Two Girls, Two Guys, One Dog, and A Cookbook
May 1st marked the evening for the inaugural night of the Supper Club. My husband, our friends, and myself have been talking about starting a supper club for about a year, and we finally decided to start it. The dinner club is meant for those who have an appreciation and love of fine dining with drink pairings. The club is limited and a theme is set each month.
May Theme: My New Orleans The Cookbook by John Besh
John Besh is known as one of the best chefs in New Orleans. He has a multitude of restaurants throughout the city, and created a cookbook featuring the best of New Orleans cuisine cooked his way. All of our recipes were from this book!
FYI: With a plethora of pictures and too much to talk about, this could be a very long post. However, I would hate to lose your interest so I will try my best to keep it short and to the point.
You can’t do New Orleans without Mardi Gras, therefore the theme for the decor of the evening was upscale Mardi Gras. After a quick trip to Hobby Lobby and a stroll through the scrapbooking section, I had what I needed to set the table.
Traditional Mardi Gras colors are green and purple and they just happen to be great colors for May. I purchased various pieces 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking paper including green, purple, and black with fleur de lis print. To accentuate the paper; matching fleur de lis ribbon and green and purple flower brads. These colors would pair perfectly with white plates and napkins.
I planned for the fleur de lis paper to act as placements while the other accessories would be used to create table decoration. I cut and paste the green and purple paper together with the flower brads at the top of each. I then wrote the message: ‘Laissez les bons temps rouler’, meaning ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ in French. With the left over paper I created other table accents. The ribbon was cut into four equal strips and would be used to wrap around the napkins and silverware.
The table was set with the homemade decorations. Assorted green, purple, and gold beads, that I received in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, were placed in the center of the table with a beautiful bouquet of fresh-cut flowers in the same colors. The table was perfect!
While the guys sipped on Rye Whiskey and dark beer, the girls made a John Besh drink. Sticking with the theme, we found a John Besh drink recipe on foodandwine.com for Champagne Mojitos. I love Champagne and I love Mojitos but I never thought to combine the two before. A large pitcher was filled with homemade simple syrup, rum, and lime juice. The refreshing Mojito mixture was then poured over ice 3/4 of the way and Champagne, Processo, topped it off nicely. A fresh and classy drink with a hint of sophistication.
Our friend Kevin did a fabulous job making a Blake’s Duck, Green Onion, and Chicken Sausage Gumbo. It was a light brothy gumbo with large chunks of sausage floating on top. It was wonderfully different from the a traditional thick gumbo. I enjoyed that it was so light and flavorful at the same time. He made a batch meant for 12 people so we were lucky enough to bring some leftover gumbo home. He occasionally skimmed the fat off the top of the gumbo as well, so I told myself that it was healthy to eat.
My husband was in charge of the entrée course for the evening. The choosing of the entrée proved difficult for him because he had so much to choose from. After many days of looking through the cookbook multiple times, he went with Breaded Red Snapper with Shrimp, Fennel, and Oranges. We did however substitute the Red Snapper with Striped Bass because it was a few dollars cheaper and had the same characteristics. I was very excited to try this dish when I found out it was made with a velvety hollandaise sauce.
The salad was made first so it could chill and marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour. Thinly sliced fennel was added to cut orange segments, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, diced shallot, EVOO, cayenne, and sugar. Large cooked shrimp were sliced in half lengthwise and tossed with the salad before chilling.
When it came time to prepare the fish my husband did something he had never heard of before. The fish was breaded in the traditional way. A piece of white bread is rolled paper-thin and the edges are cut off. The thin bread is then placed on top of the filets of fish to serve as the breading. The fish is placed bread side down into a hot pan with olive oil until crisp and golden brown. It is then flipped and seared on the other side.
It was the weirdest technique I have seen that tasted amazing. A hollandaise was then made in a blender combining egg yolks, orange juice, coriander, ginger, shallot, thyme, bay leaf, and clarified butter. Hollandaise is a weakness for me so I was in heaven.
I was in charge of making the vegetable side for the meal. I had a large selection of sides to choose from. What helped me narrow it down was Elisha and I wanting to break apart whole artichokes. A buttery Ragout of Artichokes, Fava Bean, and Morel Mushrooms was on the menu. I definitely has the easiest item to cook, it only took an hour and most of the process was cutting vegetables. First thing we had to do was break apart the artichoke. My husband had done it many times so he walked Elisha and I through the process.
Needless to say we made a mess! With snapping off all the outer leaves, peeling the tough green outer layer, cutting off the top, and removing the fuzzy choke, we had artichoke strewn about the counter and the floor. The process was long and tedious and it seemed as if it was not worth it, especially for $4 an artichoke.
After boiling the artichoke hearts with lemon, garlic, and rosemary water, I removed them from the heat and set them to the side. Meanwhile we chopped onion, morel mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and garlic. (My husband shelled the fava beans). A generous amount of butter was melted in a pot with the onion, garlic, and artichoke. Throughout the cooking process the fava beans and mushrooms were added. Shortly before serving, a small amount of vegetable stock, heavy whipping cream, and salt was added to the ragout. What we were left with was a buttery, velvety, creamy mixture of fresh vegetables. The artichokes were perfectly tender, very much worth the effort of taking them apart.
Elisha made an impeccable dessert that I could have eaten three of: White Chocolate and Meyer Lemon Semifredo with Vanilla-Poached Berries. The semifredo, almost like italian ice cream, was made ahead of time because it has to freeze for a few hours. A creamy combination of cream, white chocolate, and lemon is popped into the freezer until set.
Crisp cookies of almond and lemon were baked and set aside to use as a crust. Almond is one of my favorite ingredients to bake with, so I was very excited to try the completed course.
A beautiful mix of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries were poached in a vanilla-sugar mixture to be used as a syrup for the semifredo. Elisha successfully made a mouth-watering and beautiful dessert. The semifredo was removed from the freezer and placed on top of an almond cookie. Another cookie was eloquently placed on the top of the semifredo with a drizzle of poached berries, and a garnish of homegrown chocolate mint.
Overall the first night of the Supper Club was a success! Everything was cooked to perfection and tasted divine. Luckily no major issues took place in the kitchen for the exception of the dog trying to clean the floor for us. :) The food was good, the drinks were good, and the company was good. We could not have asked for a better night. We are already contemplating the theme for our June Supper Club night.
For posts on the same subject read Elisha\’s Blog.