Happy Birthday Chris!

The birthday dinner is always one with a little pressure to please.  Being a lover of food, I am always dismayed at how seldom we do go out to eat.  As a friend said to me, isn't it a method of research?  As much as I'd like to, I cannot expect to grow without venturing outside of my bubble.  Though as we age, we are more and more home bodies.  And the more I cook, the more difficult it is to draw us out of our little homey cave.  This is the conundrum.  

So tonight, something new, something old, and the happiness to share another year in this great place we call home.
Morel Mushrooms, Snap Peas, New Potatoes and Poached Egg
This, my attempt at recreating the dish we had at Sitka and Spruce the other night, was delightfully rich and bright.  At Sitka, there was discussion of whether there was cream in the sauce.  I was so sure there was, I said I'd eat my shoe if there wasn't.  We never received confirmation from the kitchen, but if there wasn't any cream in their sauce, there is some new magical ingredient or method I am not aware of.  Surprisingly, I found fresh Washington morel mushrooms at Uwajimaya.  They never fail to carry unexpected produce to a point where I now quite expect to find the unexpected.  

Saute morel mushrooms until just softened.  Add in a bit of veal stock an bring to a simmer.  Add a dollop of heavy cream and return to simmer until slightly thickened.  Turn heat off until you are ready to assemble your plate.  In a separate pan, blanche snap peas until tender and shock in a ice water bath to stop cooking and maintain the bright green color.  Drain and slice into 1/2" pieces crosswise.  Add to morel mushrooms.  
The new potatoes were my addition.  I couldn't stop myself from digging my hands into the soil to see if any potatoes were developing in my garden.  I pulled out a couple each of yukon gold and pontiac red.  I cleaned and peeled the red potatoes, cut them into 1/2" squares and boiled them until tender.   Add to morel mushrooms and peas and season to taste with with salt and pepper.
Poach eggs in water with a teaspoon of distilled vinegar.  As soon as you put your eggs in the water to poach, turn the heat back on for the morels and snap peas to bring just to simmer.  Assemble your plate with a the morels, snap peas and sauce first and then lay the poached egg on top.  

Seared East Coast Scallops, Asparagus, Sabayon and Honey Sherry Butter
Scallop sashimi has become one of my favorite sushi items.  This scallop dish we had at Sitka had the scallops seared rich golden brown on the outside, but basically rare on the inside.  Heaven!  Their dish was served with green asparagus, but I could not resist trying white asparagus for my version.

For the honey sherry butter, I mixed together honey, sherry vinegar and butter in a small sauce pan.  Warm slightly.
Prepare the sabayon sauce before cooking the asparagus and scallops.
1/3 cup clam juice
3 tbsp vermouth
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 egg yolks
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine clam juice and vermouth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, and add lemon juice.  In a little warmed olive oil, add garlic and let cook slowly for a few minutes until garlic is softened.  Drain garlic from oil.  I save the oil and used it for the scallops.  Whisk egg yolks and garlic together in a heat proof bowl and then slowly whisk in the clam juice mixture.  Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sabayon is thick and creamy.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.
Blanche asparagus in salted water until tender.  
Salt and pepper large sea scallops.  Using a heavy cast iron pan heated until smoking, add just a touch of oil and sear scallops for about 1 minute or less per side.  Gently press down on the scallops to assure an even browning. 
Spoon a little sabayon onto your plate, top with asparagus and then scallops.  Drizzle with a bit of the honey sherry butter.
Go back to green asparagus, I say.  Prettier for the plate and more flavor too.  And, my pan was not hot enough... get it to uncomfortably hot, and then lay the scallops on the pan.   Restraint, it's the only way to accomplish raw on the inside, seared on the out.

Pan Fried Quail with Blackberry Sauce, Fresh Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Candied Snap Peas Birthday Boy Request 
Prepare the risotto first.  I have several posting for risotto, so I won't go through it again here.  The only difference is the substitution of fresh porcini mushrooms, which, you guessed it, I got from Uwajimaya.  
Then prepare the blackberry sauce.  This is a sauce I've made many times in the past, but always serving it with duck breast.  Good ol' Epicurious supplies this recipe.

Get your deboned quail from University Seafood and Poultry.  They sell them frozen, so I find myself picking some up whenever I am there and putting into my freezer for future use. 
Generously salt and pepper the quail on both sides.  In a hot cast iron pan over medium high heat, sear the quail in a little bit of oil until golden brown on both sides.  If needed, put quail into the oven on 425f for a few minutes.  That is, if you find your quail is well browned on the outside, but not cooked to your liking in the inside, you can finish it by putting it into the oven.
For the candied snap peas, blanche the peas and then heat them with melted butter and maple syrup.

On an overall prep note, in order to get these courses served up in quick order, I prepped everything I could ahead of time.  Blanche the vegetables, make the risotto ahead and finish with the cheese and mascarpone addition right before serving.  Even the sabayon was prepared and reheated when ready to serve.  I prepared the morel dish to the point of poaching the egg.  It is the best of both worlds, hence very restaurant kitchen friendly.  Feels like it was all cooked right before served, but the only way to accomplish restaurant service, is to be able to prep half ahead leaving the center stage item to be cooked right before serving.


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