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Trying to shoehorn an extended essay into 140-character tweets is a pain, the threading is a nightmare and it’s impermanent. If only there was some other medium better suited to the purpose…

Oh, what’s this? *blows dust of WordPress*

How is it possible that I haven’t posted anything here for a little over a year? It’s not that I haven’t been cooking  – I’ve made a lot of new dishes. It’s a copout, but life got incredibly busy and interesting (in the Chinese proverb sense), leaving me with little time to devote to this blog. So it’s time to start up again, and what better occasion that the annual birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed?

I knew it was coming – it happens at the same time every year – but I was still surprised when two weeks before the dinner I still had no idea of what to cook. She Who tried to be helpful: “Don’t cook anything complicated.” (As if I would ever follow that advice.) Rather than struggle with a unifying theme for the menu progression, I chose a series of dishes that I knew she had enjoyed in other settings. I was able to do a lot of advance prep and minimized the a la minute cooking to make the timing work better. Here’s what I came up with:

Negroni

We started with an update of the classic Negroni: equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. I infused the mix with lemon and orange peel, raspberries, and slice of grapefruit.

Egg

Our guests were served a small sealed mason jar, which, when opened revealed this:

From the bottom up: pommes purée (Joel Robuchon recipe, 33% butter by weight), crispy maiitake mushrooms, sous vide poached egg, and crispy duck skin. Served with a 2012 Peter Lauer Riesling. (This was the signature dish at West Bridge restaurant in Cambridge, where She Who made repeated attempts to steal bites of my serving after she finished hers.)

Asparagus

Grilled brined asparagus with preserved lemon aioli and toasted almonds. Served with a 2016 grüner veltliner.

Beef

Truth in advertising: This photo is of a version of the dish I prepared previously. My plating for this dinner was so embarrassingly amateurish that I won’t let anyone see it. I served the same sous vide and seared ribeye with shiitake mushroom marmalade and beef jus, but swapped out the squash and bone marrow for sautéed fiddleheads (which had just come into season). Served with a 2008 Ravenswood Dickerson Zinfandel.

Sgroppino

No photo of this palate cleansing cocktail, but it was a mix of citron vodka and prosecco topped with a scoop of lemon coconut saffron sorbet – a boozy ice cream float.

Chocolate

When I brought this to the table I received nods of recognition from three of our guests, who had seen this dessert when I first made it 33 years earlier. It’s bombe au trois chocolats, a Julia Child recipe for a chocolate brownie shell filled with chocolate mousse and glazed with chocolate ganache. My updated version added blood orange reduction to the mousse and blood orange zest as a garnish. I served it with a side of cardamom-scented whipped cream.

She Who had only heard stories about this dessert, so I wasn’t sure it would live up to it’s near-legendary hype. I’m happy to report it did.

I hope another year won’t pass before I update this blog. I already have a few ideas for future posts. Stay tuned.

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If you worked in an ice cream store in the mid-’80s you almost certainly saw this B. Kliban cartoon, probably pinned to the staff bulletin board or taped to a wall in the back room. When it was first published (Playboy, February 1983) it was a solid absurdist laugh – after all, who would make, let alone eat, those flavors?

That was then. Now, when I can walk a few blocks and order a cup of salty whisky ice cream, those flavors seem less weird and more in the hipster sweet spot. I’m no hipster – I can’t cultivate the proper Civil War era beard – but I have unintentionally made each of those flavors. Witness me:

Wood

cedarwood

Cedarwood vanilla ice cream, served as part of a dessert along with cheese and Eccles cakes. Does it contain actual wood? No, ice cream is no place for dietary fiber.

Liver

foieicecream6

Foie gras ice cream, made from lovely fatty duck liver. Served with strawberry, balsamic, ginger snap crumble, and black pepper.

Corn

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This photo is a bit of a stretch. The ice cream pictured here is french toast, which includes toasted brioche, but the panna cotta is made from Cap’n Crunch cereal milk. Since the time of this photo, however, I have modified my french toast ice cream recipe, which now begins with cereal milk made from French Toast Crunch (available again, thanks to boomer nostalgia).

It’s still unlikely that you’ll find similar ice creams in your local scoop shop, but here at Chez Belm, we’re likely to say “We’re out of vanilla. Would you like some wood or liver?”

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Eleventh Annual Birthday Dinner

May 13, 2016
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How do I come up with the menus for the annual birthday dinners for She Who Must Be Obeyed? I pay attention to dishes that she’s enjoyed over the course of a year, either prepared by me, or that we’ve enjoyed while dining out. Penicillin We began with the same cocktail I made for the last Can’t […]

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Smoke ’em If You Got ’em

February 28, 2016
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It was our turn again for Can’t Talk, Eating, our quarterly dining club. Due to the host rotation this was our first winter meal, so we planned on heartier fare. We settled on a theme of “smoke” for all the courses, in both obvious and subtle presentations. Charcuterie Baguette, fig and butter spread, Serrano ham, […]

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Birthday Dinner at Tasting Counter

December 3, 2015
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Deciding where to have dinner on my birthday is a process that can begin months before the actual meal. After all the planning that went into last year’s wd~50 dinner, I wanted to limit this year’s choice to the Boston area. After reading this review in The Boston Globe, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I decided […]

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Dinner At Damon Baehrel

November 16, 2015
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I have a lot of foodie friends. We cook for each other, share recipes, trade restaurant info, and sometimes arrange to eat at some of the country’s (or world’s) best restaurants. One friend in particular, Scott Edelman, has a knack for wrangling “impossible” reservations, which has resulted in amazing meals at Alinea, The Fat Duck, […]

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Introducing Reading While Cooking

August 2, 2015
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Two weeks ago I saw this post from Rose Fox in my Twitter feed: Intrigued, I replied: Rose answered: Rose and I have worked together before, so after a few email exchanges we divided up the tasks. We grabbed a domain name, set up a WordPress blog, launched a Patreon campaign, and within 24 hours Reading While […]

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Meet Meat

July 9, 2015
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During last summer’s London trip, we ate at two of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants. The first, The Fat Duck, was reported here. The second, dinner at Dinner, was an evening that I preferred not to document. The restaurant bases its menu on updated recreations of historical recipes researched by Blumenthal and recorded for his Heston’s Feasts series. […]

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Tenth Annual Birthday Dinner

May 4, 2015
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  It’s hard to believe I’ve been cooking a birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed for ten years. This year I decided the menu would include some new dishes she had enjoyed over the past year, which would present some interesting technical challenges for me. Charcuterie I changed up the traditional charcuterie starter by […]

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Carrying a Torch

March 23, 2015

I have devoted a lot of time and effort into arriving at a consistent perfectly cooked steak. A combination of sous vide cooking and a high-heat final sear works every time to produce a medium rare result with a good crust. But there’s always room for improvement, which I found in the form of a new […]

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