Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Salad du Printemps: Rhubarb Confit with Navel Oranges, Candied Fennel, and Mascarpone Sorbet

Move over, Tomato Confit. Scootch outta the way, Cream of Walnut Soup. There's a new food love in town, and its name is Mascarpone Sorbet. Stephen Durfee, I know you're not responsible for the sorbet (it's Alain Ducasse, right?), but I wish you had been. I still love ya, man.

This dish was scrumptious and has me thinking of a way to make it more often. I even made the twisty pirouette cookie that goes on top, and it didn't look like the dog doo that was my last attempt at anything like this.

This post marks the one-third milestone: this is the 33rd dish I've done out of the 100 dishes in the French Laundry Cookbook. I've mapped out what I'm doing from now through the end of summer, including various stocks/powders/oils/sauces, so that I can use what's fresh from the farmer's market as often as possible. It's a bit of a challenge sometimes, doing all my food shopping as directly from the source as possible, but once my work schedule slows down a bit in late June, it'll get a tad easier.

Let's get started on the Salad du Printemps. I don't have a complete mise en place, since I stretched out most of the prep over a few days, so we'll just go step by step, if that's okay with you. You kind of have no choice, but I thought I'd be nice and ask. That's how I roll.

First, I made the rhubarb:

I cut off the leafy part, then cut off the stringy bits, then chopped it into quarter-inch slices. I saved the ends and stringy bits to start the syrup for the rhubarb's cooking process. I brought some sugar and water to a boil then added those trimmings to the saucepan and simmered it for a minute or two. I strained it and returned the syrup to the stovetop:

Then, I added the cup or so of rhubarb pieces to the syrup and poached them for about 7 minutes:

I let it cool to room temperature, then stored it in the fridge until I was ready to plate the dessert.

Next up? The candied fennel:

I cut off the fronds to save them for the fennel oil, which you'll see later in this post. I cut the fennel bulb into pieces, squeezed the lemon into a pot of water, added a pinch of salt, then added the fennel and brought it to a boil. I reduced it to a simmer and let it simmer for just under 10 minutes. I strained the fennel, then put 2 cups of water and a cup of sugar in a saucepan, brought it to a boil, made sure the sugar was dissolved, the added the fennel, cooking it for an hour over very low heat. This is yet another smell I would like to turn into soap. Can someone get on that, please? Thanks. Anyhoo, here's the candied fennel while it's cooking:

Next in line was the mascarpone sorbet. I love mascarpone. Whenever I have some leftover from another dish, I like to get some salty pretzels and dip them in mascarpone before eating them. I also could eat it straight out of the tub, but then I'd be a lard-ass and that's not a goal of mine. To make the sorbet, you mix a pound of mascarpone with two-and-a-quarter cups of simple syrup in a bowl. Then, you whack it in the blender to make sure it's mixed thoroughly:

I put it in my ice cream maker for 25 minutes, then added the juice of a lemon and kept the machine going for another 10 minutes. When it was finished, I put it in a container and stuck it in the freezer:

Wow -- this dish has almost as many steps (maybe more) as that stupid candied apple dessert, but I'm not annoyed by it like I was that one, are you? Of course you're not! You love this stuff!

Last two items: Pirouette cookies and fennel oil. Let's start with the fennel oil. Here's the mise en place:

I blanched the fennel fronds and parsley for 15 seconds each, then put half of them in the blender along with some oil to start the purée process. I added more of the greens and oil as it went along until it was one big blender full of purée. I chilled the purée overnight and the next afternoon, I spread it on a cheesecloth over a bowl to let the infused oil seep through:

You'll see the final product in the plating shot. It's beautiful and smells really great. Last thing to make? Pirouette cookies. In looking at the photo in the French Laundry Cookbook and remembering how crap I was at making those tuilles for the candied apple dessert, I saved this loathing, hateful step for last. And you know what? It wasn't that bad. Here's the mise:

I'm sure you're wondering why there's a ruler, scissors, file folder and pencil in the mise. Did you miss that? Go back and look again. The rest of the class will wait... yeah, so the office supplies. Dudes, I had to make a STENCIL for these cookies, which if anyone knows about my art skillz, you know this had disaster written all over it. But I persevered and made a darn good stencil, if I do say so myself. I mixed the batter and laid out the cookies on the Silpat:

I transferred the Silpat to a baking sheet, and baked them at 300 degrees for five minutes. I then opened the oven, pulled out the rack, and wound those hot, still-baking little suckers one by one, WITH MY BARE HANDS, around a wooden spoon handle, then slid them off. They're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but knowing that I mostly suck at stuff like this, they're not too bad:

Stephen Durfee, is that YOU I hear laughing? Oh, it's not? Sorry, my bad. It must be the fabulous Shuna Fish Lydon, from whom I obviously need some pastry lessons.

Two final things before plating: this recipe called for using that pesky #12 melon baller I never got for the last dessert, so instead of cute lil strawberry parisienne balls, I just cut some fresh strawberries into eighths. And, there are also supposed to be navel orange sections in this dish. Um, yeah. I totally and completely forgot about that until I was plating the dish, and the lone orange I bought to make this dish had turned a little soft and smushy on one side, so I had to throw it out.

To plate, I cut the candied fennel into diamonds and put an equal portion of those, rhubarb and strawberries on the plate. Then, I drizzled them with a little bit of both the rhurbarb syrup and the fennel syrup. I put a small scoop of the mascarpone sorbet on top, then topped that with a pirouette cookie. Last but not least, I drizzled a few drops of the fennel oil around the whole thing, and it smelled amazing, and the green color really popped on the plate:

We girls loved it. The kids were split. Some liked the sorbet, some didn't (more for me!). They all loved the strawberries. They even liked the rhubarb. My ten-year old neighbor "G" said straight from the get-go that he didn't like fennel, but that he'd try it (heavy sigh). He took a bite of the candied fennel and said, "Wait. THIS is a VEGETABLE?!!?" Yeah, with nine million pounds of sugar, but sure, it's a vegetable. I ate the rhubarb, against my will, but ate it nonetheless. It was okay in this dish, but I'm still not a fan. There's something about the texture of it that sort of makes me gag. Plus, it just looks like pink celery and ew.

The kids left after just a few bites which left the adults to finish the food. I am not the least bit ashamed to report that the plates were pretty much licked clean. We let the mascarpone sorbet melt and then mixed around all the juices and fruit, and found a way for those plates to tilt just so, so we could angle those tilted plates in the general direction of our.... alright fine. I'll just be blunt: we drank from the plates. Every last freakin' drop. We completely abandoned any manners we'd ever been taught and it was AWESOME. And then after that we put on our slinky pajamas and had a pillow fight in slow motion to an Aerosmith song... NOT. You sickos.

This dish gets added to the "make again" list, for sure. Tonight, I'll watch a movie and have some mascarpone sorbet with a side of pretzels. If you don't want to make this whole dish, doing the sorbet and topping it with fresh strawberries would be just as awesome, I swear. Just make sure you invite me over when you make it so, you know, I can make sure your sorbet is good. Because, you know, I have to do what I can to protect the reputation of the French Laundry and its cookbook, so that might require my eating 3-4 bowls of it just to test it, but I'm all about quality, so I'm just lookin' out for you, you crazy kids.

Up Next: Chaource with Red Plums

Brands Used:
All-Clad cookware
Rhubarb, fennnel, lemon from H-Mart
Strawberries from Twin Springs Farm
Vermont Butter & Cheese mascarpone
Eggs from Smith Meadows
King Arthur flour
Krups ice cream maker

Music to Cook By: Yacht Rock playlist on my iPod. I'm only slightly obsessed with the Yacht Rock series on YouTube, so I put together a playlist on my iPod of some of the greatest "yacht rock" from the 70s and early 80s: Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald... you get the drift. The series is hilarious, and now I can't get these songs out of my head. Damn you, Loggins. Damn you.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Verjus Sorbet with Poached Peaches

Once I found Verjus, this dessert was soooo easy and refreshing, especially on this 80-degree day. You know, it's odd. I see Verjus everywhere as an ingredient in items on restaurant menus, but it was hard as heck to find in the shops. I called at least ten places, and out of ten only two even knew what Verjus was (shame on you Balducci's). Thanks to all of you who emailed (and those who posted on Don Rockwell), I was able to find it through a vendor on Amazon's marketplace.

Here's the Verjus:

It's a bit of a challenge for me to describe what Verjus tastes like. It comes from the juice of unripe grapes, so it has a bit of a green taste (if that makes sense; I mean, obviously "ver" comes from "vert" which is French for "green" but it also tasted green/unripe); it's also partly acidic, but I also got a wee bit of earthiness/freshly tilled meadow, which was nice when the sorbet had fully frozen. It complemented the peaches really nicely, despite the fact that you must be thinking, "um, ew, she said it tastes like a farm."

The first step was combining the Verjus and corn syrup and chilling that mixture in the refrigerator for about an hour. I then poured it into the ice cream maker and let it do its magic for about 30 minutes:

Once it had frozen, I put it in a container and stuck it in the freezer while I prepped the peaches:

Next, I peeled the skins off the peaches. The cookbook says to use two peaches and perform a bunch of magic slicing wizardry, but I wanted to simplify this a bit and just serve a peach half to each person with the sorbet on top. Little more substantive, and I didn't want my friends to go on strike, carrying a bunch of "CAROL IS STINGY WITH PEACHES" signs up and down the street in front of my house. That would certainly bring real estate values down, for sure, not to mention make me look like a bad American in my peach stinginess. But I digress.... (shocker)

After peeling the peaches, I put about a cup of poaching liquid and some honey into a sautée pan, brought it to a simmer, then added the peaches:

They got themselves all poached in an hour or so, so I removed them from the pan and then reduced the remaining liquid to a syrup:

I let both the syrup and the peaches separately cool to room temperature, then stored them in the fridge until I was ready to serve the dessert. Here's a look at the final plating:

The final result was much better than expected. I love peaches, but I wasn't really sure I'd like the sorbet. The two tastes worked well together, and despite the fact that I gave myself a brain freeze while eating it, I really enjoyed it. The peaches were a really nice texture -- not mushy; not firm -- and the sorbet had a nice consistency, as well. It tasted even more intense and tangy having been in the freezer for a day, but I didn't mind the tartness at all because the peaches were nice and sweet. I'm glad I used wildflower honey, which is not as sweet (to me) as clover honey, and added a different kind of aroma and taste to the poached peaches. I don't think any other fruit would taste as good as the peaches with the Verjus sorbet, though, so since peaches are in season right now, this was perfect. If you've already got the French Laundry Cookbook, I say order the Verjus and make this soon while you can still get nice peaches at the market. It really is nice.

Up Next: Salad du Printemps -- Rhubarb Confit with Navel Oranges, Candied Fennel, and Mascarpone Sorbet (I'm going to have to step down from my executive position with the Rhubarb Makes Me Gag club if this is good)

Brands Used:
Verjus de Perigord; Landat et Fils Domaine du Siorac
Peaches and lemon from Glut food co-op
Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc (2004) for poaching liquid
Karo corn syrup
Domino sugar
McClure's wildflower honey
All-Clad cookware

Music to Cook By: Doris Day; Various. One of my favorite summer shows is "So You Think You Can Dance" (shut UP), and one of the Latin dancers auditioned to "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps," so I'm on a Doris Day kick this weekend. Go ahead and make fun of me -- I dare you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Strawberry and Champagne Terrine

When I first saw this recipe, I had some flashbacks to a trip I took to Paris almost 20 years ago. I went with a group of friends from college, and on our final night there, we went to a very nice restaurant and ordered the prix fixe. One of the courses was a slice of terrine, and honestly? It looked like someone had chewed a mouthful of dog food, olives, boysenberries, and mulch, then vomited it into a puddle of gelatin, shaped it in a mold and sliced it up and put it on my plate. It looked terrible and tasted even worse. I won't even go into what it smelled like. You can come up with that on your own because I'm thinkin' we need to change the subject pronto and talk about how fantastic this dish was, and how it changed my mind about the notion of something called terrine!

This dessert was an absolute PLEASURE to make! I went to the beach this past weekend and picked up fresh strawberries on the way home (New Jersey, represent!). They were early berries and a bit small, but really sweet and delicious, so I was really psyched to be able to use them in this dish. I'm not much of a champagne drinker, but I had a bottle in my fridge that someone gave me as a gift for a dinner party, so I was happy to be able to use that, as well. Let's get started...

The first thing I did was hull the strawberries and let them rest overnight. This dries them out a bit and intensifies the flavor. The next day, I puréed them, then strained the purée into a bowl:

While this was straining, I soaked two sets of gelatin sheets in two separate bowls -- one for the strawberry layer of the terrine, and one for the champagne layer.

I sqeezed the water from the gelatin and put it in a saucepan to dissolve:

I added some superfine (of course, I have to pronounce it "SOOPA-fine" when I'm using it) sugar to the purée, then added it to the saucepan with the gelatin to make it one happy mixture:

While that sat around on the stove, I brought a cup or so of champagne to a boil, skimmed off the scum that rose to the top, then added in the other set of soaked-then-squeezed gelatin sheets and let them dissolve in the champagne mixture:

Now, it's time to start the layering of the terrine. First in? A layer of strawberry gelatin:

I put it in the fridge to solidify, then added a layer of champagne gelatin, which was followed by another layer of strawberry gelatin and so on and so forth until it looked like this:

In all, the process of layering and solidifying five layers of the terrine, one-by-one only took about 3 hours. While I waited for my guests to arrive for their dessert, I whipped the crème fraîche and picked some small mint leaves from my neighbor's herb garden (thanks, Linda!) for the garnish. The French Laundry Cookbook suggests using a #12 melon baller to scoop out teeny-tiny strawberry balls, out of which I could create an eency-weency strawberry using a miniscule mint leaf. I opted to go another way and instead hulled some of the remaining strawberries, halved them, then laid them on the plate with the mint leaves as the faux strawberry stem/leaf.

Here's the final plating:

It was as delicious as it was beautiful. And, much like the Strawberry Shortcakes, I'd make this again, and use different fruit each time. I think peaches would be especially tasty, as would blackberries. The combination of strawberry and champagne was really nice and they complimented one another well, and a little bit of crème fraîche with each bite added a nice richness and a sort of warmth, if that makes sense. Bravo, strawberry terrine. I shall make thee again.

Up Next: Verjus Sorbet with Poached Peaches (I found verjus; thanks to everyone who emailed me with sources -- you guys rock.)

Brands Used:
Strawberries from a farmstand just outside Woodstown, NJ
Crème Fraîche from Vermont Butter and Cheese
Henri Abelé champagne
Gelatin sheets from King Arthur Flour

Music to Cook By: Tom Waits; assorted on my iPod. I've always been a Tom Waits fan, but recently was inspired to listen to him again. What an incredible songwriter... there's nothing like "I Never Talk to Strangers," "Martha" and "Emotional Weather Report."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dungeness Crab Salad with Cucumber Jelly, Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette, and Frisée Lettuce

I know, I know... this was supposed to be a Dungeness Crab Salad. But, but... but... I live in Maryland. You know, like, where blue crabs rule the world? I felt like I might suffer from a serious mo-fo IRS audit if I use crab other than Maryland crab, so that's what I used in this dish, which was actually quite easy and made me happy that summer is on its way. Every summer whenever I make crabcakes here at home, I usually make a really fresh extra-cucumber tzatziki to go with them, and that's what this dish reminded me of. Let's get started. Here's the mise:

First up? The cucumber jelly. Dudes, I made MY OWN cucumber juice. I KNOW. I am so awesome. I rough-chopped the cucumber, liquefied it in the blender and strained it twice and wouldn't ya know, it made exactly a cup of cucumber juice? I rock.

I saved a bit of the whole cucumber and made cuke diamonds with it. They look more like cucumber parallelograms, but I'm okay with that:

Next, I soaked a sheet and a quarter of gelatin in cold water for about five minutes, then dissolved it in a bowl over a pot of hot water:

When it was dissolved, I added the cucumber juice, removed it from the heat and made sure it was mixed well. The French Laundry Cookbook instructs you to pour 2-3T of the gelatin mixture into the bottom of shallow serving bowls. I don't have any of those, so I improvised and used the plates so many of you seem to like. I covered the bottom with the gelatin, added in the cucumber parallelograms, and the small sprigs of dill and let all six plates chill in the fridge for a little over an hour:

The plate up front with the heap o' dill? Mine. I love dill as much as I love garlic and bacon. And lobster. And Stephen Durfee, my new best friend. More on that later.

I knew the neighbor girls and I were getting together for our regular Friday afternoon cocktails, so once the plates had chilled and the gelatin was set, I called and gave them the ten-minute warning to get their butts over here to try this dish. In the meantime, I got the crab salad ready, which involved whipping some heavy cream to just before it got to the stiff-peak stage (>snerk<), then added some fresh-ground salt, white pepper and wholegrain mustard:

I put the crabmeat in a separate bowl and folded in just enough of the whipped cream mixture to bind it. Next, I tossed the baby arugula with about 3T of shredded daikon radish and a wee bit of olive oil Oh, and even though the recipe headline says there's Frisée in this dish, ain't no thang. The ingredients list suggests baby arugula, baby beet greens, or amaranth, so I went with arugula because I love it so:

It's time to plate. See how easy this was? No steeping or poaching in butter or making movies about annoying Canadian singers.

Here we go... first, a heaping spoonful of crabmeat (I decided not to use the 2" ring mold option because I was hungry and wanted to get this on the table so we could enjoy our afternoon):

Then, for the final step, I topped it with the arugula/radish mixture:

It was a semi-hit with the kids and the adults loved it. Would I make this again? Probably not this exact recipe, but I'd adapt it as a canapé somehow. I love the taste of crab and cucumber together, and the cucumber definitely balanced the richness of the crab salad. I'm a big fan of wholegrain mustard, so that added a nice zip to this dish... otherwise, I think it might've been slightly bland. I also added some salt and pepper to the arugula/daikon radish mix because it needed it. I also love radishes, so I was happy to have that be a part of it, as well.

Before I go, let me take a moment to tip my hat (or just toss my hair) to Mr. Stephen Durfee, the pastry chef at The French Laundry when the French Laundry Cookbook was released. You may remember that I busted on him here. Mr. Durfee got in touch with me this week to tell me he heard about the site, has been reading it, and wanted to let me know that while he was the man behind the creation of the dreaded Candied Apple annoyance, he is also responsible for the only dessert I would ever take a bath in, the Cream of Walnut Soup, as well as the amazing Strawberry Shortcakes. He was incredibly funny in his message and the mere fact that he reached out to get in touch with me says to me that he is definitely a stand-up guy. So, with that, I can now say I love Stephen Durfee, and we are going to get married and raise little Candy Apple babies and... oh... yeah, that's so not happening. But seriously, Stephen Durfee? You're alright in my book. FOR NOW.

Up Next: Verjus Sorbet with Poached Peaches or Strawberry Terrine (Verjus is hard to find here in DC -- if you know where I can buy some, email me!)

Brands Used:
Cucumber and daikon radish from Wegmans
Gelatin sheets from King Arthur Flour
Crabmeat from the great state of Maryland
Organic Valley cream
Delouis organic whole grain mustard
Baby arugula from TPSS Co-op

Music to Cook By: Soundtrack to South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut; because I am twelve, apparently, and still laugh at the song about Kyle's mom. And, all night I've been singing "What Would Brian Boitano Do" and that's not annoying AT ALL. I haven't been singing "Blame Canada" though, which is interesting given my previous post. I will also 'fess up to listening to some DeBarge during the process. And not just regular old DeBarge, El DeBarge and "Who's Johnny," if you must know. Whew. I feel better getting that off my chest.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Leeks, Pommes Maxim, and a Red Beet Essence

Summer's almost here, and you know what that means!?!?! Yeah, me neither.

Oh wait, that's right. LOBSTER!

After the two desserts I just did out of the French Laundry Cookbook, I was hankerin' for something a little more substantive. So, I chose this lobster dish because it sounded really good. Since the recipe called for three 2-lb. lobsters, I thought to myself, "how excellent would it be for my fantastic FrenchLaundryAtHome readers if I came up with hilarious names for the lobsters?" I'm so customer service-oriented it's scary sometimes, isn't it? (don't answer that)

But naming the lobsters wasn't as easy as you might think:
Moe, Larry and Curley = too obvious
Winken, Blinken and Nod = too boring
Peter, Paul and Mary = too old
Star Wars 1, 2 and 3 = too confusing
Barry, Robin and Maurice = one of 'em is already dead, so no
Alvin, Simon and Theodore = yeah, um, no

Finally, I settled on Britney, Lindsay and Paris. But when I picked up the lobsters from the market, I noticed they were from Canada, so I knew I had to honor their heritage and name them after famous Canadians, but more importantly, famous Canadians no one would be upset about when their lobster counterparts kicked it in a tub of boiling water.

With that in mind, I called members of my lobster-naming strategy team who came up with the following suggestions:

Terrence, Phillip and Baby Ike
Bryan Adams, Alanis Morissette and Shania Twain
Wayne Gretzky, Brian Orser and Elvis Stoyko
Gordon Lightfoot, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart
Pamela Anderson, Avril Lavine and Neve Campbell
Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis and Jason Priestley
Paul Shaffer, Martin Short and Kiefer Sutherland

Wow, Canada. That's a lot of people from your country we find sort of annoying. You might want to work on that. (KIDDING. I love you, Canada. You're awesome. Really, you are.) But the most obvious lobster name choice was apparent from the very moment "name one Canadian you can't stand" came out of my mouth, and without fail the first name that sprung from everyone's lips was:

But I had three lobsters, so what to name the other two? The awesomely evil and lovely Catherine suggested I name them Celine, René Angelil, and René SHAAAAALLLLLRRRRRRLLLLLLLLz, but we decided it was too mean to name a soon-to-be-dead lobster after a 3-year old child who did nothing wrong in being born to annoying parents.

So, with that, I give you:



And, Celine:

Now that you've met my three Celines, let's watch them become dinner. Here's the before shot of the lobsters in their tub:

Then, I boiled some water, and added a bit of distilled white vinegar to the water before pouring it onto the lobsters:

They steeped for about two minutes, maybe three, and looked like this:

I removed the claws and put those back in the hot water to steep for another five minutes.

The reason the lobsters are cooked this way is because you cook the meat just enough to get it out of the lobster, but it's fully cooked by POACHING IT IN BUTTER, which I'm sure you can guess is something I was looking forward to. I'm not exactly the master of subtlety, as I'm sure you're quickly learning.

While the claws were steeping, I removed the meat from the tails, cleaned the bodies and froze them for stock, and then removed the meat from the claws. I don't have photos of all these stages because they had to be done quickly while the lobsters were still hot. And, I had lobster goop all over my hands and didn't want to funk up my camera. I'm sure you understand. You'll see the various lobster pieces when they are POACHED IN BUTTER later on in the process, I promise. By the way, did you know that I had to POACH the lobster IN BUTTER for this recipe? Because I did.

Let's get some of the other steps out of the way first, one of which is the beet essence. I simmered a cup of beet juice for about an hour until it reduced to about 2-3T of glaze. I did this a few hours before serving while I was on a conference call with a client. To finish it for the dish, I brought it back up to a simmer and whisked in the butter, red wine vinegar and lemon juice. It's the first thing on the plate, so you'll see the final product in my plating photo.

The next thing I prepped a little early were the Pommes Maxim (which originated at Maxim's in Paris). I peeled and very-thinly sliced two medium Yukon Gold potatoes on my mandoline and tossed them in melted clarified butter until they were well coated. I laid them on my Silpat in an overlapping fashion and sprinkled them with salt. I then baked them in a 300-degree oven for 45 minutes. Here are the before and after shots:

And now for the leeks. First, you take a leek (HA!)... okay, I'm twelve. Sorry. I thinly sliced about a cup and a half of leek rounds (white and light green parts) and blanched them. After their ice bath, I warmed them in a saucepan and added the tomato diamonds, chives, brunoise and butter. I won't bore you with photos of the prep for the brunoise or tomato diamonds because you've seen them before, but here is what the final leek mixture looks like:

And now.... the pièce de résistance (or "piece of resistance" as Sandra Lee says). Lobster poached in butter. I mean, LOBSTER POACHED IN BUTTER!!! WHOOOOO-HOOOOOOO!!!!!! Earlier, I took the lobster meat out of the refrigerator and brought it up to room temperature, and then put it in one layer in a large saucepan and covered it all with butter in which it poached for about 6 minutes. Here's the lobster before it went into a saucepan full of butter for poaching:

To plate, I started with small spoonful of beet essence:

Next, went a heaping spoonful of the leek mixture:

That was topped with some lobster tail and a claw:

Last, a piece of the Pommes Maxim on top:

If you think this looks good, I wish you could be here to taste it. All of you. But bring your own lobster, I'm not Thurston Howell the Third. The lobsters were a lot of work, that's for sure, but this was all so delicious -- the combination of beets, lobster and potatoes are gorgeous. Doing the lobster this way makes it so tender that it almost feels like it's undercooked, even though it's not. Big thumbs up, all around.

In closing, I leave you with a moment, a memory, a song to commemorate the awesomeness that was this dish and the lobsters that made it all possible: R.I.P Celine, Celine and Celine. R.I.P. You were delicious.

Up Next: Dungeness Crab Salad with Cucumber Jelly, Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette, and Frisée Lettuce (ooo, a Thomas Keller-Nancy Drew mystery on this dish: Frisée in the recipe title, yet no frisée in the recipe; I blame Stephen Durfee. I always will. For EVERYTHING.)

Brands Used:
Canadian lobster from Wegman's in Hunt Valley, MD
Produce from Central Market House in York, PA
Biotta beet juice
All-Clad cookware
OXO Mandoline

Music to Cook By: Thomas Dolby; Retrospectacle: The Best of Thomas Dolby. I forgot how much I love this album; and, it really stands the test of time. This music is just as good as it was twenty years ago.