Monday, November 2, 2009

The Champagne Dinner

We were challenged to create a dinner where each course would be paired with champagne. Of course, champagne is pretty versatile, but we wanted to make sure that we had a different experience, both in texture and flavor for each course. So after much thought we decided on the following menu:
  • Mushroom crostini
  • Smoked cheddar souffle
  • "Poached" fish over petits pois bon femme
  • A cheese plate
  • Coffee and chocolates

There was, of course, some adventure involved - I was not due back from Canada until after noon of the day of the party. The fish had to be picked up, the cheeses selected and then the cooking done. All for a 7pm start. Of course with Madame doing all the major shopping, setting tables, and making the house look especially nice, we were off to a good start.

The mushrooms for the crostini were cooked with shallots, thyme, and (of all things) rum. I didn't have sherry in the house, so figured that a medium rum would add that woody flavor that we would normally get from sherry. Yup it worked! Also, I had been wanting to try locally produced raw milk (from Layla farms in Plano, TX) for the souffle, so I figured that thinning a little fresh goat cheese with the raw milk would make a nice topping for the crostini. It did.

The souffle was served with a lightly dressed mesclun salad. The fish was suzuki - a type I had never heard of, but turned out to be a fantastic choice. Thanks to Rex's seafood market as always.

The cheeses were picked with the help of Rich at Scardellos. We always get good, thoughtful advice from Rich. The champagnes were all awesome from the Montaudon that we had with the crostini, the Pol Roger with the souffle, the Rouelle Pertois with the cheese, the Delamotte as a transition from the crostini to the souffle, the Francois Montand at the end of the cheese course and the Brut de Peche that we had as an after dinner drink with the chocolates and coffee.

Now for the recipes:

Wild mushroom crostini


2oz unsalted butter

6 Oz each of wood ears, shiitakes, white mushrooms

2 large shallots - minced finely

3 Oz dried porcini mushrooms

Boiling water to cover the porcini

4 sprigs of thyme - left whole

6T medium/dark rum (I used Mount Gay) divided use

3 Oz fresh goat cheese (e.g Montrachet)

2T whole milk

24 small crostini


Hydrate the porcini. Melt the butter in a large skillet and when the foaming has finished, add the finely chopped shallots and sweat them until translucent. Add the roughly chopped mushrooms (including the hydrated porcini) and the thyme stalks. Allow to cook down and dry out. Meanwhile strain the liquid from the porcini to make sure there is no grit. When the mushrooms have cooked down, add the strained porcini liquor. Again allow the mushrooms to dry out over medium heat. Off heat, add 3T of the rum, bring the mushrooms back to heat and evaporate the liquid. repeat with the second 3 T of rum. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Mix the goat cheese and milk together to make a thick topping - the consistency of whipped cream, almost.

Place a small teaspoon of the mushroom mixture on each crostini. Top with a dab of the goat cheese/cream mixture.

Serve slightly warm. We served them cool and one of the guests suggested that they might be even better warmed. She is probably right!

Smoked Cheddar Souffle


2oz unsalted butter (+ extra to grease the dish)

2 oz all purpose (plain) flour

2 cups (16 fl oz. 1 US pint) whole milk warmed

1/4t freshly grated nutmeg

1/2T freshly ground white pepper

1/2t kosher salt

5 large eggs (uses 4 yolks and 5 whites)

2T chopped chives

1 very finely chopped red chile (optional)

1 oz finely grated parmesan cheese

3 oz smoked cheddar cheese - grated

2 oz sharp cheddar cheese - grated


Melt the butter in a large saucepan. After the foaming subsides, add the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 3-4 minutes to remove floury tastes. Whisk in the warmed milk and bring to a boil. You will have a thick bechamel sauce. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

separate the egg whites and yolks. In a large bowl whisk the yolks to break them up and make them smooth. Add one third of the hot bechamel to the egg yolks and whisk vigorously to incorporate. Gradually add the rest of the egg yolks to the mixture whisking vigorously to incorporate. Once the bechamel is Incorporated into the egg yolks, add the grated cheddars. Set aside while preparing the oven and the dish.

Grease the inside of a 6 cup (1 1/2 quart) souffle dish with the remaining butter. Coat the inside with the grated Parmesan making a well covered layer. This gives the souffle something to cling to as it rises.

Heat the oven to 375 and make sure it has had a few minutes to stabilize at temperature. Put the rack in the bottom third of the oven.

beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the cheese base. carefully so as not to upset the foam. Quickly fold in the chives and minced chile (if using). Put the dish into the preheated oven for approximately 35 minutes. The souffle should be jiggly in the middle.

Carry the souflee to the table and serve on small plates which have had the salad already placed on them. Eat immediately!

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