Thursday, August 02, 2007

Stuffin' things

Peanut Soba Noodles with Tofu and Red Peppers

Sesame Snap Peas

Orange Poached Prawn Salad with Wasabi Vinaigrette

Szechuan Peppercorn Crusted Beef Tenderloin

Stuffed with Homemade Chinese Pork Sausage and Shiitake Mushrooms

Green Tea Crème Brulee with a Chocolate Sesame Tuile

Our potential captain for the new yacht has come to town for the weekend with his wife and two other crewmembers from the yacht he currently runs. His welcoming committee, along with the owners, are 12 sailors in town for a regatta on Lake Michigan and the next three days will be spent cutting the water on the bosses new 46 foot Hinckley and trying to woo the captain to jump ship from his current 100 foot sailing yacht to a 160 foot motor yacht – are hard sell for a tried and true wind lover. But I have vowed to use my powers of culinary persuasion to influence his decision.

I had it in my mind to do something Asian, to satiate my craving for Peanut Soba noodles and sesame snap peas. The snap peas from the local farm are bright green and as sweet as sugar. And, the noodle recipe would give me the chance to test out the locally made firm tofu from the food co-op that Mrs. X has been telling me about! Since the captain and his wife are both South African, I figured a giant slab of meat was in order (the staple food of South Africans around the globe), and to feed a crew that big, I decided to go with Beef Tenderloin.

I developed a fascination with stuffing things lately after the recent success of a chorizo and queso fresco stuffed pork tenderloin I prepared a few parties back. I’ve never really been a “stuffer of things” in the past. For me, “stuffed meats” conjure up thoughts of stodgy, old French food, or worse: turduckens. So I never really saw stuffing, outside of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, as something that fit into my culinary repertoire. But now it was time to try something new…

Down a winding country road, through fields of purple wild flowers and dense, green forest (which describes just about every country road in Northern Michigan), there is a local farm that along with carrying their own beef (you can see the cows grazing in the green pastures as you drive up) also produces farm-fresh pork sausage and this gave me an idea for the stuffing. I made my stuffing by sautéing shiitake mushrooms with lots of ginger and garlic and then sautéing the pork sausage with the mushrooms and including a healthy sprinkle of Chinese Five Spice, orange peel, fennel seed and scallions. Then, I sharpened up my slicer and set to butterflying the tenderloin. It sounds macabre to say, but I felt like a surgeon as the knife slid across the flesh as I carefully made my first incision. I worked my way through the beef, rolling it out like a carpet. I then stuffed it full of sausage and laced it up again like a corset.

Having recently been to New York City for a weekend, and to my favorite spice shop in the world (Kalustyan’s), I had returned to Michigan with bags of goodies including some spicy little Szechuan peppercorns. I made a crust for the tenderloin by grinding them up along with black peppercorns, coriander seed and sea salt.

On to Dessert:

As the label states on the glass bottle, “Our cows aren’t on drugs, but they are on grass!”, the milk from the local dairy is fresh, rGBH-free and un-homogonized (this means you have to shake it in order to mix the cream-top into the milk). The milk is tastier than the mass-produced milk you buy from the grocery store. It tastes more rich, “milkier”, with hints of the grassy green fields from which the cows are fed. It’s so good in fact that I have enjoyed showing it off by making fresh ricotta that I’ve used in salads and on pasta, and lots of fresh ice-cream. I do think there is also a textural difference in cooking with the higher quality milk as well, the ricotta, ice-creams and especially the Green Tea crème brulee that was dessert for this party all seamed more creamy and smooth.

Dinner went off without a hitch and the sailors left with their bellies full and a smile on their faces. Hopefully the captain will say yes, but I still have two more meals to work on him…

In two weeks I’ll be flying out to Seattle with the bosses to see the latest progress on the yacht. Stay tuned, I’ll definitely have pictures and stories from that that one!!!


prcrstn8 said...

Having recently been to New York City for a weekend

On the sly, huh?

tammy said...

omg....that photo of dessert is ART! ART I more ways than one :))))

Anonymous said...

Cristina, maybe you remember me from scootering days back in NYC~ sounds like you sold your little black ET & are quite the globetrotter! I'm living in beautiful Seattle these days ~ look me up when you're in town if you get the chance. mizdahliajune at yahoo dot com.

(perhaps better remembered as "Asshat's girlfriend"!)

shalimar said...

you are a chef i would love to work it!!!!

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