Johan cooks dinner, part 8: Dishes 6-10 + Epilogue

Having survived my brush with the fire and proven to Tina that yes, I would in fact try to grill Wagyu steaks, we got on with the rest of the dinner. It was time now for the heavier portion of the show, so a heavier wine was called for, which came in the shape of a majestic bottle of ChateauNeuf-Du-Pape from my wine guys private cellar. This was a wine that came with a story and was, indeed, a very impressive wine, even if I probably served it a few years too young and didn’t give it enough time to breathe after decanting in my eager to try it.. But that was entirely my fault, not the wine’s and it did evolve over time in the glass..

Anyways.. On with the show..

Dish 6: Lavender infused wild boar meatballs glazed in black currant and red wine reduction, served with Provencal ratatouille of local vegetables and spiced Puy lentils

Apologies for posting yet another bad picture, once again someone were a little too busy eating to remember to snap pictures.

Anyways.. This dish was partially a tribute to our cartoon heroes from Gaul and to true friendship. Anyone remotely familiar with the Asterix comics will know that wild boar is a favorite eat of the Gaul heroes.. So it seemed only natural that this ingredient would once make it into a dish. When I happened to run into ground wild boar at a local market, an idea immediately formed in my mind: Wild boar meatballs! Meatballs are actually a pretty common food in Denmark (much like it’s much more famous Swedish counterparts), so I decided to work with that and throw in some lavender for a French spin. Things got even more Frenched up when I discovered a glass of my grandma’s home-made black currant jam in the fridge and decided to reduce the contents for a while with a good splash of wine and a little vinegar to create a sort of gastrique which was then used to glaze the meatballs.. Simple enough, right? Well, maybe not.. Actually this is one of those dishes that nearly ended in disaster because tasted apart from one another the main players weren’t too great. The meatballs were sorta overpowering in their game-iness and the reduction was cloyingly sweet even with the addition of vinegar. In usual do or die fashion, though, I threw everything together anyways and went from “Huh?” to “Wow!” – as strange as the components had tasted individually as well did they actually complement one another to create a nice overall impression neither too sweet or too meaty or gamy.

To complete the dish, I threw together a very standard Provencal ratatouille using very fresh local vegetables, and boiled some French Puy lentils with a bit of garlic, parma ham and a bay leaf.

I was a bit worried about serving something that was essentially a pork based dish to Tina who really doesn’t dig on swine. But apparently I needn’t have been because she most certainly dug on this dish, finding it very un-pork like but with a nice depth of flavor an an interesting touch as far as the black currants and lavender was concerned. Score: Johan 1, Pig 0!

Dish 7: Rare Wagyu Kobe-Style sirloin steaks off the grill served with 24 hour Sauce Bordelaise , braised oyster mushrooms and puree of potatoes with shallots, parma ham, fresh thyme and lemon

This was pretty much build up to be the pièce de résistance of the whole dining experience and certainly made for an impressive dish to serve up even if my plating skills suck and my pureed potatoes collapsed.

What can be said about Wagyu beef? Well, “BELIEVE the hype!” is probably about the only fitting comment I can make. It’s more than likely to be the best beef you’ll ever taste. This piece of sirloin was more tender than any tenderloin I’ve ever eaten and a gazillion times more flavorful owing not only to the fact that sirloin is a more flavorful cut of meat than tenderloin but also to the fact that Wagyu is apparently a very flavorful breed of cow to begin with. The texture is soft, almost silken in the mouth and the taste is beefy, yet strangely sweet-like in a not at all uncomfortable kinda way. The observant reader might have noticed that when grilling the beef, I didn’t really take the fatty, marbled texture of the meat into consideration and created quite a bit of flare-ups which is generally a very, very bad thing but with this cut of meat I was surprised to realize that it didn’t really matter at all, on the contrary, the slightly charred, flame licked crust of the beef made a nice contrast to the succulent, sweet, rare core of the steak.. Lucky me!

To accompany the beef, I’d created a sauce which was pretty simple if not for the fact that it took a full 48 hours to complete. I started out browning about six pounds of ox tails followed by a bunch of aromatic vegetables, the whole thing was seasoned and covered with water in a pot and left to simmer very, very gently for about 12 hours. The stock was double strained then left to cool over night. The next day some of the fat was skimmed off the top and used to gently sweat a couple of shallots. A few sprigs of fresh thyme was added along with most of a bottle of wine. The whole thing was reduced by about 75% at which point the beef stock was invited back to the part before the sauce was left to reduce at the pace of about one bubble per second for another good 10-12 hours. The result was all the taste of six pounds of ox tails in a couple of tablespoons full of sauce., Amazing!

The mushrooms were braised in the remainder of the wine and a bit of stock for a nice, meaty vegetable side dish while the potatoes were baked, mashed and gently mixed with fried shallots, diced parma ham, a bit of lemon, some fresh thyme and a healthy measure of good olive oil.

“I absolutely love it,” was Tina’s verdict, “I’d certainly like to have this again..” – “I’m not surprised,” I replied, “it is after all both luxurious and ridiculously expensive.. Right down the alley for a spoiled brat such as yourself.” – “Hey, you made me this way,” she countered in a slightly undignified manner with her mouth full of another helping of Wagyu beef.. I don’t know what else to say.. Very successful dish, I’d even made extra large servings of potato because Tina usually at some points just gets enough of the whole meat thing and can’t stomach any more.. Well, let’s just say that this time it was the potatoes that got left behind.. So yeah, huge success!

Intermission: In which Tina curls up and goes into a bit of a food coma

Dish 8: Tina’s much beloved Mojito sorbet made from Havana Club Añejo 3 Años and Ron Zacapa 23 Años

Yes, I’ll admit it.. Serving a Mojito-based dessert as part of a French themed menu is kinda off.. And I can’t, even with my usual knack for making borderline weird associations and links, find a link between French cuisine and Cuban mixology.. But listen, I have my reasons. First, I needed something light and palate cleansing after so many heavy meals. Second, I usually include one familiar dish in every single one of these menus I create. Third, Tina has begging me forever to repeat this dessert and we all know which powers she holds over me, when she gets all puppy dog eyed and pouty lipped, my heart just melts, this is a fact and I can’t help it. Fourth, I’ll have to admit it, I flat out absolutely love an adore the look on Tina’s face when you surprise her with something you know she loves, however little and insignificant the surprise might be. You’d have to see it to know what I’m talking about, but it’s absolutely adorable and that was reason enough for me to break with the theme a bit and serve her the damn ice cream.

And light up Tina did when I brought her the first of three desserts. Actually, I’m pretty sure she lit up the entire room with her widening eyes, beaming face and bright smile. Actually she got so caught up in the moment that I had to point out to her that this was actually straying away from the rules and regulations to which her reply was something along the lines of “Yeah, yeah, whatever.. Look.. Mojito!! :D”

And while we’re at the whole admitting thing. Yes, I admit it, I used what is widely considered the world’s absolute best super premium rum in my cooking. There are probably a lot of people out there that will consider this a mortal sin and will yell at me.. But really, this is supposed to be fine cooking at its best and with so many other top ingredients an off the shelf rum would’ve seemed inappropriate. I could have probably used a slightly less luxurious rum.. But hey, sometimes Tina just deserves the best, and me to for that matter, and if there’s a certain place in hell for those willing to sacrifice a top-shelf gorgeous and sexy rum in cooking for an equally gorgeous and sexy young lady.. Well, fucking bring it then! It adds a nice touch both in terms of taste and of luxury and it makes for Tina’s favorite ice cream in the whole, wide world, so it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, really.

Dish 9: White chocolate mousse with licorice and lemon, topped with wild strawberries, balsamic reduction and black pepper

Here’s another one with a bit of history behind it. The white chocolate for this dish was one I bought as a reward for Tina way back about eight months ago when she was just learning to take care of her personal finances and was learning to pass up those little every day things she wanted in favor of saving money. The chocolate in question was the first thing she really passed on and she was so proud of herself that I decided to go out and get the thing for her (unaware of the fact that it was a fucking expensive block of chocolate, of course) on the condition that I turn it into something for her at some point. I’d spent about the next six months wondering what the hell to do with licorice and lemon-flavored chocolate when this dinner opportunity came up.

I pretty quickly decided on some kind of chocolate mousse since I thought licorice/lemon chocolate mousse sounded a little out of the ordinary. It also sounded a little boring, though, so I needed a little extra to top it off. One day while walking by the wild strawberries growing in my garden that Tina just happens to love, I was reminded of something I’d once read about a licorice/strawberry food pairing which sounded odd enough for me to want to try it seeing as I knew both lemon and chocolate would also work with strawberries. Long story short and a small taste test later, I’d decided on white chocolate mousse with wild strawberries. Since wild strawberries are a bit on the acidic side, I decided to balance them out with some good quality, aged balsamic vinegar I just happened to have standing around which I reduced down to a thick syrup and mixed with a bit of black pepper for pungency and fun and then poured over the strawberries before using those to top off the chocolate mousse.

As weird as this may all sound it actually worked surprisingly well and was, in all modesty, probably the best chocolate dessert I’ve ever had. Tina, too, was captivated and curious about the combination and even revealed her true side as a spoiled little brat when she remarked that “I’m glad you added this strawberry thing, without it it’d have been kinda boring..”, which caused me to laugh and mock her a bit at which she corrected herself and stated that “no no, don’t get me wrong. It’d still be very good, but with everything else you’ve done tonight, it’s seem a little plain in comparison.” .. And no baby, I’m not suggesting to the world that you’re ungrateful, I’m just having a bit of a laugh on your behalf, I’m glad you enjoyed the mousse.

Dish 10: Chocolate brownie with chili and Cointreau topped with 23 karat edible leaf gold served with home-made vanilla ice cream spiked with El Doraodo Spiced Rum

Alright, fellas, here’s a bit of a hint. If you ever want to see your date absolutely flabbergasted and in awe while making her feel like the most important little person in the world: Edible gold is your new friend! It’s not exactly the cheapest of ingredients, but if it’s a special occasion and she’s a special lady, then she I’m reasonably sure she deserves it. Right guys? .. Guys?

Okay, I guess I lost you there, but let me try to explain.. See, I call Tina a lot of things from time to time, words such as idiot or retard that sometimes show up on this blog is but a few of them, I say nice things to such as when I, from time to time, refer to her as my little princess.. Coz just as she can be a bit of an idiot at times (my favorite idiot, by the way) or act adorably retarded, she really can be a little princess at times – I’m not even being sarcastic here for a change – and I wanted the final dish to reflect that in that it should be fitting for a little princess. . In short, I wanted something that was not only tasty and tailored towards her preferences but also something that would be the most luxurious and expensive thing she’d ever eaten..

Which wasn’t an easy task, to be honest, as I had already fed her Sturgeon Caviar six months ago.. So I did the only possible thing I could, and turned to the most expensive food additive in the world: E150, aka edible gold.. Which I was hoping would do the trick.. And it did. It was not only very expensive, it was also very pretty and it did make Tina very overwhelmed when she found out what was going on. Mission accomplished and I do hope that Tina felt like a bit of a little princess when eating it. If nothing else then I was immensely pleased after finding out that gold qualifies as a heavy metal.. And what metal head in his or her own right mind would not enjoy a bit of heavy fucking metal for dessert? Just saying.

Aside from the whole gold thing, the dessert consisted of some incredibly moist chocolate brownies made with some awesome dark chocolate, a bit of chili and a shot or two of Cointreau for a bit of orangey goodness. To that I served a home-made ice cream which started as a tribute to my paternal grandma’s vanilla ice cream that I loved as a kid. Though, as I was gazing over the recipe – yes, me using a recipe for a change.. Huh? – I discovered it contained a fair bit of water and found myself thinking that there was absolutely no reason not to replace a majority of the water with booze.. Not only because it would dramatically reduce the risk of ice crystals forming in the finished product, but also because.. Well.. it’s booze, nuff said! So out went a lot of the water and in went a lot of El Dorado Spiced Rum since rum is apparently the newest passion we’ve started sharing.

Both the brownie and the ice cream were rather successful but this far into the meal (six hours and ten dishes) both of us were really starting to struggle to put things down. We soldiered on, though, and eating gold was an experience to say the least. Tina especially put on a brave face and actually put down a lot more than I’d expected her to which I’m not entirely sure owed to stubbornness or sheer enjoyment but she put on a brave fight before having to succumb. Full, happy, slightly less curvy than usual and borderline delirious from a mix of being full and food happiness..

See.. Even with her friend being an idiot and ambushing her with excess gold dust she was all smiles.

Epilogue: Enough about food already!

Having thusly eaten ourselves half way into a food coma, we really didn’t want more of the whole thing. We left the last dessert half eaten on the table, grabbed our glasses and what was left of the wine and moved to the couch where we sorta fell down and sprawled out and spend the next many hours just kicking back, sipping some marvelous wines and talking deeply about everything and nothing. In short, a wonderful few hours (well, many hours, really) spent between the best of friends sharing a couple of hundred bucks worth of wine along with their thoughts and feelings.. And at the risk of sounding sappy and soft, it really meant about as much to me as the whole dinner experience, and it was also with a longer lasting, tighter hug than usual that we eventually parted ways at around a quarter past the wee hours.. Or a quarter past 3 AM or something like that.. I don’t really remember, but I do remember that it had quite honestly been one of the best nights of my life and that it’s gonna be quite a challenge to top this one.. Good times!

.. And now, let’s not talk more about food for a while, shall we?

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