There was caviar--and lots of it--leftover from the New Year's Day party. Blessedly, caviar is one of those luxuries of which a little will go a long way. I'd already done a second run of potato chip-creme fraiche-caviar appetizers for a friend a few days ago, and frankly, as easy and as good as they are, I am at my limit for Hotsy Totsy Potato Chips. Not feeling particularly inventive, but wanting a starting point for a small dinner party I was having last weekend, I decided to rely on an old standby: Deviled Eggs with Caviar.
These eggs are very special, not just for the caviar, but because the filling is whipped with Duke's mayonnaise and half-and-half until fluffy and the flavors are heightened with horseradish, garlic, onion, dill and the tiniest amount of that Famous Yellow Mustard, then piped decoratively into the hollows of the whites. The caviar just puts everything over the top.
In true bon vivant fashion, I served a total of four appetizers, since I wanted to try a lot of new recipes I'd been collecting, and especially since I have collected a small group of very willing guinea pigs on which to experiment.
My wine guy at Spec's suggested a prosecco that was light, dry, and full of apples to start our evening. Carra-Coviello Brut (Italy), about $16, is absolutely delicious with seafood. And because of the predominant apple notes, my wine guy suggested I serve something with apples. I had mentioned to him that I was serving oysters, which always go with something bubbly.
But oysters and apples together?
Yes, and how! The sweetness of the oysters is beautifully harmonious with apples. Oysters with Apple Mignonette is beautiful when served in small, stemmed glasses. The poached oyster sits on the bottom of the glass and a lovely, jewel-like, slightly piquant relish of tart apple, red bell pepper, shallot and parsley adorns the top. You can steam the oysters in their shells and serve them on the half-shell, as called for in the recipe, or you can use shucked oysters and poach them in their liquor with apple cider, serving them in a beautiful glass as I did.
I also used both yellow and orange bell pepper since I didn't have red on hand. This appetizer is very refreshing, and very beautiful to look at. Find another version here to serve with caviar.
We also enjoyed shrimp skewers with kalamata olives stuffed with toasted garlic, marinated in Metaxa (a Greek brandy), garlic, oregano and EVOO. The warm grilled skewers are served on a bed of parsley salad, which is beautiful and delicious with a simple lemon juice/EVOO dressing, although one of my guests suggested substituting watercress for its softer texture.
And the final appetizer was Oysters with Creme Fraiche, Lemon, and Tarragon. This recipe is intended to be prepared with oysters in the their shells, but because I had shucked oysters, I prepared them on scallop shells. I also drizzled melted butter and added flake salt and a small thin slice of lemon to each oyster before broiling.
To finish to this oyster appetizer: a spoonful of cold creme fraiche on top, flavored with lemon zest, tarragon and orange juice concentrate. Creamy, decadent and full of bright flavor, it gave the warm oysters a silky, flavorful jacket. Entirely lovely with the prosecco.
And then there was dinner. Because we were having a lot of seafood--and a lot of rich food--my friends chose a verdejo-viura blend called Esperanza 2010 (Spain). Floral, fruity and beautifully silky--and entirely gulpable--this crisp white wine (about $15) was perfect with our meal of salmon, artichoke pilaf and sauteed spinach.
We loved this Robert Irvine salmon recipe and its gorgeous minty/watercress sour cream sauce. I coated both sides of the fish with the panko/coriander/mustard seed crust instead of just one as suggested, and it was beautiful on the plate nestled in its bed of watercress.
For the pilaf, I simply roasted about 2 cups quartered artichoke hearts (you can use canned but I like the frozen ones better) with some EVOO, salt, pepper and garlic, then sauteed about 2 cups sliced mushrooms and 1 cup roasted red pepper in the leftover garlic oil from the shrimp appetizer. Then I made brown rice according to the package directions and stirred in the roasted and sauteed veggies, along with generous pinches of marjoram, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Forty-five minutes later, we had a beautiful and delicious pilaf.
The sauteed spinach was done with frizzled shallots, something I've written about before. This time, I used EVOO instead of coconut oil, added a good amount of minced garlic, and omitted the chopped tomatoes. Still delicious and beautiful.
Dessert was an old favorite. Easy and stunning in a tall stemmed goblet with fresh blackberries and mint on top, lemon panna cotta is always a great way to end a seafood splurge. Coffee and cordials, along with a very long, very funny, very drawn-out story about human behavior (my husband's specialty) ended the evening delightfully.
Thanks again for your support--and for trying these recipes. May your tastebuds dance!