First of all, thank you everyone for voting and helping me with the hard part, coming up with the menu for Saturday night's special birthday meal for my lovely wife. I have to admit, I was kind of intimidated by the idea of making rack of lamb, but it seems to have turned out to be quite a success.
Let's run down how it all came together...
First course: Crispy Crab Cakes with Lemon-Tarragon Aioli
Crispy Crab Cakes
2 cans lump crab meat
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup of panko (oriental bread crumbs)
Old Bay seasoning
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 tsp of hot paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh tarragon leaves
1. Combine all ingredients.
2. Shape into patties, approx. 3 inch diameter (make sure to squeeze out excess liquid).
3. Refrigerate patties for at least an hour.
4. Pat remaining panko crumbs on top of the patties to form a crust.
5. Fry in vegetable oil + butter until golden brown on both sides.
Best eaten immediately!
1. Combine all ingredients and dip or top the crab cakes with a dollop.
Main: Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Roasted Garlic & Parmesan Polenta
Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb:
1 rack of lamb (trimmed)
2 springs fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh tarragon leaves
1 tsp fresh summer savoury
1 tsp fresh marjoram
2 tbsp Garlic Scape Pesto
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Roasted Garlic & Parmesan Polenta
1 cup quick-cooking fine-grain polenta (corn meal)
4 cups chicken broth
2 tsp salt
1/2 head of garlic
1/3 cup + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Cracked black pepper
Pinot Noir Sauce
1 cup of Pinot Noir
1 tsp of onion confit
1 tsp whole-grain mustard
1/4 cup of whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp lardons (cubes of pancetta)
Rack of lamb:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Chop fresh herbs and blend with pesto and olive oil in small bowl.
3. Rub mixture on all sides of lamb rack and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
4. Brown lamb rack on each side in vegetable oil in large frying pan for about 10 minutes.
5. Place lamb on baking sheet and loosely cover with foil.
6. Bake in oven for 20 minutes.
7. Remove and let meat rest (loosely covered) for 5-10 minutes.
8. Cut rack after every 2nd bone and serve on top of polenta.
1. Heat broth in medium saucepan until simmering. Add salt (make sure to use low-sodium broth)
2. Pour corn meal in a thin, even stream while whisking constantly until mixture starts to thicken (about 5 minutes).
3. Turn down heat to low.
4. Place garlic in middle of foil square, pour 1 tsp olive oil on top and tightly wrap.
5. Place on baking sheet in oven and cook for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, until softened.
6. Squeeze roasted garlic into polenta, along with grated parmesan and whisk until incorporated.
7. Serve immediately.
Pinot Noir Sauce:
1. In same frying pan that you browned the rack of lamb in, cook the lardons until crisp and lightly browned. Place aside.
2. Pour Pinot Noir into same pan and turn heat up to high.
2. Add onion confit and mustard and stir until melted into wine.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Remove from heat and add whipping cream. Whisk into sauce until well blended.
5. Strain mixture through sieve and serve on top of lamb and polenta and scatter lardons on top.
Dessert: Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Raspberries
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup whipping cream
100g (3.5 oz) of bittersweet chocolate
1. Melt chocolate in microwave at 50% power for 1 minute.
2. Beat whipped cream until soft peaks form (do not over-beat as mousse will become too thick and heavy).
3. Cover and refrigerate.
4. Whisk eggs, sugar and salt in small bowl (fit for double boiler) for 5 minutes until colour lightens and thickens slightly.
5. Place bowl on simmering water bath (ensuring bottom of bowl does not touch the water) and whisk constantly until mixture becomes hot and begins to thicken.
6. Remove from heat and whisk quickly until mixture thickens to ribbon stage (about 5 minutes).
7. Add 1/3 of egg mixture to melted chocolate and fold together.
8. Add remaining egg mixture and fold until just incorporated.
9. Fold 1/4 of whipped cream into chocolate mixture until blended.
10. Keep adding 1/4 at a time of the whipped cream in until all of it is fully incorporated.
11. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and serve. Garnish with fresh raspberries and grated chocolate.
So how did I manage to pull this all together? Well, it may have taken about 2 hours to prep, cook and plate all of the courses and I may not have been the coolest of chefs during the entire process, but it certainly all came together beautifully. And, most importantly, Dina seemed to have loved every bit of it. To top it all off, I washed all the dishes.
It was all worth it in the end. I hope you will borrow this menu to make it a special meal for someone you love.