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Old 11-20-2009, 06:46 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, 10:56 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, 11:14 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.
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Old 11-21-2009, 12:30 AM   #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, 01:26 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 11-22-2009, 12:35 AM   #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!
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Old 11-22-2009, 07:48 AM   #7
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yes, citrus, that's what I was thinking
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Old 11-22-2009, 04:27 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, 06:55 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.
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Old 11-23-2009, 08:32 AM   #10
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JSG,

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!
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Old 11-23-2009, 08:39 AM   #11
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JSG,

A thought just occurred to me. I don't know what lemon rice tastes like exactly, so I'm just imagining it. But maybe you can tone down the acidity of the lemon rice and just add lemon zest to make it fragrant but not acidic in flavor. Then your lemony fish and lemon-scented rice could complement each other!
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Old 11-23-2009, 09:39 AM   #12
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I don't have any suggestion for the meal yet, but I too just want to say WOW!!! How amazing that you love your lady that much still after 15years. I hope I can have that too!!!
Good luck with the meals!!!
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Old 11-25-2009, 02:38 AM   #13
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I love the sound of that citrus topping (though I might choose only one - green olives OR capers). but I'm also thinking that if the halibut is super fresh, I almost hate to put something this flavorful on top of it. It might just overpower the delicious flavor of the fish (which is mighty expensive fish out here). I'm almost inclined to say go with the lemon rice and keep the fish plain and simple, with maybe a little lemon, butter and paprika. The panko also might be nice for the crunch.

I gotta say - one lucky girl.
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Old 11-26-2009, 01:04 PM   #14
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Thanks for the kind words and constructive ideas.
I'm off to go shopping in about an hour and I think this is the plan...

for starters, the egg & gorgonzola melts with pan fried zuc flowers (I've only got 6 with big enough flowers) stuffed with ricotta and herbs

entree is either broiled halibut with lemon rice and candied carrots or,
failing the halibut (the boat gets back in at noon) probably salmon cannelloni with endive salad.
Being on the west coast of BC, salmon halibut and prawns are our fish mainstays so they're usually easy to find. The fishery has been a bit rough this year though.

I'm still hunting down strawberries oddly enough, but I'll get 'em. No luck at all on peaches, but I'm still going to look.

I'll try and find a Sancerre and of course the late harvest for dessert.

Thanks again to everyone and I'll post up to let you all know how it went.

Cheers!
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Old 11-26-2009, 08:41 PM   #15
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I used to make a chili orange basmati rice often useing orange zest, some chopped fresh chili and browning with some olive oil (rice included start it like a risotto) and then deglaze with some white wine and stock or water and cook. It was a crowd pleaser. As for the ahi, are you talking ahi tuna steak? if so i would not cook in the cedar but sear it blue rare tuna gets very very dry even served medium. But since you have some nice bright vegetable dishes I think a citrus steamed halibut with maybe a beurre blanc? Unless you want to watch calories then just forget the beurre blanc
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Old 11-27-2009, 01:13 PM   #16
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Chili orange basmati....that sounds good.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and suggestions. It went off pretty well - a couple hitches but all in all she enjoyed it, which was the point.

When I went to harvest the zuc flowers, they had shriveled already (2 days!) and the rest weren't mature enough yet. I switched to jalapeno poppers instead using the rest of the gorgonzola, some ricotta, and some herbs.

The egg/cracker/cheese worked pretty well. I made the eggs the way you would start an omelette, but poured it into a large, round-sided pan. From there I treated it like a crepe. When it was done, I sliced it into strips and laid it on the crackers, topped it with cheese and broiled it about 5 mins or so to melt the cheese. The crackers stayed crispy, which was my biggest concern.

The entree was salmon steaks (no fresh halibut) that I grilled on the bbq after basting with an OJ/honey sauce. The lemon rice and the carrots came out great as well.

The sauvignon blanc I picked up was a local (Okanagan) wine for lack of the Sancerre suggested. It was great - neither the citrus flavors nor the sweetness of the carrots affected the taste of the wine negatively. We opened it shortly before we ate, and it was good both on its own and with our meal.

For dessert, I picked up some chocolate wafers (like the dark part of an Oreo, but thinner and bigger around) and put one of the strawberry halves on each one with some of the butter/honey/Grand Marnier glaze and topped it with a dollop of whipped cream. I made the whipped cream a bit sweeter because of how sweet the rest was, but I went a bit too far. It was good, but it wasn't perfect. Oh well, next time...

We decided to save the dessert wine for another night, since we were both pretty tired and it IS a weeknight after all.....

Anyway, thanks to all of you for 'proofing' my ideas and for your great suggestions !

I look forward to taking the time to leisurely poke around the board for ideas now that my 'time crunch' is over.
See you around !

And yeah, she's pretty special alright. Hopefully all of you meet (or have already found) "The One".
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Old 11-28-2009, 12:42 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by appleyard14 View Post
I used to make a chili orange basmati rice often useing orange zest, some chopped fresh chili and browning with some olive oil (rice included start it like a risotto) and then deglaze with some white wine and stock or water and cook. It was a crowd pleaser. As for the ahi, are you talking ahi tuna steak? if so i would not cook in the cedar but sear it blue rare tuna gets very very dry even served medium. But since you have some nice bright vegetable dishes I think a citrus steamed halibut with maybe a beurre blanc? Unless you want to watch calories then just forget the beurre blanc
What kind of chili? Jalapeno? Seranno? Anaheim?
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