Thank you all for voting for my pho in round 2 of Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog! Out of the original 650 or so blogs that started, I’m at least in the top 200 thanks to everyone! Now it’s time for round 3, a luxury dinner party! If you like what you see, please vote for Livefire:
If you’re a regular Livefire reader, you may have noticed that, while I sometimes do something a bit complex, I usually try to do things that just about anyone could do at home themselves. My approach to the luxury dinner party topic isn’t any different, but I did take it up a level or two by using Himalayan salt blocks for each course, from salad through dessert.
To start off, let’s talk salt… The little bit of research I’ve read say that Himalayan pink salt dates back about 6 million years, to the Cambrian era. The salt is used in a lot of ways, from lamps to plates to table salt. I’d never had it before, but we came across 8″ x 12″ x 2″ plates at Sur La Table for half price and couldn’t pass them up! The plates vary a lot in looks, some very uniform, others with more pattern to them.
The blocks can be used for hot or cold/room temp dishes. The amount of salt imparted to the food seems to depend on the moisture of the food; the more moisture, the more saltiness absorbed. I did each course (except cocktails) using the Himalayan salt blocks.
Here’s the menu for the night’s Luxury Dinner Party:
I did the shopping for the dinner party at a local market that’s getting better and better known, having won an award for the best gourmet grocery in the country, Dorothy Lane Market. This is the same market that did Lobstermania a few months ago. The shopping consisted of getting some asparagus, house-made mozzarella cheese, Chilean sea bass and American lamb chops. Fortunately, dlm also carries Jeni’s Ice Cream offerings, which are about the best ice cream flavors ever!
The appetizer/salad course incorporated tomatoes and chiffonade-cut basil from our very own garden, along with the dlm mozzarella. I sliced the tomatoes and mozz and let it all sit on the salt block for about 10 minutes. The results were a really, really pleasant saltiness to the caprese salad.
After apps, the table was set for the meal. My wife likes to set the table and always does a great job with it.
While I had one of the salt blocks on the grill, heating up for about 45 minutes, I seasoned the Chilean sea bass with a bit of black pepper and chopped rosemary and Italian parsley. I brought the salt block into the kitchen and put the fish right on the salt. It was hot enough to sizzle quite a bit, and the fish was cooked perfectly in about 10 minutes. I served it with a bit of Mesclun salad, drizzled with a bit of Pine Club dressing (a local steak house). I finished the fish with a bit of piment d’Espelette, a basque ground chile that’s very flavorful without overpowering.
The lambchops started cooking with fish, but needed a bit more heat than the salt retained, though it did stay hot enough that I could have melted cheeses or kept things warm for quite a while. Instead, though, I put the salt block back on the grill to get the heat back up again, and I finished the lamb as well as cooked the asparagus on the salt block directly on the grill. This method still worked great, and both dishes had a nice salt taste to them, but not too much. The Himalayan salt is really pleasant on everything that we tried, in fact. Even the egg didn’t get too salty cooking sunny side up on the salt.
The main course was paired with an Imagery Winery Cabernet Sauvignon that seemed to also like the Himalayan salt!
For dessert, I was thinking something along the lines of salted caramel, but instead went toward bananas Foster, simply cooking banana slices on the salt block. I first put butter over the salt to melt and help caramelize the bananas, then caramelized the bananas on both cut sides. After this, I poured about an ounce of Aruban golden rum over the bananas and lit it on fire!
I put the banana slices in a bowl with Jeni’s Ice Cream’s chocolate cayenne flavor. I’m not huge on chocolate ice cream, but this had a dusty, semi-dark flavor that I loved, and the cayenne showed through really nicely at the end. With the salty banana slices, we had a fantastic dessert to a really wonderful meal! The wine even went well with the dessert.
It was a fun evening, and a luxury dinner party that wasn’t so complex that I couldn’t enjoy the meal. Instead of going for a culture or region to concentrate on, I used the Himalayan salt blocks to bring everything together. And I’m glad I did… but at the end of the night, I was tired, and it was time to take off the black tie and dinner jacket, and relax.