, this wine is crazy delicious, and I am a huge jerk.

In my defense, I did take a bottle over to Ian's house last night to drink with some steak au poivre that I made for a quick, semi-fancy birthday dinner. The steak didn't turn out quite as well as my most recent exploits in steak or au poivre, but it was still pretty tasty with the wine and with some celery root and brussels sprouts that Jeff made. We were cooking for Ian and also for Randy, a little impromptu reunion of our epic Mt. Whitney trip, perhaps symbolic of the steak dinner that all of us were dreaming of on the way down, a dinner that didn't really happen because we got lost in the woods on our way down and had to content ourselves with granola and salami.

The steak was preceded by a wedge of Humboldt Fog, a goat cheese that I thought initially to be distinguished by a thin line of mold running through its center, but that I discovered last night to be distinguished by a thin line of ash running through its center. I promise that it tastes better than either of those descriptions sounds. The ash paired really well with the smoky haze that I left in the kitchen while searing the steak ("Do you have a smoke detector? You should disable it."). While I did get a nice crispy crust on the outside of the steak, I think that in the future, searing at a slightly lower temperature might work just as well.

Jeff made a tremendously fresh salad with some lettuce, strawberries, and toasted almonds, and I thought that it would be better if we ate that after the first two courses of cheese and steak. It was as well-dressed as Tulsa from Gypsy and just right for a spring evening; having it after the steak made it just about perfect. We also had some steamed artichokes, which, well, that's about the best you can do with artichokes, I think.

And here we have the piece of resistance, as they say in France: some french toast topped with hazelnut ice cream and drizzled with a maple caramel sauce. For me this picture is kind of a redemption of the biopsy french toast that I made last year. Maybe not quite up to the standard of Chapeau!, from whom I stole the idea, but, well, a little bit more presentable than the last time. Having an ice cream maker available to churn your ice cream instead of putting it in the freezer and stirring five minutes--that definitely makes for a smoother ice cream and a nicer presentation. Also, not drinking a liter of wine before making french toast--I guess that helps too.

I think my favorite part of cooking the french toast was the half stick of butter I used, and how I cooked the first side of each slice, then added more butter to the pan before flipping it over and cooking the second side. I have always said that sizzling onions is my favorite single action of cooking, but I think now it might be adding more butter to melted butter. To cut through all the butter, we drank a bottle of $6 Trader Joe's champagne ("Should I open more wine for dessert?" "I don't know. Do you have anything that would go with a really sweet dessert?" "How about champagne from Trader Joe's?" "Is it dry? PERFECT."). Some simple food, some cheap champagne, a couple friends--is there any better way to spend a Tuesday night?

I think I have asked myself this question rhetorically before, and the answer involved watching 30 Rock reruns in bed.

1 comment:

  1. That French toast looks AWESOME. Also, I am just about convinced that I need an ice cream maker. Dan won't be happy, but...I need it.