Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ringing in a Puffy Christmas Eve En Croute

The Cute Gardener and I are very fond of making our own traditions that are customized to us and unlike the normal ones we grew up with, not that there is anything wrong with those. This has meant eating Chinese food on the Fourth of July in the basement bowels of San Francisco’s Chinatown; creating private in-home tastings of food and drink away from the party-goer social world of New Year’s Eve; and for the past two grand occasions it has meant starting the meal with crackling, cold oysters. We even discovered a way to treat the occasional odd oyster swimming with the funky stuff by elevating it in a fluffy, egg yolk heavy, olive oil fried, fresh omelet.

Because we eat out so much, many of our favorite co-created rituals tend to be the ones that take place in the kitchens of our own homes. For Christmas Eve dinner this year, this meant starting a new annual event where we would dine in together, cook a meal together, and all that mattered is that whatever we cooked would be somehow integrated into puff pastry.

I have been an ardent fan of puff pastry ever since falling head over heels in love with it when I made mustard batons with it earlier this year. You just can’t go wrong with this brilliant creation of dough, painstakingly concocted by the a perpetual folding over method that means layers of flaky goodness when cooked, and multifaceted in that it can support any kind of dish from breakfast through dessert and in sweet or savory forms.

For our debut dinner in this vein, we chose to adapt Emeril Lagasse’s Fish en Croute with Lemon Butter Sauce . It had a little bit of French to satisfy the Cute Gardener’s butter lust and a little bit of green New Orleans spice and sass to cover my bohemian blood. I copied the recipe exactly save for two things. I didn’t spice the fish with Emeril’s Essence Blend because it would be too hot for my man, so instead I added a couple dashes of Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset blend but you could use any bevy of spices that float your boat. And I didn’t sieve mesh the lemon butter sauce at the end because all my lemon bits fell to mush anyway and I didn’t feel the need to do so and it turned out perfectly fine.

You can also use any kind of whitefish for this dish and we chose two large filets of fresh sole bought at the Santa Monica Seafood Company.

I found it was really important to place the cooked spinach on the fish in equally spaced out portions so that when the meal was done, every forkful from the belly of this creamy beast was an equal ratio of fish to veggie.

To make the lemon butter sauce, I chose a Clos Du Bois Sauvignon Blanc for the called for dry white. It was an excellent choice and smarted off well with the tart lemon, creating a tangy juxtaposition for the two sticks of butter. Poured over the final presented puff pastry fish, browned in an egg wash, the sauce brought together the meal with a dose of swimmingly warm satisfaction.

Simply roasted carrots and three kinds of sautéed mushrooms (baby bellas, white button and a few shiitake) were the only sides needed for this overall decadent dish. It kicked off the weeklong food coma to come quite nicely and prepped our palates for the parade of holiday goodness that only comes around once a year along with the excuse to eat everything you want until the final relatives are gone.

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