Earlier this week, we went to the Purple Pig (see a friend's review here), where we had a truly fantastic, seasonal meal full of ingredients like asparagus, peas, ramps, rock shrimp, and fava beans all dowsed in a healthy dose of lemon. That put me in the mode to do a few spring dishes, so, yesterday, we had a couple people over for a big spring dinner. Here's the menu: cannellini bean salad with grilled tuna and endives, a shaved asparagus and pecorino salad, confit pork belly with fennel pollen and spicy piquillo aioli, seared scallops with meuniere sauce, langoustines a la plancha with anchovy and caper butter, minted pea ravioli with shaved parmigiano-reggiano, mint, chives, chive blossoms, and truffle oil, heirloom potatoes roasted in duck fat with garlic confit and thyme, and lake trout, roasted whole with lemon, served with classic aioli and a roasted red pepper, piquillo, and miso sauce. We served it with the following wines, which I thought were all pretty good: 2007 Cellar Can Blau Montsant, 2007 Pio Cesare Cortese di Gavi, and 2007 Domaine de la Villaudiere Sancerre. Yes, it was a lot of food.
We didn't get a picture of the cannellini bean salad, but you can get the recipe from an earlier post.We got the asparagus salad idea from our meal at the Purple Pig. It's similar to a brussels sprout salad that we make a lot.
1 bunch asparagus
Extra virgin olive oil (preferably Tuscan or something with nice grassy notes to it)
Break off the ends of the asparagus stalks, slice thin, on a bias. To make slicing easier, keep the asparagus bound by the rubber band that it comes with. Since this is a raw preparation, you want to cut the asparagus as thin as possible so it won't be too tough. Use a mandoline if you have one.
Add the zest and juice from one to two lemons. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil along with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil and lemon juice if necessary. The amount of lemon to add depends on your preferences. This should have a very "bright" taste to it, so the juice from 1.5 to 2 lemons is probably best.
We got bits of pork belly from a butchering demonstration at Mado, which I'll post more on latter. The recipe comes from Ad-Hoc At Home, so I won't repeat it here. I served it with a spicy aioli that was left over from a yet to be posted meal.
The scallops, along with the langoustines, were impulse buys from our trip to Isaacson and Stein. They had big tubs full of big, fresh scallops and lovely, lovely langoustines. The scallops were given a quick salt water brine, then dried off in the fridge for a couple hours. I seared them over medium high heat in clarified butter. To make the meuniere sauce, simply add lemon juice, capers, and parsley to the butter and swirl around for a minute or so to emulsify the mixture a bit.The langoustines were definitely the highlight of the meal. We first had this dish at Prune, and we've bean wanting it again ever since.
Brine the langoustines in a salt water solution (2 cups water to 5 oz. salt) for 10 to 15 minutes and pat dry with paper toils.
Get a cast iron griddle piping hot. It may take up to 5 minutes. Turn your fan on, open the doors and windows. This will create a lot of smoke. Spread clarified butter over the cooking surface and immediately add the langoustines. If the smoke gets too out of control, turn the heat down a bit. Cook the shrimp for about 6 to 7 minutes on each side. While the langoustines are cooking, melt a stick of butter in a small sauce pan. Add about 10 anchovy fillets and crush in the pan with the melted butter until they break up into really small pieces. Add capers.
When the langoustines are done, place them on a serving plate, season with sea salt, pour half the butter over the top, and reserve the other half in a separate bowl for dipping. Serve lemon wedges on the side. Try to contain yourself.
We didn't get a picture of the ravioli. It is similar to this dish, but I added ricotta to the stuffing and took advantage of the community garden that has a bunch of blossoming chives right now.
For the fish, I just used this recipe, but I increased the cooking time to 50 minutes since this was one huge fish. It probably could have used another 10 minutes in the oven. I served it with a classic aioli and a red pepper sauce (you can find the recipe here). I really love this sauce. It goes great with grilled and roasted vegetables and meats and will probably be a staple of my summer cooking.