27 January 2006

Part Three: The Eating - the First Two Courses

(This is coming in fits and starts. Yes, this dinner took place a month ago. My apologies.)

G2 artfully uncorked the Goerg champagne. There was a pop, and while I ducked, there was no need to. (The DP is a professional. I teeter on the brink of being a drama queen.) He poured, we toasted to friendship, the end of the year, and the start of a new one. And then we sat to a table full of oysters – eight for each of us. Champagne and oysters: simple, rich, complex. The champagne actually tasted like real wine, with structure, and interesting yeasty flavors. The oysters were briny, with that perfect slippery texture, and the mignonette a perfect final note. Champagne was brought to the lips – and the bubble tickled our lips and noses.

Once we finished the first course, we paused. Out of necessity – the second course had to go directly from the stove to the table. So the prepared pears, fois gras, and nuts were pulled out; sauté pans heated; and butter melted. The pears went in first, and I quickly carmelized them, threw in some hazelnut pieces, and poured an ounce of cognac in the pan. A quick toss, a hurried call for a match (the chef’s trick of flaming off of the stove’s burner failed, much to my dismay) and the pears were finished.

I put the fois gras in the other pan. There’s a certain irony in putting fat in a pan full of hot fat, but that’s how one cooks fois gras. The pan has to be really hot to seer the liver, but you can’t linger. If you do, the goose liver quickly becomes a puddle of very expensive fat. It takes about 45 seconds a side to seer the liver, and only a few more to melt the liver. I avoided melting the liver, and quickly moved it from pan to cutting board.

I sliced the seered liver, placed slices between slices of pear, and spooned the liquid and hazelnuts from the pear pan over the top of the pears and fois gras. G2 opened the Palatum and poured.

There might b a picture of this course, somewhere. What I remember vividly was the composition of the slices of pears holding the fois gras. It looked perfect. It looked like Jaques Pepin or Julia Child had guided my hands. I impressed myself even before I took the first bite. Both V and G2 were impressed, too. And then we put knife and fork to the plate. The first impression was the texture – the pears were just soft, but still had that indefineable grainy texture that pears have, even when perfectly ripe. The fois gras melted like butter under the knife. The nuts added a tiny bit of crunch.

The taste was beyond the pleasure and experience of the texture. I’ve been playing with the idea that balance in flavor comes from variations on three types, or notes of flavor in a dish. This achieved a great balance of three – the roasted nuts with a rich, earthy flavor, the sweetness of the carmelized pears, and the – for want of a better term – richness of the liver. The wine reinforced the flavors of the dish. And it was a big white wine, too -- so big it was almost overwhelming. We kept eating and talking. Honestly, these two courses would have been enough for any people. But I had clearly lost my mind when I was planning this.

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