After the festivities of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, sitting down at the table for an intimate dinner is a welcome change of pace. While Florida is not freezing in February, it still cools down. When I realized it would be a crisp windy evening, I couldn’t resist starting with a French Onion soup. It is one of the easiest ways to start a five course meal. It’s also one of those dishes that can be made ahead of time. The soup was followed by a strawberry endive salad, mahimahi over coconut rice, a filet with gorgonzola cream sauce, and finally a baklava dessert filled with pastry cream.
An important note on the below five course meal. Almost all the dressings and sauces used can be made ahead of time and frozen for up to a month. The soup can be made five days ahead and I strongly recommend it, as the flavors infuse into the soup and result in a much richer taste once reheated. While this meal looks complicated, it is one of the easiest on my blog because it can be made so far ahead. Even the dessert can be made and frozen.
French Onion Soup … Paired with Willakenzie, Pinot Gris, Oregon 2013
- 1 french baguette
- Shredded Gruyere
- Shredded Mozzarella
- Approximately 10 medium onions
- Beef stock
- Bay leaves
- 1 bottle of red wine
- Coat onions with a dusting of flour after slicing and before putting into the soup pot.
- Saute onion in butter until onions soft and slightly charred.
- Add approximately 3/4 bottle of red wine.
- Let the onion simmer in the wine until the wine has reduced to about 1/2. Add 15 cups of beef stock (approximately 1.5 cups of water for each onion used). I used Williams & Sonoma beef stock concentrate.
- Add 5 large bay leaves (remove the bay leaves before serving)
- Let soup simmer for at least 1 hour. The soup should begin to thicken. Salt to taste. Add more stock concentrate if needed. NOTE: you can refrigerate soup for up to 5 days.
- Before serving, bring soup to a boil, toast 1 slice of baguette per ramekin. (Remember to remove the bay leaves)
- Ladle soup into ramekins, add toasted slice atop of the soup and top with a generous amount of shredded cheese.
- Put ramekins under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and melted.
- Serve hot.
Strawberry Endive Salad, Fig Reduction Dressing … Paired with Honig, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley 2014
- Field Greens
- Endive (sliced)
- Minced Strawberries
- Shredded Swiss Cheese
- Balsamic Glaze
- Fig reduction (see preparation instructions below)
- Balsamic vinegar
Instructions for salad:
- Slice endives on cutting board, careful to keep the shape in tact. Set aside.
- Mix field greens with dressing, pecans, and cheese.
- Plate salad, top with slices of endive
- Add minced strawberries on top of the salad, keeping most of it on top of the sliced endive to give a floral effect.
- Decorate plate with balsamic glaze
Ingredients for fig dressing:
- 2 cups dried figs
- 1/2 balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup, port wine
Instructions for fig dressing:
- Combine figs, vinegar, and wine in a slow cooker and let cook for 3 hours or until figs are soft and falling apart
- Let mixture cool and puree in blender
- Put mixture through stainer to get rid of fig seeds
- Use mixture as base of the dressing, adding olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste.
Mahimahi over coconut rice, lemon cream sauce … Sonoma-Loeb, Chardonnay, Sonoma County 2012
- olive oil
- cajun seasonings
- jasmine rice
- coconut milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- juice and zest from 1 lemon
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 2 shallots
- 1 cup white wine
- parsley flakes
Instructions for mahimahi:
- Season mahi with olive oil, juice from lemon, crushed garlic, cajun seasonings.
- Grill to taste
- Bring two cups of coconut milk to a boil, add 2 tbsp of butter into the coconut milk.
- Add 1 cup of jasmine rice, cook on low heat until the rice has absorbed the coconut milk. Salt to taste.
- Serve mahi over rice
- Ladle cream sauce over fish and around rice (see recipe for cream sauce below)
- Garnish with parsley flakes
Instructions for cream sauce:
- In a saucepan melt butter, and saute shallots until yellow
- Deglaze the pan with white wine
- Add chicken stock and bring to a boil
- Add lemon juice, zest and heavy cream
- Whisk sauce until it reaches desired thickness.
- Add parsley flakes
- Let sauce look
- Blend sauce in a blender to achieve uniform smoothness (this will allow you to puree the shallots)
Instructions for rice:
- Bring two cups of coconut milk to a boil
- Add 1 cup of jasmine rice to boiling coconut milk
- On low cook rice for apprx. 20 minutes. Keep checking rice as stovetops and saucepans can have varied results.
- Salt to taste
Filet with gorgonzola sauce … Duckhorn Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
- 4 to 6 oz filet mignon (the sauce is enough for 8 pieces.)
- 1.5 cups of red wine (don’t use cooking wine)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 4 cloves of crushed or minced garlic
- 3 shallots
- 1 cup of gorgonzola cheese
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups beef stock (I like to use Williams & Sonoma beef stock)
Instructions for filet mignon:
- Bring filet mignon to room temperature
- Marinate in 1/2 cup of wine, olive oil, black pepper for 1/2 hr.
- Immediately before grilling sprinkle salt. If you don’t have a grill you can broil in the oven, but I find that grilling yields best results. Note: I often grill to rare a few hours ahead of dinner party and then ask the guests for their preferred temperature. I finish the cooking in the oven.
Instructions for gorgonzola sauce:
- Bring 1 tbsp of butter and 1/4 cup of olive oil to a sizzle.
- Add crushed garlic and shallots. Cook under yellow.
- Deglaze the pan with remaining wine (1 cup)
- Add beef stock. Bring mixture to boil.
- Add heavy cream, whisking the mixture to a light creamy consistency.
- Add gorgonzola cheese. Continue whisking under the mixture if creamy and salted to taste.
- Let the sauce cool and blend in blender for a smooth consistency. This sauce freezes well and keeps for a month in the freezer. Thaw out before serving and reheat on low. You can add more cheese if you find sauce too watery.
Note: In this case I didn’t make a starch since this was the 4th course. I served grilled baby carrots & zucchini. I used the fig reduction from above with a little bit of beef stock and cream to create a quick drizzle sauce.
Phyllo filled with pastry cream, topped with rose water syrup … Adelsheim Deglace 2012
- 1 box of phyllo sheets (you can get this from the grocery store in the frozen section)
- 3 tbsp vanilla extract
- 5 tbsp corn starch
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 4 stick of butter melted (nope, it’s not a mistake)
- 5 cups sugar
- lemon juice (just a few drops)
Instructions for pastry cream:
- Bring heavy cream to a boil
- Add sugar and vanilla
- Whisk thoroughly
- Add cornstarch (before adding mix the cornstarch with milk or water until pasty)
- Whisk thoroughly until the mixture become thick and creamy. It should have the consistency of pudding.
- Allow the mixture to cool. You can refrigerate and continue with the next steps in a few days.
Instructions for baklava:
- Melt 4 sticks of butter (If you are only make a few of these you can use 1 stick of butter at a time. Each sheet of phyllo dough must be drenched with butter for the dough to become crispy and rise. Do not use oil (advice handed down from grandmother)
- Lay out the sheets, butter well with brush. The sheets will be a rectangular shape. For the easiest way, put a dollop of the pasty cream towards the bottom middle and fold the sheet vertically until the pastry dollop is covered. Butter again.
- Fold from the bottom up, rolling the phyllo until you have a square. Butter all four sides.
- Lay each individual phyllo square on a baking sheet. Bake on 350 for approximately 35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
- Cold syrup should be drizzled on immediately after it comes out of the over.
- Note: the other way to make this is dessert is to make it in the pan in the traditional way. Simply layer the bottom of the baking dish with half the sheets, buttering each sheets along the way. Spread pastry cream in the middle. Layer rest of sheets on the top and bake.
Instructions for syrup:
- To make syrup put 2 cups of granulated sugar and cover with water, just until the water reached the top of the sugar.
- Dissolve and let the mixture boil for at least 10 minutes. Then add a few droplet of lemon juice.
- Add one capful of rose water to the mixture.
- Remove from heat and set to cool. You can cool the syrup in an ice bath or refrigerate. The syrup must be cold and drizzled on piping hot baklava.
Trick: To know if the syrup is done, put a drip in a plate and tilt the plate if the syrup does not drip down the plate and sticks to one spot like maple syrup it is done. You can also test for stickiness between fingers.