Dinner Inspiration: French Laundry Menu

Tasting of Vegetables | 10 August 2010

Jacobsen’s Farm Plum Consomme
Salad of Compressed Watermelon

with Royal Blenheim Apricot, Piedmont Hazelnuts, Summer Truffle and Watercress
French Laundry Garden Onions
with Hass Avocado and Pink Peppercorn “Aigre-Doux”
Marinated Chanterelle Mushrooms
Degustation de Pommes de Terre
with New Crop Potatoes, Red Radish, Little Gem Lettuce and Australian Truffles
Summer Squash “Lasagna”
with Burrata Cheese
Robiola Tre Latti
Armando Manni Olive Oil Sorbet
with Silverado Trail Blackberries and 30-Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Delta Blueberry Float
Mignardises

10 courses, 250 dollars.

This is a Michelin level tasting menu (and a whole lot of words that are kind of meaningless unless you speak French).

And you can totally recreate it at home.

It’s true, there won’t be foam or “young ginger pearls”, and your pommes de terre may not be rare Australian truffles. But this menu is recreate-able, and, more importantly, not time consuming.

(But please don’t tell Thomas Keller I said that)

For Extra Quick Cooking

Make sure to do your shopping ahead of time. This meal requires a lot of specialty items and you may have a hard time grabbing these items on your way home from work.

There are only a few things you can buy pre-made to speed up this meal: olive oil sorbet and tomato sauce for the lasagna. The sorbet might be hard to find, and it could seem a little silly to throw in store bought tomato sauce given then gourmet cooking going on here.

Shopping Tips

Burrata cheese is hot right now. It has a sinfully creamy texture but a very innocent bright white hue. You should be able to find it at Whole Foods, a high end grocer, or a cheese shop, if you are lucky enough to have one.

Mignardises are essentially petit fours – but not the little hard-shelled cakes, any type of teeny cookies or chocolate treats. Buy assorted from your french bakery of choice, or even Trader Joe’s. They have a surprising selection.

The potatoes, onions, radishes, mushrooms (for pommes de terre) and summer squash should come from farmers’ market or farm stand for maximum freshness.

Prep Cooking

First things first: start the plum consomme cooking. If you are making your own sauce for the lasagna, start it now (use a simple, light recipe).

Then, move on to the salads. Saute the mushrooms with some garlic, when they turn golden, season with cilantro, lemon juice, and salt, and cover with olive oil in a serving bowl. Thinly slice a watermelon and two avocados and toss with salt and pepper (pink pepper if you can find it). Roughly chop the the onions with half the weight in apricots.

Whew. That’s the hardest part. I promise.

Next, finish off the consomme and pop it in the fridge. Toss the new potatoes in boiling water – briefly, for a minute or two. Preheat the oven to 350 and start layering up the lasagna: thinly sliced strips of squash, scoops of burrata, and then tomato sauce. Mix the base for the sorbet and start the ice cream maker. When it’s done, stick it in the freezer till you need it.

Then you’re done! (for now)

I mean . . . mostly done (except for plating, which – if space allows – you can do ahead in the kitchen).

Service

In these sort of multi-course meals, time is of the essence. There are ten courses. If each one lasts about ten minutes, that gives you a two hour meal. Perfect. But if each drags on to fifteen or twenty, you are starting to creep over three hours. Let conversation take it’s course, but don’t be shy about switching out the plates.

This is also the kind of meal you need guests to arrive on time for. Since you are serving them ten delightful courses, they can hopefully handle that one request.

Once everyone has gathered, bring out the plum consomme is very small glasses. Espresso cup would do, or mini teacups. This is just a palate cleanser, so you can quickly follow up with the watermelon salad. The vibrant pink would be most striking centered on white plates with a fresh dusting of pink pepper.

After you serve the watermelon salad, pop the lasagna in the oven and check on it in 30 minutes.

Plate the garden onions in low flat bowls, topped with hazelnuts, over a bed of watercress.The marinated chanterelle mushrooms can be divided into small dipping bowls and served alongside a few slices of baguette.

For the degustation de pommes de terre, arrange a square plate with four seperate quadrants: four salted new potatoes, four quarters of different colored radishes, one each of four different types of mushrooms, and a nest of microgreens. Place a square of summer squash “lasagna” on a small, circular plate for each guest and dust with grated zucchini.

Serve the Robiola Tre Latti cheese course Italian-style on a rectangular plate between a mini shot of grappa and a circle of chili oil.

The olive oil sorbet should be served in small white bowls, so as not to distract from the vibrant color. Top each scoop with three wild blackberries and a light drizzle of balsalmic vinegar. Whiz the delta blueberry float in the blender and serve in tall iced tea glasses.

Place a tray of mignardises on the table and offer your stuffed guests some coffee to forestall their impending food comas.

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