SOMETIMES A recipe sings in my brain like a song that I just can't stop humming; I hear it again and again until I'm forced to plan a party around it. At times it's a new recipe I just have to try, and at other times it's a craving for a favorite dish.
It happened to me just last week. I was pursuing Escoffier and noticed a lobster and asparagus salad recipe that resounded in my tastebuds.
Asparagus, shrimp, cucumbers and truffles in a creamy remoulade: too tempting. In record time, three days, I found an outlet for my craving, a reason for having a party. Friends wrote to say they would be in town for the Metropolitian Opera's season in Washington.
My salad will be perfect at a champagne supper after the opera. Everyone will be dressed up and ready for a festive dinner, but the meal will need to be light at that hour. It's amazing what rationalization can do. The remainder of the menu will include a simple cream soup, crisp rolls and a luscious dessert, and of course lots of champagne.
It will take a little planning to be able to serve dinner upon walking in the door, but this menu will ease that problem. Supper will start with red and black caviar surrounded with garnishes of minced chive, hard-cooked egg, sour cream and whipped butter to spread on cocktail pumpernickel. A good dry California champagne will set off the slightly salty taste. All will be arranged and covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. The soup, Potage Palestine, is a cream of Jerusalem artichoke that reheats well. I will put it on the stove as soon as I walk in the door. I plan to set the oven timer to go on about 15 minutes before we reach home so the oven will be hot enough to crisp the croissants purchased earlier in the day. The salad will need to be tossed with the dressing and arranged on plates. Each salad will be topped with a lobster tail that has been prepared for easy removal from its shell. And the dessert, a peach and pecan praline roll, will be waiting in the refrigerator. No dinner is complete without coffee, so we will finish with decaffinted French roast served with brandy. CAVIAR GARNI 4 ounces black caviar (the best you can afford) 4 ounces red lumpfish cavair 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 3 hard-cooked eggs 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 cup whipped butter 1/2 cup minced chives 1 loaf cocktail size pumpernickel
If you have bought beluga or a really expensive caviar, do not descrate it with anything; however, if you are using black lumpfish caviar, add two tablespoons of lemon juice to cut the fishy, salty taste. Do the same for the red lumpfish caviar. Place them side by side in a small crystal bowl and cover with platic wrap. Separate the yolks from the egg whites and mince the whites with a knife. Push the yolks through a sieve. Place the caviar bowl in the center of a glass plate (silver will tarnish under the egg yolk) and surround with the garnishes; the whites, yolks, sour cream, butter and chives. Place the pumpernickel on a silver tray. Cover both with plastic wrap and refrigerate. POTAGE PALESTINE (8 servings) 2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes 1 onion, minced 4 cups chicken stock Salt to taste 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg 2 cups light cream 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour 4 tablespoons minced chives
Place the artichokes in water to cover and boil as you would potatoes. When a fork pierces them easily, drain and peel away the other skin and slice. wWhile the Jerusalem artichokes are cooking, place the minced onion and chicken stock in a stock pot and simmer for 5 minutes.Remember that the taste of this soup is directly related to the quality of the chicken stock. Add the sliced artichokes to the chicken stock, along with the seasonings. Simmmer for 15 minutes. Puree the soup in a food processor or food mill or strain and push the artichokes and onion through a fine sieve. Add the cream and bring back to a boil. Mix the butter and flour together to form a soft paste, and blend it into the soup bit by bit. Taste again for seasoning. Reheat at serving time. Garnish each serving with minced chives. s SALAD VICTORIA (8 servings) 1 pound cooked lobster, diced 1 pound raw shrimp 2 pounds asparagus 2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced 1 small can of truffles (optional), sliced 8 medium lobster tails 2 heads of lettuce 4 lemons Remoulade: 4 egg yolks Juice of 1 lemon 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste) 2 cups vegetable oil 1 tablespoon dijon mustard 1/2 clove garlic, mashed 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained 1 teaspoon tarragon (fresh if possible) 1 teaspoon basil (fresh if possible) 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
If you have not purchased cooked lobster, then buy an extra 1 1/4 pounds of lobster tails and cook as described below. Bring another large pot of water to a boil and drop the raw shrimp, still in their shells, into it. Brings back to a boil, boil 1 minutes. Drain and cover with ice water. When shrimp are chilled, shell and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Use a small sharp knife to make diagonal 1/2-inch slices of asparagus tips. Use only the tender part and save the bottoms for asparagus soup. Drop the disgonal slices into boiling water, boil 3 minutes. Drain and chill in ice water. The color should be bright green. Cut cucumbers in 1/2-inch dice. Chill them.
Make the remoulade. Place the egg yolks in a blender or food processor. And the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Turn the motor on and begin adding the oil in a slow stream to make a mayonnaise. When all of the oil is added, scrape into a bowl. Add to it the mustard, garlic, anchovy paste, capers and herbs. Taste to adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the lobster tails to the pot. Bring back to a boil and boil for 6 minutes. Drain. Cover with ice water. Use a pair of kitchen shears to snip away the shell that covers the under part of the tails. This will make it easy to remove the meat. Pull the meat from each shell and then replace it in the shell. Your guests will have an easier time. At serving time mix the diced lobster, shrimp, asparagus, truffles, cucumbers and enough remoulade sauce to bind. Line chilled leaves. Divide the salad equally between the plates. Place a lobster tail and some lemon slices to one side. Pass the extra remoulade sauce. PEACH AND PECAN PRALINE ROLL (10 to 12 servings) 6 extra-large eggs 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup almond oil (available in health food stores) 1 cup sifted flour 1-inch vanilla bean (optional, but do not substitute vanilla) 2 cups chopped pecans 2 cups heavy cream, whipped 2 cups fresh or frozen sliced peaches, slightly sweetened Salmon-colored rose, for garnish
Place the eggs in a mixing bowl with 1 cup of sugar. Heat them over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until the eggs feel lukewarm. Be sure to put your finger deep in the eggs to test the temperature and be sure that you do not allow the eggs to cook on the side of the bowl while warming them. While the eggs are beating, measure out the almond oil and flour and line a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan with buttered parchment paper. Set the oven for 275 degrees. This must all be ready before you finish whipping the eggs. Place the beaten eggs in a large shallow bowl and beat with an electric beater until triple in bulk. It should look like whipped cream.
Fold the flour and oil into the eggs alternately. (Divide the flour into 3 batches and the oil into 2). Cut open vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds. Fold vanilla seeds into the batter very carefully so that you do not lose air. Sprinkle 1 cup chopped pecans on the parchment and spread evenly. Pour the cake batter over the pecans. Immediately place in a 375-degree oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The cake is done when it draws back from the side of the pan and the top springs back. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and invert the pan. Cover the cake with another towel and roll up with the dry towel on the outside. Keep wrapped until ready to fill. Place the 1/2 cup of sugar in a skillet and heat it until the sugar melts. You must stir constantly. The sugar will first become lumpy and then melt to a clear syrup. Continue cooking until the sugar becomes a light brown color (like beer bottle glass). Add the remaining cup pecans and immediately spread on a buttered baking sheet. Cool. Whip the heavy cream. Break up pecan praline into small pieces and grind of process to a find powder. Fold them into the shipped cream. Drain the peaches and fold them into the whipped cream. Drain the peaches and fold them into the whipped cream. When the cake is chilled, and preferrably as late in the day as possible, unwrap the cake and fill it with the peach praline cream. Reroll. The chopped pecans should be on the outside. Chill until serving time. Just before serving cut off the ends at a diagonal for a finished look, and garnish the plate with a single salmon colored rose, if you wish.