Black box dinner October 3, 2010

This weekend we have some friends visiting and decided to do a black box dinner for Sunday night. 

Here are the ingredients provided by Erin and Eric:

The ingredients clockwise from top left - mustard greens, pickled watermelon rind, grits, pineapple, challah, tuna, bay scallops, eggplant, red pepper, chocolate, field peas, spaghetti squash

Seem pretty random?  That’s what my friend Steve (who helped me do the cooking) and I thought.

At first we were going to make no use of the grits because we’re having them tonight with a duck dish I’m preparing.  But we ended up making sage and grit croutons for a garnish, so it worked out in the end.

Here are the courses we made:

Butternut squash soup with 2 garnishes: pickled blueberry, grit and sage croutons

Late last week I’d cooked Nate some squash, so at the same time I cooked some off for a little batch of soup but ended up not blending it at the time.  Rather I just held on to it in the fridge with this dinner in mind.  The only ingredient provided was the grits, but I think it was a clever way to add a fourth course as a little amuse. 

The pickled blueberry was pretty cool too.  I just made a quick pickling liquid from rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, water, star anise, and coriander and pickled some of what we have in the fridge that Nate’s been eating.

Tuna tartare with pineapple, pickled lemon rind, coriander and thai bird chili relish, pineapple, crostini, olive oil

There’s probably one or two things I’d do different about this course, but it was in fact pretty delicious.  I’m always reluctant to do a tuna tartare because it seems so trite, but it’s hard to resist.  And it’s not like we were doing the standard recipe that you see everywhere with soy and what-not. 

What I wish we (or I) would have thought of is to infuse sesame oil with ginger and drizzle that around the plate.  I think that would have been pretty cool and tasty, seeing as the olive oil didn’t really provide too much in terms of flavor.

Bay scallops with an autumn vegetable ragout and tarragon beurre monte

At some point while eating the tuna dish Erin commented that there were a lot of ingredients still left unused.  And in this course we nearly used all of them.

The ragout contained the spaghetti squash (which we’d roasted), field peas, eggplant, red pepper, mustard greens and some caramelized onions that we had left over from making pizza the night before. 

Everyone seemed to really enjoy this course, and the beurre monte brought a nice amount of acidity to the course.

Bacon bread pudding, vanilla ice cream, ganache, pineapple, bacon

For the last course we put some bacon to use that was in the fridge.  The bread pudding seemed to be more “bacony” before all the garnishes went on the plate.  I only used about half a cup of cooked bacon to 3 cups of milk, next time I’d maybe go with a cup to a cup and a half.  You live you learn.  It’s not like I’ve ever made bacon bread pudding before, but it was still really tasty and rounded out a nice meal with some pretty surprising ingredients.

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