Sunday, August 30, 2009

Franschhoek in Beijing

Last night we had some of our good Beijing friends over for a dinner composed (mostly) of dishes from my newest cookbook, Reuben Riffel's "Reuben Cooks". Reuben Riffel is the chef-owner of Reuben's restaurant in Franschhoek, South Africa, where we ate once during our trip in May. The cookbook is beautifully designed, and includes several dishes that we enjoyed during our meal there, though if I have one complaint about the book it is that some recipes are written to serve 2 people, others for 15, and there are not that many that fall in between.

We were ten people at the table altogether, including a new colleague from work, three old colleagues from work, and some non-work friends, so it was a nice varied group, and the conversation flowed very well. But most of the people who I know read this blog don't care about the conversation, they care about the menu. Here it is:

During the "cocktail hour" we served our famous Edamame with Spicy Sichuan Peppercorn Salt and my Palestinian Hummus. After that, the Reuben's dishes started to come:

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tarts with Tomato Chutney

We then moved to the table for the main meal:

Braised Squid with Green Olives in Pernod-Orange Sauce
Braised Pork Belly with Ginger-Caramel Sauce
Chinese "Springbok" Tataki with Colcannon
Steamed Chinese Vegetable with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

and for Dessert:

Homemade Plum Ice Cream with Muscat Crème Brûlée

The Chinese "Springbok" Tataki was the only dish that required a major substitution: springbok loin just is not available here, so I replaced it with beef tenderloin, which I cooked in a salt dough crust that I learned about from Alton Brown's "Good Eats" show. In this dish the beef tenderloin is baked in a salt-heavy dough "sarcophagus" that infuses the meat with the salt and herbs that are mixed into the dough, resulting in a truly succulent piece of meat. I think that it nicely mimicked the strong flavor that springbok (or other game meat) should have.

And for the dessert, which in his book Reuben shows served on a flat plate with a ball of ice cream next to a ramekin of creme brulee, we instead found some great plates at a local pottery store called "Spin" that had a sort of folded-over corner with a deep indentation that could hold the ice cream, and a nice flat space (with a lip) to hold the ramekin and our garnish. I got a picture of the dish, but not as it looked with the desserts on it. Next time...

And speaking of photos, here they are.