Monday, July 25, 2011

Cooking with Friends: A Dinner Extravaganza

Those of us who love to cook can often find no greater pleasure than hanging out in the kitchen with friends who are just as passionate about good food and the joy of cooking as we are. So, when my great and oh so talented food writer friend Brandon Hernandez and his wife Heather invited me over for dinner recently -- and then put me to work -- we were all blissed out. It was the best possible way to unwind from a busy weekday of work.

Now, first, get a load of the menu he sent me in advance:

Fennel pollen-dusted scallops over zuchinni and summer squash angel hair with toasted garlic shingles, and Berliner wieze Sauce Grenoble, paired with Lightning Brewery Sauerstrom Ale

Dual pork tenderloin - rosemary-crusted and cinnamon-spiced with bacon-infused sweet corn grits and truffled grilled asparagus, paired with Green Flash Treasure Chest Belgian Pale Ale

Oy! What in the world would I bring for dessert? (And could I ever invite him over for dinner in turn?) I settled on David Lebovitz's Red Wine and Raspberry Sorbet, which I made with a rosé, along with Chocolate Heath Bar Cookies and I brought along some fresh raspberries.

There's an art to having people over and feel welcomed and wanted. Here's Brandon's first gesture:

The second was to hand me a knife and ask me to slice garlic cloves verrrry thin. My second job was to sear the scallops while Heather created the "pasta" with the squash using a mandoline. This truly was an act of friendship since I can't eat much regular grain pasta these days.

Dinner, of course, was stunning. The pork duo was tender, with just the right amount of herbs and spices to complement the meat. The grits were creamy, but I loved the addition of fresh corn kernels, which added sweetness to the smoky essence of bacon and a nice bite of texture. Here's the pork and grits course:

And, I was so taken with the bright flavors of the pasta and scallops that I asked Brandon if I could share the recipe here. Trust me, he has many magazine outlets where this could go, so this was another act of friendship. Thanks, Brandon -- and Heather -- for a perfect evening of food with good friends!

with Squash Angel Hair & Grenoble Sauce
(Printable Recipe)

A huge fan of craft beer, specifically San Diego craft beer, I’m always looking to turn people on to it, not only as a fine beverage, but a great accompaniment to food and ingredient in recipes…like this one. A more petite version of this dish was served as the amuse bouche for a big beer-pairing dinner I developed all of the recipes for at Trattoria Acqua last summer. It was a huge hit and is a recipe I’ve prepared at home several times since. Instead of white wine, I like to use a local saison-style ale (usually Carnevale Ale from The Lost Abbey in San Marcos). It does a great job of working with the natural tartness of the lemon juice and balancing, rather than adding to, the acidity of the capers.

Yield – 8 servings

2 zucchini, mandolin-sliced into thin noodles
2 yellow squash, mandolin-sliced into thin noodles
2 tsp unsalted butter
2 tsp olive oil (garlic-infused, if available)
16 sea scallops
2 Tbsp fennel pollen (or fennel pollen spice blend, such as M Ocean, to substitute)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp extra olive oil
¼ cup shallot, finely diced
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed of brine
½ cup saison-style beer (or dry white wine to substitute)
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter, diced into ¼-ounce cubes
1 tsp Italian parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 200° F.

Bring lightly salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the zucchini and yellow squash and blanch for 1 minute. Remove from water and set aside in a strainer to drain.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the oil and bring up to temperature. Season the scallops with the fennel pollen and salt on both sides and place in the pan. Sear until golden brown on each side, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove scallops from the pan and place in oven to hold.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and capers, season with pepper, and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Deglaze with the beer and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and reduce the liquid by half. Whisk in the butter, a cube at a time, until it is fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper as needed and stir in the parsley. Add the zucchini and yellow squash to the sauce and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

To serve, spoon a mound of angel hair in the center of a bowl and place 2 scallops on top. Serve immediately.

–      Recipe courtesy Brandon Hernández


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  1. Holy Cow! I'm jealous. :) That looks fabulous. I can almost smell the pork tenderloin. What a wonderful way to spend an evening!

  2. Hmmm this recipe looks so delicious and nice and i think that fits perfect with my taste and in my opinion is a very easy recipe, so i think i will try it. Thanks for sharing.