Anniversary Dinner – Year in Review (Again)

2013-01-13

This theme worked so well last year, we decided to do it again.  For an anniversary dinner, we each cook a dish from one of the 4 places we were fortunate to have visited this past year.  He would be responsible for 2 and so would I.  This is a great way to relive your vacation and sample the local cuisine without leaving home.  Sometimes, the food is even better when you cook it with love!

Menu

Her Soup from St. Lucia: Caribbean Coconut Shrimp Bisque

His Appetiser from Banff: Elk Crostini with Pesto

Her Main from New Orleans: Rabbit and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya with Creole Sauce

His Dessert from Niagara-on-the-Lake: Maple Ice Cream with Maple Roasted Bananas

Summary

Caribbean Coconut Shrimp Bisque


This Caribbean inspired soup, based on a recipe from http://caribbeanpot.com, was augmented with okra and served with a floating fig and almond cracker topped with shredded basil.  Despite its creaminess, it packed some serious heat that was offset by the sweet, moist banana bread that accompanied it.  Although not traditionally St. Lucian, lighter “fancy” soups like this can be found in restaurants that cater to tourists and expats.  It had Rodney Bay written all over it!  The beverage of choice was Laurent-Perrier, Cuvee Rose.  With a crisp nose, pretty raspberry colour and intense fruity flavours, it matched daringly well with a spicy, seafood starter. It also provided the perfect opportunity to enjoy a much appreciated gift ~ my forever favourite sparkler.

Elk Crostini with Pesto


With elk brazenly lumbering all over Banff, I had hoped this would be on the menu.  So he drove to a small abattoir 1.5 hours outside Toronto to find the freshest, delectable cut around (http://www.venison-meat.com/html/wind.html) and helped bring Spain out of a financial crisis by buying pine nuts to make the pesto from scratch.  Realizing how spoiled I am, there was no danger of mentioning that the crostini and my braces did not get along…until now.  This appetiser crunched together rich cheese, melt-in-your-mouth-elk, tangy pesto and a bracket. It was served with Chateau des Jacques Morgon,2009, This wine is described as a Beaujolais with high-pitched aromas of red berries, spicecake and herbs, plus a hint of cracked pepper. The mid palate is spicy with incisive red fruit flavors and a bitter edge that picks up that smoky quality. The finish is firm, spicy and persistent ~ A racy description of a very drinkable red.

Rabbit and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya


I wanted a variety of proteins to go into the jambalaya.  Since alligator is a little hard to find in Toronto and a seafood dish had already been served, this was the result.  I usually reserve bunny for Easter dinner but there were several rabbit dishes in Chef Prudhommes’s Louisiana Kitchen cookbook so I combined 2 of his recipes to make this one.  When it came to the sauce, however, I figured that I’d better not mess with the master of Cajun and Creole cooking and followed it to the letter.   Eating at his 5 Star restaurant in the French Quarter http://www.chefpaul.com/kpaul and tasting the outrageously delicious blackened drum as well as steak with debris sauce was a highlight of the trip.  (The recipes for those dishes are top secret according to staff!)  I have 2 words of caution for this dish – use the Creole sauce sparingly and pick up skillets that have been in the oven with gloves. Burns of various descriptions were suffered that evening.  It was served with Drift Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  The refreshing finish provided by the passionfruit, ripe green melons and subtle dried herbs was not enough to cool down his sensitive palate but my asbestos mouth thought it was a nice pairing.

Maple Ice Cream with Maple Roasted Bananas


What can be sweeter than a man who makes his own ice cream? That’s right! The woman that gives him an ice cream maker.  Seriously though, after a screaming hot main course, this was just what the doctor ordered.  Was it rude to use dessert as hand lotion? (see reference to burns).  A little of this decadent creation goes a long way for it is very rich. The maple syrup on the bananas gives it a truly Canadian flavour.  Served with 2008 Vineland Estates Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine, it was as Canuck as Canuck can be …and sooo tasty.

Recipes

Caribbean Coconut Shrimp Bisque (makes 2 very large bowls)

1/2 lb shrimp, deveined, shell on

1.5 cups water

2 tbs. Butter

2 green onions, chopped

¼ cup chopped celery, diced

6 okra, split lengthwise

¼ scotch bonnet pepper (flesh only, no seeds)

¼ tsp curry paste

¼ tsp curry powder

1/8 cup all purpose flour

1 cup tomato soup

¼ cup coconut milk

Pinch of fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of salt

2 fig and almond crackers

2 tbps shredded basil

Wash and shell the shrimp, saving the shells.  Cut each shrimp into quarters.  In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp butter on medium heat.  Add the shrimp shells and heat until they turn pink (about 3 minutes).  Add the water, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

In another larger saucepan, melt remaining butter, then add celery, onions, scotch bonnet pepper and okra and gently cook for 4 – 5 minutes.  Add flour and whisk continuously for 5 minutes on low heat ensuring the flour does not burn.

Add tomato soup into saucepan with the vegetables, whisking continuously to avoid lumps.  Strain stock into the same pot.  Bring up to a simmer and add curry powder, curry paste, fresh ground pepper and coconut milk.  Stir, cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes.

Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes.

To serve, pour into bowls, place one fig and almond cracker in the middle of each and top with shredded basil. Serve with banana bread. (include link)

Elk Crostini

4-6 Crostini slices (recipe below)

½ cup Pesto  (recipe below)

Elk Tenderloin sliced thinly (recipe below)

2 tbsp Blue Cheese

1 cup arugula leaves, loosely packed, washed and dried

Drizzle Balsamic Vinegar

Assembly:

Spread 2 teaspoons of pesto on each toasted bread slice. Place Arugula on top of the pesto.  Carve steaks into thin slices. Place beef slices evenly over bread slices. Top evenly with blue cheese and drizzle with Balsamic. Serve immediately.

Crostini

1 small garlic bread, sliced 1/4 inch thick (http://www.acebakery.com/artisan-bread/product/50/roasted-onion-petit-pain/)

3/4 cup olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange bread slices on rimmed baking sheets; brush both sides with oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through (if undersides are not browning, turn crostini over once during baking). Let cool on baking sheets.

Elk

2 small Elk tenderloins

Home-made Dry Steak Seasoning Rub

1 tbsp oil

1-2 tbsp butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Bring Elk steaks to room temperature and rub with seasoning mix.

Heat your seasoned cast iron skillet to med-high heat. On my stove, this means turning the heat to medium, and letting the pan sit there for roughly 10 minutes. The objective isn’t to get the pan SCREAMING hot, but hot enough to make the steaks really sizzle (but not burn) when they enter the pan. Flick some drops of water into the pan, and when it sizzles vigorously, you are ready to proceed.

Toss a tablespoon of oil in the pan. If your oil immediately burns (you’ll know if it burns…) your pan is too hot. Cool down the pan a bit, wipe out the burnt oil, and begin again. Add steaks to the pan, and sear on first side undisturbed for approx 4 minutes… Turn steaks to opposite side, toss in a few tablespoons of butter (more the merrier)

If your steaks are too thick to cook solely on the stove top, you can slide the pan into a 450 degree oven. Once you’ve reached a lovely medium (5-7 mins), take your steaks out of the pan and place them on a plate covered loosely with aluminum foil for 4 minutes or so.

Pesto

1 cup of basil leaves only, loosely packed, washed and dried

1 cup arugula leaves, loosely packed, washed and dried

Using a food processor, add the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil and arugula leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more remaining basil and arugula, chop some more. Scrape the sides and chop, scrape and chop. At this point the basil/arugula and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop. Add the rest of the pine nuts, chop. Add about half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. In the end you want a chop that is very fine, add a bit of olive oil, it doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons.  You can set this aside or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Rabbit and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya (makes 2 very large servings)

Seasoning mix

2 whole bay leaves

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp white pepper

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp dried thyme leaves

Other ingredients

1.5 tbsp butter

1 cup of chopped Andouille sausage

¾ cup chopped onions

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup chopped rabbit

1 tsp minced garlic

2 medium sized tomatoes

½ cup canned tomato sauce

1 cup chicken stock

¼ cup chopped green onions

1 cup uncooked converted rice

2 sprigs of basil

Combine all seasoning ingredients and set aside. Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add andouille sausage and sauté until crisp (5-8 minutes), stirring frequently.  Add onions, celery and bell peppers.  Saute about 5 minutes stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pan.  Add rabbit.  Raise heat to high and cook 1 minutes stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add seasoning mix, minced garlic and cook about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add tomatoes and cook until rabbit is tender (5-8 minutes), stirring frequently.  Add tomato sauce, cook 7 minutes.  Stir in stock, bring to boil.  Stir in green onions and cook about 3 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Add rice, cover and bake at 350 degrees until rice is tender but a bit crunchy (20 – 30 minutes).

To serve, remove bay leaves, place in mold of your choice.  Surround with Creole Sauce and a sprig of basil leaves.

Creole Sauce (makes 2 ½ cups)

Seasoning mix

2 whole bay leaves

¾ tsp. dried oregano leaves

½ teaspoon salt

½ tsp. white pepper

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. sweet paprika

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. dried thyme leaves

½ tsp. dried basil leaves

Other ingredients

4 tbsp, unsalted butter

1 cup peeled and chopped tomaotes

¾ cup onions

¾ cup chopped onions

¾ chopped celery

¾ cup chopped green bell peppers

1 ½ tsp. minced garlic

1 ¼ cups chicken stock

1 cup canned tomato sauce

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp. tobasco sauce

Thoroughly combine all ingredients for seasoning mix and set aside.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in tomatoes, onions celery and bell peppers; then add garlic and seasoning mix, stirring thoroughly.  Sauté until onions are transparent (about 5 minutes) , stirring occasionally. Stir in stock, tomato sauce, sugar and tobasco; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.  Remove bay leaves before serving.

Good also on omelets, chicken dishes, shrimp dishes or rice.

Maple Ice Cream with Maple roasted Bananas

Maple Ice Cream with Candied Pecans

¾ cup pure maple syrup

1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 ½ cup  homogenized milk

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup candied pecans, chopped

Combine all ingredients less the pecans, mix well.  Start ice cream maker and pour in mixture.  Mix according to manufacturer’s instruction, adding pecans with 10 mins remaining.  Place into freezer to harden to desired consistency.

Maple Roasted Bananas

2 bananas, ripe and firm

3 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. brown sugar

½ cup maple sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking tray with foil.  Halve each banana lengthways leaving the skin on.  Place on the baking tray, flesh side up.  Sprinkle top of each banana with sugar, butter and maple syrup.  Bake for 15 mins until softened and golden with dark skin.

Remove the bananas from skin and place in individual serving dish.  Place 1-2 scoops of ice cream on top of bananas and drizzle with maple syrup.

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