In the last year of COVID life I only made one multi course meal and it was a collection of old favourites that I put together for a Pandemic Thanksgiving meal. During the meal I was talking to our guests about those recipes when I realised that I hadn’t really made a truly new menu since my Potato Dinner of 2018. We got to talking about cookbooks at that meal and I brought out the Alinea and Manresa books to show people. I then spent the Christmas break going through the two books and marked out a selection of recipes that I thought were both interesting and practical to make at home. Since there was limited vegetarian choice, I decided to instead focus on seafood as that is something I have never used in one of these meals.
Eventually the COVID restrictions were finally lifted in CA and I invited a few folks over to try out this new menu that I am calling a Michelin Tasting at Home. Most of the dishes are from a Michelin starred restaurant or its cookbook and I have tried to stay on the recipes as strictly as I could. So lets get straight to the food.
Sea Urchin, Vanilla, Chili, Mint (Alinea)
I decided to start the meal off with a visual bang using this bite sized morsel of uni that is suspended in a transparent vanilla-mint gelée. It is served with a slice of chili and a flake of salt so that when you bite into it you get the sea flavours of the uni mixed with the refreshing sweetness of vanilla/mint and a bit of heat from the chili. This dish is very dependent on the freshness of the uni as its flavours subside when stored in the fridge. If I was doing this again, I would consider using live uni and making this the day of the meal or at most the night before. And like all Alinea dishes it has a fantastic visual that adds to the flavour.
This pea soup with ricotta and lemon was the only dish in the meal that was not from a Michelin restaurant but this Chef Steps recipe is both spectacular to look at and very refreshing to have on a hot day. It also helps that the total cook time is ~20 and is done entirely in the microwave – I highly recommend making it.
Farm Egg (Manresa)
The Farm Egg is a Manresa classic that I have made several times at home. I was planning to do all new dishes but this one is such a crowd pleaser that I had to make it again. The mixture of a barely set egg yolk with chives, sherry cream and maple bourbon is a mixture of sweet, salt, tangy and bitter flavours that always hits the mark. One of my diners liked it so much that they got the recipe from us and recreated the dish at home the next day. 🙂
Smoked Avocado Ceviche (Manresa) in Citrus Fog (Alinea)
This is a Manresa dish that converts the ceviche into a clear cryofiltered liquid that is poured alongside a smoked avocado mousse in a coupe glass. Thus you get this tangy and smoky mousse sitting in a clear liquid that has all the flavours of a ceviche.
The avocado mousse in particular was quite the hit and is something I imagine I will be making frequently as a fancy guacamole replacement for parties. I do wish that the ceviche had a stronger fish flavour and that might be something to try by using a different fish or marinating the ceviche liquid for longer.
For the service of this course I was inspired by the citrus fog presentation of Contrast, Espana and Swirl from Alinea where they pour liquid nitrogen into a bowl of citrus fruits that brings a scent of citrus all over the table. Since I don’t have access to liquid nitrogen, I improvised by packing dry ice at the bottom of a bowl along with some cut fruits and then filling the rest of the bowl with whole citrus. I had to place the metal bowl inside a wooden bowl so people would not notice the condensation on the metal at the start of the meal. Once all the ceviche was served, I poured hot water into the bowl which causes the dry ice to sublimate in the water and create a citrus scented fog to match the citrus in the ceviche course. Quite a lot of work and experimentation was needed to achieve this effect but I am quite happy with how it worked out in the end. It’s my attempt to replicate “the show” they put on at places like Alinea and the Fat Duck.
Caviar with White Chocolate (The Fat Duck)
This is a dish I have heard of for a long time but never had a chance to try out. The story is that Heston Blumenthal was looking for something salty to pair chocolate with and stumbled onto using caviar for that. Initially they used dark chocolate but the final iteration was to use a white candle on the table that would be split apart in the middle of the meal to reveal that it was made of white chocolate and filled with caviar that would be served to the diners.
It sounds like an insane pairing but it does work and is worth trying out if you ever have caviar at home. Being a super easy thing to “make” is another point in its favour. Just spoon some caviar on a piece of white chocolate and you are done.
Transparency of Manchego (Alinea)
Next up was the Transparency of Manchego from Alinea. As always with their recipes it was a simple looking dish but required making a large number of ingredients that are used in very small quantities.
Once assembled, you cover the items with a thin slice of manchego and use a blowtorch to melt it onto the plate.
This was a texturally interesting dish. For the best effect you want to combine multiple things together so you get a good mix to textures and flavours in each bite. The fact that you can’t tell what you will get with each bite add to the fun for me. And finally its all smothered in melted cheese so you really cant go wrong with this dish. I will definitely try this again but perhaps with some of the ingredients cut out or substituted for an easier prep.
Shellfish in Seawater (Manresa)
Next up is the dish that really prompted me to build this menu. Its a course that serves scallops, uni and caviar in “seawater” made from clear tomato water with seaweed and lemon juice. The dish is garnished with apple, chives and radishes with the chilled seawater being added at the table.
The original recipe used several different kinds of clams which I replaced with raw sashimi grade scallops instead. Additionally I made the clear tomato water using cryofiltration instead of the weighted cheesecloth method that the recipe suggested. The tomato water was a smashing success though the next time I do this I will use less sea water in each plate as brimming the bowl dilutes the caviar and makes it harder to collect all the ingredients together.
Beach Corn (inspired by Californios)
The next course was my chili-lime chorizo in corn foam that was inspired by the Esquites at Californios. This time the foam was getting blocked by the nozzle of the whipping siphon – I will have to add an additional filtering step with cheesecloth for future attempts of this dish.
Assorted Potatoes (Manresa)
This was probably the most successful dish of the meal – the assorted potatoes with goat cheese from Manresa. The original dish called for boiled and fried potatoes but I decided to replace the boiled potatoes with my fondant potato scallops to stay with the seafood theme of the evening. The crispy fried potatoes are tossed in a norinade (nori tapenade) and served with fresh home made goat cheese and a whey foam. The crispy potatoes with the norinade were a great hit and worked really well with the goat cheese in my opinion.
Tomatillo Panna Cotta (Manresa)
The last savoury course of the meal was a cultured cream panna cotta topped with tomatillo granita, salmon roe and ground berries. The panna cotta was a neutral base that was balanced by the tanginess of the granita and the ground berries. The salmon roe added a salty flavour to finish it off. An interesting dish but likely not something I will be making again.
Lemon-Basil and Chocolate Mousse cake
As usual Nithya handled dessert and for this meal she made a lemon basil mousse with strawberry center and a chocolate mousse. Both were covered with a mirror glaze for the professional look. An excellent dessert and I got to finish the extras for breakfast the next day. 🙂
In general it was fun to cook this meal with a bunch of new ingredients that I had never used before. Several of the dishes were prepared for the first time when I served them and they generally came out well. No abject failures and relatively easy things to improve for next time.
Now its time to start thinking about what the next meal will be.