1 lb. very fresh mahi mahi, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 lb very fresh sea scallops, sliced in thirds
2 tsp. red curry paste
1 fresh shallot, minced
juice from 4 limes
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. fish sauce
Couple dashes of salt
2 tsp agave (can adjust sweetness later, when fish is cooked)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 mango, sliced
fresh cilantro, minced
1 strip skinned red bell pepper
4 tbsp. toasted dry unsweetened coconut flake
about 1/2 cup very finely minced cocktail peanuts
1 small package onion sprouts
salt and pepper to taste
1) Combine the fresh scallops and fish with the red curry, lime juice, shallot, vinegar, fish sauce, salt and agave. Leave in fridge until the fish is nicely cooked but still tender, about 2 hours. Depending on your pieces, you may need slightly longer.
2) When the ceviche comes out of the fridge and the fish is done, drain and reserve the marinade. Add coconut milk to the fish and taste, adding more salt, fish sauce, sugar, or marinade liquid as needed to make it perfect for you.
3) Layer slices of mango on your plates. Layer the fish on top of the mango bed. Spoon a bit of extra sauce over each one. Add a strip of peeled bell pepper over the fish for color.
4) Sprinkle with toasted coconut, peanut dust, fresh cilantro, and onion sprouts. Serve immediately.
BONUS RECIPE: CORN ABSINTHE BISQUE
(I'm posting the recipe for this because it's completely original and frankly was fantastic, really surprisingly good, and it was very simple to make. Our toast foam, as you can see, turned out rather...flaccid. It wasn't required and I'm skipping toast foam instructions until such time as we perfect it. The rest was easy, after all. The only challenging part of it, obviously, is that you need to have absinthe sitting around your house, which OF COURSE we do. If you don't, head to the liquor store and pick up two mini bottles. If you can't find crispy speck, please garnish with crispy bacon or or proscuitto or pancetta, it needs some crunch.)
INGREDIENTS (serves 6 generously):
2 tbsp. butter
6 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from the husk, husks reserved
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium ribs celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. powdered coriander
1 tbsp. white flour
1/3 cup of absinthe (other anise flavored liqueur will work in a pinch)
4 quarts vegetable stock
sugar or agave to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and white pepper to taste
as many speck slices as there are soup eaters, for garnish
1) Melt the butter in a pot and cook the celery, onions, and garlic over medium heat until sweated, about five minutes.
2) Add bay leaves, powdered coriander, and flour. Cook to toast dry elements, about two minutes.
3) Add the absinthe into the pot and use it to scrape up any bits. When that's done, incorporate the stock and put the corn husks in the pot as well. Bring to a good simmer, making sure the liquid is just covering the husks and the chopped vegetables. Cover, lower heat, and cook for fifteen minutes.
4) With a pair of tongs, remove corn husks. Add fresh corn and bring back to a simmer. Cover and cook for ten to fifteen more minutes, until the corn kernels are sweet, bright, and tender.
5) Discard bay leaves. Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender in as many batches as you like and blend very finely, pouring the smooth puree back into the pot.
6) Get a fine mesh strainer and a large bowl and strain your soup into the bowl, using the back of a spatula to scrape the liquid down.
7) Add cream, sugar, and salt and white pepper to taste. Because absinthe is made with some bitter as well as sweet herbs, adjustment might take a few minutes, but it's worth it.
8) If using crispy speck garnish, heat a heavy-bottomed skillet and place speck slices in it one at a time, weighting them down with the flat, heavy back of another pot, or a metal spatula if you prefer. Flip after about 2 minutes and remove when crisp. Serve immediately--if not, then wait to add the cream.
THE TASTING MENU:
We had a tasting menu!
(Translation: we committed an act of hubris such as has never before been seen on the premises.)
I mean, really, that could have gone so south so fast. But it didn't. It was...well. It was, depending on just how I'm thinking of it moment to moment:
some right jiggy shit
Gabe and I started cooking about five days before so as to have a handle on it. First, we made chive oil and red pepper oil, because stuff garnished with home-made infused oil is spiffy theoretically, yes? Pretty colors? I know, I'm mentally about six. Next we revved up the ice cream maker and covered the herbes de Provence sorbet and brown butter ice cream. As it happens, brown butter ice cream is insane, tasting as advertised exactly like butter with being ridiculously fluffy. There are three containers of it in my freezer. Following that, we confited the lamb rack and left it to sit in duck fat for a few days.*
(*I don't know of anything on earth that isn't better off for sitting in a tub of duck fat for a few days, apart from maybe salad, cellular phones, and perhaps sushi. But everything else pretty much qualifies as needing a duck fat soak, yes? I'm betting you that if you submerged me in duck fat for a week, I'd come out looking like a million bucks. There is a kitten on my lap, and she claims to want to be soaked in duck fat too. So there you are.)
Next real phase was the Saturday all-day cookoff, when we made every single thing we could think of that didn't have to be prepped day-of. As usual, that paid off like New York real estate. I don't think we could have managed this without lunatic levels of prep. I like, made a flow chart. I'm serious. I made grids. I made checklists. I made the counter guy at Eataly laugh when I said with a cracked grin on my face that I wanted a bunny so I could cook him. Then I made rabbit carnitas.
I'm still recovering and so is Gabe, because it was very much fifty-fifty on the workload. Gabe said to me rather memorably, "What would it cost to write this menu and then just pay prep cooks to come in and make it like they do in real restaurants?" So much food. So very, very many different comestibles. Really, the mere thought of food just at the moment is something rather less than desirable. So far today I've had a slice of bread pudding and a quarter of a sandwich, and that's looking like enough until tomorrow.
(I blame this in part on my awesome friend Marjie, who was in town for the two days after the tasting menu in a very small window of time, and induced me to eat fried Snickers, haggis, Grimaldi's pizza, twice-fried Thai pork, egg in a blanket, and finally a dinner at BLT Steak that dealt the final spine-ripped blow to my already beaten and hemorrhaging metabolism. I love you, Marjie. I take full responsibility for my new diabetes.)
But before the details fade entirely, I hereby present for your viewing and possibly even your pleasure:
(matched wine pairings by guest artists, as named; photos by Melinda Caric)
~ AMUSE BOUCHE ~
rabbit liver mouse, moonshine bloody mary deviled quail eggs,
garden green tomato chuney crostini, house pickled pearl onions
pairing: cactus fruit and Campari aperitif, by Gabriel
~ COURSE ONE ~
thai red curry ceviche with mahi mahi, sea scallops,
mango, toasted coconut, onion sprouts, and peanut dust
pairing: Domaine Gerard Millet Sancerre, 2009, by Luis and Allison
~ COURSE TWO ~
corn absinthe bisque with chive oil, crispy speck, and toast foam
pairing: Matthiasson Napa Valley White Wine, 2006, by Melinda
~ COURSE THREE ~
filet mignon and cucumber carpaccio with sesame-yogurt dressing and red pepper oil
pairing: Trimbach Riesling, 2008, Yann and Keegan
~ COURSE FOUR ~
butter poached lobster tail with spaetzel, seared broccolini, and apple cider vinaigrette
pairing: Heiligenstein Gruner Veltliner, 2008, Yann and Keegan
~ COURSE FIVE ~
rabbit carnitas with carrot mint puree, fresh mustard greens salad, and fried tortilla
pairing: Chateau La Fleur des Rouzes Pomerol, 2004, Luis and Allison
~ COURSE SIX ~
lamb rack confit, arugula asiago bread pudding,
baby Brussels sprouts, red wine chanterelle reduction
pairing: Dyer Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004, Gabe and Lyndsay
~ COURSE SEVEN ~
herbes de Provence sorbet, fresh figs, lavender shortbread
Oremus Late Harvest Tokaji, 2005, Luis and Gabe
~ COURSE EIGHT ~
bourbon chocolate cheesecake with pretzel bacon crust,
brown butter ice cream, and house brandied cherries
pairing: Real Companhia Velha Royal Oporto, Tawny 10-year, Mark