Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lot 30, Charlottetown and Poached Salmon Niçoise

Just before the holidays, I proposed to my girlfriend. Though it really hasn't changed anything, we are now engaged. I took her to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. For any of my fellow Canadians and even those interested in visiting Canada, you have to visit Charlottetown. Not only did people look at you and say hi when you crossed them in the street, but they smiled! This is a big deal. Charlottetown and PEI in general was full of great, kind people with beautiful scenery. If we weren't moving back to Ontario in the fall, I'd be moving to PEI.

In Charlottetown, we ate at Lot 30 The atmosphere was great, with a television over the bar where you could see a live feed of what was going on in the kitchen's plating table...a great idea! The service was also fantastic though I wouldn't expect anything less from Charlottetown. As for the food, it was good. I particularly liked the fact that we took the tasting menu and they didn't give us a choice of what we wanted; they just said, "Is there anything you don't want?" to which my girlfriend said offal (to my dismay). They then presented us with a five course meal where every dish was a surprise. Though the food was good, I found that at times the dishes were overly complicated by too many sauces. The dishes felt like they were competing against themselves; they felt aggressive and lacked the simplicity which is, in my opinion, what higher class restaurants should strive for. I was unsatisfied. Just not thoroughly impressed.

When we arrived back home, I had prepared a little 3 course meal of my own. As is the case when I cook for myself, I tend to make too much. Therefore, when preparing a 3 course meal, it is not useful to have heaping plates full of food; one dish just ruins it for the others. Well anyways, after a whole day of preparation, my first course rolled out. It was Gordon Ramsay's "poached salmon niçoise with boiled quail's eggs". I decided to skip the egg. Despite this, the result was amazing. I love tiny potatoes in cold salads. I don't know what it is about them that just get to me. This salad was composed of boiled small potatoes, blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, black olives, thinly sliced shallots, all tossed in a basic vinaigrette (olive oil and white wine vinegar) and topped with salmon poached in fish stock, thyme, basil, lemon, and lemon grass. This salad was simple, elegant and delicious. Next time I'll do the egg. I'm sure it would make things even more delightful.

The following coarse was not so much of a hit. First mistake, the previous salad was really big. Secondly, the beans. The recipe is from Cook with Jamie and called "grilled fillet steak with the creamiest white beans and leeks". Being a purist or slow food dude or some other pompous foodie title I could give myself, I thought of doing things the "right" way and not getting lima beans from a can but rather buying them drying and cooking them the good-old-fashioned-way. I don't think I've ever had any luck with dried beans. They never fully cook. Maybe it's because I'm too used to the texture of canned beans but I guess I'll never know.

Anyways, the recipe goes something like this: sweat leeks, thyme and garlic in olive oil and butter; dump in some wine, bring to a boil, add CAN of lima beans along with some water; simmer; add parsley, crème fraîche and olive oil; meanwhile, grill or pan fry steak to desired doneness; serve with a lemon for squeezing. This is a simple enough recipe with nicely matched flavours. Next time, however, I'll go with the can. My bad.

Finally, to round out what I'd planned to be a delicate yet delicious dinner, I served cooked custard ramekins which the French cookbook calls "petits pots de crème". If you can swing custard, there is nothing simpler and more beautiful in the world. It's light and sweet and rich. Just lovely. Here's the recipe.

Petits pots de crème

410ml (1 and two-third cups) milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
1 egg
one-third cup caster (superfine) sugar

1. Preheat oven to 140. Put milk in a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod in two lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add the pod and seeds to the milk (or be a cheap cheater and give a little squirt of vanilla extract). Bring the milk just to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, mix together the egg yolks, egg and sugar. Strain the boiling milk over the egg mixture and stir well. Skim off the surface to remove any foam.

3. Ladle into one-and-a-half cup ramekins and place in a roasting tin. Pour enough hot water into the tin to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the custards are firm to the touch. Leave the ramekins on a wire rack to cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

No comments: