Monday, December 11, 2006

Like Sniffing Glue - Only Funner

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Rack of Lamb Marinted in Homemade Yogurt and Spices

With Fresh Mint Chutney

Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Apples

Grilled Asparagus

Chocolate and Orange Flower Pot de Crème with Komquats

Passion Fruit-Coconut Pana Cotta

The owners came aboard last Sunday just for the day, to meet me and try my cooking. There wasn’t much ambience to be had as we were out of the water and the boat was strewn with equipment and supplies and canvas covers over the floors and furniture.


The owners decided to have the crew join in and they all gathered around the dining table in the galley (it’s a big open kitchen with a country style dining table and bar stools at the counter), watching me cook. The butterflies in my stomach flapped madly trying to escape as I grew increasingly nervous having all eyes on me while I worked. I broke a sweat running up and down the stairs to check my lamb as it sizzled away on the grill outside on the fly deck. In a boat yard filled with the fumes of paint, apoxy and petrol – I’m sure it was the best smell ever to come off of a yacht “on the hard” (out of the water).


I’d made my own yogurt a few days before from a culture that I bought at the health food store. It worked out perfectly, although it took nearly 24 hours to set to my desired tartness and firmness – perhaps because of the air condition, the coolness slowed the process. The taste was tangy and fresh and the crew loved it when I gave them a try with some fresh mango sliced on top… Early in the day, I separated out the chops and marinated them in my homemade yogurt with turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, garlic, lime juice and cilantro.


The panna cotta I had made the day before; layering the passion fruit, letting it gel, then layering the coconut mixture. And the pot de crème came from a recipe from Cooks Illustrated, to which I embellished with Grand Marnier and Orange Flower water and garnished with homemade whipped cream and thin slices of tart, sweet komquats.

The first course went down, but I wasn’t in the galley to hear the comments as I was making my 15th run up the stairs, through the pilot house and out on deck to check on the lamb. All was good as the chops sizzled away, the cast iron grill leaving a beautiful grillage. Judging by the empty bowls on my return, the first course went over well.

I pulled the hot plates from the oven and plated dinner. All grew quiet as the crew and owners began to eat. The Mister looked up first and said that it was spectacular, next the Misses, commenting about how fresh and healthy everything was, the Captain (who used to be a chef!), saying that he loved how vibrant all the flavors were. Great, two courses down, one to go…

The butterflies started to settle. I went to plate dessert, but my panna cotta’s weren’t inverting as nicely as I had hoped. The coconut layer was separating from the passion fruit layer. Thank god I made extra! I decided, since I’d made them in nice, glass dessert bowls, to leave them and I garnished the top with a start-fruit chip that I had made earlier in the day by slicing the fruit, poaching them in ginger simple syrup, placing them on a silpat and baking them at 195 (farenheit) for about 2 hours – until they became paper-thin and crisp.

I put out the dessert. The Mister doesn’t care for chocolate and when I mentioned Grand Marnier and placed the panna cotta in front of him, he became noticeably sad that it wasn’t his dessert that contained the booze and that he had gotten something fruity instead of rich and decadent. But, the sad face quickly disappeared as he devoured the panna cotta, all the while asking me questions about how it was made, what was in it, etc.

I sat with the owners at the dining room table, we talked about wine and food and they licked their dessert bowls as I gnawed on a lamb bone. It was all very casual. They asked how I began cooking and we talked about their food preferences (they eat anything – lucky me!), and their holiday traditions. Looks like I’ll be whipping up my first oyster stew this Christmas Eve, and they love to fish and hunt so there will be lots of quail, pheasant and fresh catch… Looking forward to it.

I got a nice email from them the next day exclaiming their pleasure at my cooking. It will be a great season, I can already tell. The crew are more than thrilled to have me on board and the captain has already said that I am not allowed to quit, I’m the best chef they’ve had so far (and they’ve been through a lot!).

Fresh Mint Chutney

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

3 shallots, finely chopped

3 scallions, finely chopped

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground corriander

¼ teaspoon salt.

Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. If chutney requires thinning, add a small amount of water or yogurt, until you reach desired consistency.

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