Black box dinner – 11/16/09

The ingredients


Clockwise from upper left – taboule, red kuri squash, Bosc pears (I believe they were Bosc), seafood herb pack, four four-ounce portions of sockeye salmon, 12 Gulf coast shrimp (shell on), purple sweet potatoes and baby carrots.

Thought process

I really had no idea at first as to what to do, but was happy with the seasonality of the ingredients.  I knew I wanted to poach the shrimp, so headed to the freezer to get some nage out (to which I eventually added celery, the carrots pictured, parsley & chervil stems, star anise and shrimp shells, boiled for a while and then strained). 

For the salmon I was initially going to make a roasted carrot and cream sauce, but that’s too similar to a sauce we have at work, so I decided against it. 

I also knew we had the ingredients to make a modified Romesco sauce, so I set about roasting a red pepper and an onion, along with some almond slices and macadamia nuts.  Sure, Romesco calls for hazelnut, but not having that I decided to substitute the macadamias.

I also got to work on making the taboule, since I knew this would take some time.  To the taboule I added some diced pear, chervil, parsley, Banyul’s vinegar, salt and pepper. 

At this point I got the idea to make a poached pear dessert since I had two and a half pears left over (plus some homemade vanilla ice cream in the freezer).  For the poaching liquid I used some sauvignon blanc, water, sugar, two cinnamon sticks, 3 cloves, some black peppercorn and white balsamic vinegar.

I was still at a loss as to what to do with the squash, torn between dicing then sauteeing it and adding it to the taboule or making some sort of a sauce out of it.  Once the red pepper and onion were done roasting I decided to roast the squash in the oven so that I could eventually make a sauce out of it for the salmon.

And I still had those pesky purple sweet potatoes, to which I eventually sliced thin and roasted with some vegetable oil.

So here’s how it came together:

The Dishes

Poached shrimp, Romesco sauce, purple sweet potato

I served the shrimp on top of the Romesco and purple sweet potato.  I was really happy with the way this came out considering I had no idea how the sweet potato would play off the shrimp and Romesco. 

Seared Sockeye salmon, taboule with pear, roasted red kuri sauce, chervil

The sauce for the salmon was pretty easy to make – roast the squash, puree it with some cream then thin out with some of the poaching liquid from the shrimp.  For the salmon I just sauteed it in a cast iron pan to rare to medium rare.  Sockeye fillets are so thin and dry out so fast that I didn’t want to have it overcook, so I just cooked them on the stove top for maybe 2-3 minutes.  And the taboule worked pretty well for the dish, offering a nice flavor and texture contrast.

Poached pears with vanilla ice cream

There’s not much to be said for the dessert – simple yet delicious.  The only thing I’d do different would have been to save the seeds from the squash to roast/candy them to have some crunch with the dessert. 

All in all I was happy with the way things turned out though, as I think everyone else was.  The whole cooking process took no more than an hour and a half, proving that you can make really tasty meals at home in not that much time.  If I’d have known in advance what I was going to be given I probably could have had things done inside of an hour.


9 thoughts on “Black box dinner – 11/16/09

  1. It was an AWESOME meal! I couldn’t believe what a beautiful and tasty three-course meal he made without knowing the ingredients ahead of time. It was really cool to watch Alan, too. Once he saw the items, you could see the wheels turning. He started grabbing things from here and there. I could barely take a picture of the goods before he put them to use.

    A huge success and something I’d like to do at least monthly. What tasty fun!

  2. Pingback: Black Box Monday #1 « Go Erin go!
    • One word describes it all – bliss! From the presentation to the texture to the taste, every last morsel was incredible. We wanted to take smaller bites to make the dinner last longer. We brought the small bag of baby carrots as a joke and thought that Alan would push them aside, but he used everything we brought. It was fun watching Alan weave his magic to bring everything together, and the time flew by. Thank you to Alan and Erin for one of the best Monday nights we’ve had in a long time.

      • Thanks for sharing the fun and bringing some fun ingredients. I had a great time cooking for you guys.

        How was Carl doing today? I was hurting pretty bad this morning.

  3. Hey Alan – I was a little sluggish but otherwise I was fine – up and about at 6am. I didn’t realize you were such a light weight 😉
    Thanks again for cooking us a great dinner!

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