No Recipes vol. 9 (Valentines Day Edition)

Marc Matsumoto

Hi! I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques while giving you the confidence and inspiration to cook without recipes too!

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It's been a while since I've done one of these, so here's what L and I made for our Valentine's Day dinner. The goal was to get a restaurant quality meal for under $150. If you only take into account the ingredients we actually used that day, I think we may have come in under $100.

It's been a while since I've done one of these, so here's what L and I made for our Valentine's Day dinner. The goal was to get a restaurant quality meal for under $150. If you only take into account the ingredients we actually used that day, I think we may have come in under $100.

The fantastic Tres Leches cake pictured above was made by my wonderful wife. The cake itself is doused in 3 kinds of milk (hence the name), and is almost like a creamy pudding. While I loved the milky cake, adding the bright yellow passion pulp with crunchy black seeds added texture, color and some contrasting flavours that where quite literally the icing on the cake.

I've never cooked foie gras at home, mainly because you have to buy a whole 2 pound foie, but I've also found it to be a bit intimidating as an ingredient. Lately, I've been trying venture further outside of my comfort zone, so I figured v-day was the perfect opportunity to challenge myself. And a challenge it was!

For those not familiar with foie gras, it's French for "fat liver" and is quite literally the liver of a duck or goose that's been overfed. Liver is one of the few foods I really dislike, but foie gras is something completely different. It's like eating really flavourful butter and doesn't have any of the unpleasant bloody or gritty taste/texture that regular livers have. Because of the high fat content, it needs to be cooked very quickly otherwise it will literally melt away like a cube of butter.

It's also very rich, so it presents some interesting opportunities for pairing. For the first course, I marinated the foie in soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil and scallions overnight, then seared it in a hot cast iron skillet. The marinade caramelized nicely on the outside giving it a nice crust while it was melty and rich on the inside. I served it with a "kimchi glass" made with caramelized sugar and pureed kimchi. Overall, it wasn't bad, but it still needs some work before it's post worthy. My main issue was with the kimchi glass. Subjecting kimchi to the high temperatures of caramelized sugar really changes its flavour profile. It also turned out much crunchier and thicker than I'd intended which made for a rather unpleasant textural contrast to the delicate foie. If I try this again, I may opt for a tapioca flour based glass.

This was just a bad idea. Making a proper terrine is a complicated, time consuming process under the best of conditions. In addition to the fact I've never made one before, I rushed it. I was gunning for something like pork belly kakuni, but with layers of braised pork and foie gras, mimicking the layers of meat and fat in pork belly.

First off, the terrine didn't really come together properly, you can see from the picture that it's more like a layer of pork on top of chunks of foie. Secondly, foie gras is really rich, and needs something sweet or sour to offset its buttery richness. This dish had neither. Lastly, I tried to make it look a little more appetizing by torching the top, but instead of browning, the whole thing just started to liquefy. While I think there's some potential for the kakuni flavours (ginger, soy, niboshi), I'm going to scrap this one.

One good thing that came out of this though is the candied hijiki. It's sweet, savoury and crunchy and makes a great healthy beer snack along with some nuts. I also learned that foie gras and green shiso taste amazing together. Ironically the shiso was just there as a decorative garnish, but it's something I will definitely be experimenting with in the future.

This was the real star in the trio. I'd picked up a few bottles of apple ice cider the last time I was up in Quebec, and this stuff literally tastes like sweet concentrated apples, not apple juice, not dried apples, but fresh, straight-from-the-tree apple goodness. According to the label, over 80 apples go into each 375ml bottle of cider! When I first decided to do foie gras, my last bottle of ice cider was the first thing that came to mind.

For the poached apple, I reduced a bottle of 7 Up by two thirds then poached rings of apples for about 10 minutes. The lemon-lime soda really brings out the apple's natural flavours and prevents it from turning brown. On top of this went a slab of seared foie gras which I topped with a yamamomo (Japanese mountain peach). The little cubes surrounding it all is the geleé. Then for a bit of color I put baby arugula leaves along with the liquid from the _yamamomo.

You've probably already read my post proclaiming that this was the best course in our dinner (which it was), but in case you haven't, hit the link to read more

This was our main course and while it was a lot of work and wasn't quite perfect, it was truly delicious. Keep your eyes out for a post about this decadent main course.

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