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Old 11-20-2009, 05:46 PM   #1
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'Special dinner' ideas

Hey everyone,
Put your thinking caps on:

This is my first post outside of the intro thread and I've got some pretty specific questions. It concerns an entire meal, but the entree is what I need the most help with. I'm going with either grocery-store Ahi or fresh halibut, so I figured I'd post it here. If I misfired, mods please move it where it needs to be.

On to the menu:
I'm cooking a birthday dinner for the woman who still rocks my world after 15 years. I started an indoor garden toward the end of the summer because I have a short growing season. I like to cook intimate "themed" meals (per my intro post) so this one is around my homegrown veggies.

I plan to start with pan fried zuccini flowers stuffed with a ricotta-based stuffing of basil, oregano, parsley, green onion, and a bit of carrot green in a simple flour-and-egg batter.

The next serving is a carrot-green (see another theme here? lol) egg scramble on crispy lavash-type crackers topped with gorgonzola and broiled. I figure this will allow the egg and cheese to play off the carrot greens' inherent bitterness.

For the entree I want to use Ahi or halibut steaks but here is where I REALLY need your help. I have been thinking of keeping it simple since they're both delicate to begin with, so I thought a simple broiling in a cedar wrap and garnished/topped with ???????

I'm thinking of a sauvignon blanc for the evening's wine. For dessert, I'm thinking about a late-harvest reisling and something simple like strawberry halves seared in Grand Marnier for the sweet "citrusy-ness"......and of course fresh, well-chilled whipped cream.

We're really broke right now, so I want this to be memorable and special without causing her the stress of thinking "how much did this cost us?"
Know what I mean ?

Thanks for any and all input.


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Old 11-20-2009, 09:56 PM   #2
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28 views and no suggestions ?
Seriously folks, ANY ideas or thoughts are a bonus here.......

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Old 11-20-2009, 10:14 PM   #3
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HSG: I like the sound of everything you've written except the cedar "wrap" for your fish.
First, I cannot imagine wrapping fish in wood.
Second, you're right, the fish is delicately flavored, and cedar is a very strong flavor. You would knock out the great delicate flavor you are paying quite a lot for.

I like to do halibut with a light smear of Dijon mustard, and then a topping of chervil or tarragon Panko crumbs. You can buzz that mixture up in your food processor. I usually add a little freshly ground pepper to that mixture, and you're good to go for either broiling or pan frying the fish. Sometimes I'd rather get the pan nice and hot, add a little olive oil, and then the fish, crumb side down. In about 3-4 mnutes, shake the pan to see if the fish has released itself, and if not, gently nudge with a spatula. Turn it crumb side up and add about 2 -3 tablespoons white wine or dry white vermouth to the pan. Slide the whole into a preheated 350 oven for about 5-6 minutes more (unless your fish is REALLY thick.)

Bring it out and put it on a warm plate, and add a knob of good butter to the pan to make a quick and delicious sauce.

Sauvignon blanc would be great with it, especially a Sancerre from the Loire Valley.
Wine is the food that completes the meal.
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Old 11-20-2009, 11:30 PM   #4
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I love fish cooked in a cedar wrap. I do it often! Maybe a mayonaise based sauce for the fish. Just make a little mayo (or use a good quality store bought) and add some lemon, cayenne, & herbs. Pick a combination that compliments the rest of the food, but this doesn't work with dried herbs. Use only fresh.
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Old 11-21-2009, 12:26 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies.

Chef June, I tried to post a link but I can't yet, being a new member. If you look up "Nature's Choice Grilling Wraps", it'll show some hardwood ones.
In Canada, there's a grocery store chain (Loblaw's) that carries them - they look like pieces of red cedar veneer that you wet just like when you're planking salmon.
Apparently the flavour isn't as "big" as it is with a plank on the BBQ, but I haven't tried it myself.

In the case of the halibut, I'd likely start with thick steaks and debone them, leaving me with pieces that would then be wrapped. We always cook our fish as little as possible.

Actually, I just recently tried Panko for the first time...on halibut no less. Loved it.

Silversage - what's your impression of the flavour from cedar wraps vs. planks ? I like the mayo sauce idea and use it quite a bit myself. I often cut it with sour cream to use as a dip for pizza bones and wings. I always have a little bowl of Cholula and mayo in the fridge...it never lasts long !

I'm also thinking of making lemon rice and some baby carrots sauteed in Grand Marnier (those two are a couple of our favorites as well)

Thoughts ? Suggestions ?
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Old 11-21-2009, 11:35 PM   #6
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Well, I gotta say she' s one lucky woman. And you're most probably one lucky guy as well.

Looking at your menu so far, I would suggest a citrusy herby halibut dish. It's one of my favorite fish preparations and never fails to impress.

You'll need:

Chopped parsley, halibut filets, green olives, capers, clarified butter, lemon juice, S&P.

Finely chop capers and olives together to make a tapenade, enough to cover surface of all the fillets in a solid thin even layer.

Take halibut filets, season with s&p, dredge lightly in flour, pan fry both sides.

Meanwhile, heat up clarified butter until dark brown and smoking to make hazelnut brown butter sauce.

Plate up the fish (do not overcook). Top the fillets with an even layer of parsley but do not completely cover to allow the fish to be recognized. Top this further with an even layer of the tapenade. Then pour the brown butter sauce over the tapenade. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Serve immediately.

Good luck!
'Never eat more than you can lift.' - Miss Piggy
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Old 11-22-2009, 06:48 AM   #7
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yes, citrus, that's what I was thinking

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Old 11-22-2009, 03:27 PM   #8
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Thanks for the kind words Chopstix.

I like the lemon idea and that tampenade (thanks Wikipedia! ) sounds good.

One question with lemon in both the fish AND in the rice though: would that amount of citrus on the tongue affect how the wine tastes ?
I can always do roasted herbed potatoes instead...

I'm going to be cooking on Thursday, so I'll be going shopping Wed while she's at work. A friend is taking her out for lunch and shopping in the afternoon (after a 'strategic' phone call) so I should be able to get it all done.
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Old 11-22-2009, 05:55 PM   #9
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Everything sounds great! SB is a perfect option for the wine. A Loire Valley Sancerre would be a good compliment IMHO.

The strawberries and GM is perfect! Or, a grilled peach half then stuffed with a honey-sweetened mascarpone is good too.

The citrus in both dishes won't be too much for the wine. Just don't overdo it in either dish.

"Count yourself...you ain't so many" - quote from Buck's Daddy
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Old 11-23-2009, 07:32 AM   #10
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When I plan a menu, I try not to repeat flavors. Sorry, I didn't realize you were serving lemon rice. You may want to replace the lemon in my fish recommendation to lime instead. At least it's a different kind of citrus. But maybe you don't need to.

Seeing as your first two courses are a fried item and something rich and creamy with gorgonzola, and whipped cream in the dessert, I think your menu can afford to have a citrusy main course and starch and still be well-balanced. Kitchenelf's reco of the SB sounds perfect for the meal.

Bon appetit!

'Never eat more than you can lift.' - Miss Piggy
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