Christmas '09 Dinner

Every story about cooking should always start with some sizzling bacon in a skillet.
It instantly heightens the interest and serves to make what follows better.  Even if the bacon
isn't ever used, it still should be there to headline the story.  Fortunately, the bacon here was
used as you will see.  Anyhow, breaking with tradition of Christmases past, it was decided
that I would cook instead of taking everyone to a nice restaurant.  So I spent a few days mulling
over the menu and settled on making a few appetizers and a steak main course.  My cousins
would supply the side dishes, desserts, and miscellaneous.

The first appetizer was the "bacon and eggs" dish.  More akin to an amuse bouche, it
consisted of a poached quail egg on a bed of brunoise and then topped with some maple
bacon.  First off was to prepare the brunoise of carrot, turnip, and leek.

Here they are after being diced up.  They would then need to be quickly blanched and chilled
in an ice bath.

Here are the quail eggs waiting to be poached.  They also would get chilled in an ice bath
immediately after removal from the hot water.

Right before plating, the brunoise got a quick saute in butter.

And here are the poached quail eggs resting on the warm brunoise to heat up a bit after the ice bath.  It's clear
I need to hone my egg poaching skills, but at least they tasted good.

Bacon and eggs . . .

Next up was the smoked salmon crostinis.  It consisted of packaged smoked salmon, lemon creme fraiche,
french bread, and onions.  First, I just took some plain creme fraiche and mixed it with some lemon juice.  Next
was the french bread which had been sliced thin, buttered on one side, and then lightly toasted in the oven.  The
onions were mixed with some olive oil and lemon juice.

The last appetizer was actually a last second addition.  After seeing how beautiful the steaks looked, I decided
to sacrifice one and make a carpaccio out of it.  Very simple to make, I just thinly sliced one of the steaks and
pounded them even thinner.  The greens is simply some arugula that had been mixed with some olive oil and
lemon juice.  Finally, the whole thing was topped with some parmesan.

Here it is all laid out in front of the Christmas tree.  We all gathered around and partook of the food and some nice
wine.  It was also a good chance for me to catch my breath before I started the main course.

First up for the main course is the cherry red wine sauce that will top the steaks.  Very simple
to prepare, it consisted of fresh cherries, shallots, red wine, red wine vinegar, sugar, and
butter.  Saute some finely chopped shallots in butter and then add the wine, vinegar, and sugar
and let it come to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and then add the cherries.  Let it reduce
to about half it's original volume.

Finally, we come to the pièce de résistance, the steaks.  Initially, I thought to make my famous smoked cornish
game hens.  However, the logistics of making that for 10+ people made it near impossible to accomplish with
reasonable success.  So I decided to make steaks instead.  But I didn't want to just make any old steak, since
we have that reguarly already.  So I thought to get some wagyu steaks.  But I heard mixed reviews regarding
American wagyu so even then I wasn't really overly enthused.

The revelation came one day while I was watching an episode of Iron Chef.  I'm usually on my computer while
watching TV so I was only partially paying attention.  But then I hear Alton Brown going on and on about
something called A5 wagyu that Morimoto had brought out to prepare.  My interest was instantly piqued.  I spent
the next couple days reading up on this vaunted A5 wagyu.  Here's a good explanation of what it is.  After much
searching, I finally found a place online that imports the stuff direct from Japan.  They apparantly are suppliers
for restaurants such as Craft and L'Atelier de Robuchon.  Anyhow, enough of my words.  Here are a thousand
more . . .

Here they are seasoned with salt and pepper right before going into the cast iron skillet.  I seared each side for
about 90 seconds on very high heat.

Here it is sliced after resting for about 10 minutes.  A perfect medium rare.

I gave the option of having the steaks two ways.  On its own with some salted garlic chips.  The chips were
whole cloves of garlic sliced thin and deep fried.

Or topped with the cherry wine sauce.

The sides were made by my cousins.  Everything was delicious.

For dessert, one of my cousins made a pear tart.  We also had some pastries from a place called 85 degrees
in Irvine (not pictured).

Here are some pics of everyone enjoying themselves.

This is me doing my best "man of leisure" pose next to my most favoritest cousin.  Try to ignore the crumbs on
my shirt.  When in leisure mode, what care have I of a few crumbs?

And finally, a few pics to showcase my cousin's photography skills.

All in all, a pretty successful dinner I think.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and good times were had by all.
There's already talk of doing the same thing next year instead of going to a restaurant again.  I'm still recovering
from this episode so we'll see what happens . . .