I really love cooking from scratch… everything tastes so much better when you make everything yourself. Allan’s mom and her husband were coming over from Vancouver Island to meet my parents… and Allan and I decided to create a fancy five-course meal to serve them. As if it wasn’t pressure enough just to have the two parents meet!
I think the best way to tackle this post with the sheer number of photos is to put all the prep photos first and leave the five “finished” photos for the end I will post the recipes later tonight in the Comments section. So, here we go!
The key to cooking a multi-course meal, in my opinion, is all about the prep work. Making sure you double-check your ingredients, making sure you prep anything the night before that can be prepped… and having as much pre-portioned and pre-chopped up the day of the meal before you start cooking. You don’t really want anything sitting there getting cold… you want to serve it fresh right off the stove onto the plate as you go. I decided to prepare the chocolate creme brulée the night before.
The first step was making the chocolate decoration… and tempering chocolate with a candy thermometer. This is the temperature chart I followed… it’s a bit tricky but once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly easy. You have to raise the chocolate to a high temperature, cool it with an ice bath, and heat again to a medium temperature… then your chocolate is tempered and easy to work with!
My pantry was definitely overstuffed with supplies.
The creme brulée was cooked and then cooled overnight. The next morning I woke up and simmered the apricots for several hours (for the puree) and Allan and I candied the walnuts for the first course.
The next step was to start preparing the soup… peeling, cutting, and weighing the butternut squash. Then sautéeing them in shallots and butter, cooking with chicken stock, and then adding spices. The soup also had to be blended, strained, blended again, and then served. Served with freshly grated nutmeg!
While this was happening, we started making the chicken mousse in the food processor (note.. having an electronic scale is a life saver!). I cooked up several pounds of Pacific Wild Dungeness crab fresh from Granville Island here in Vancouver in white wine, butter and other spices… which was then added with a little bit of chicken mousse, parmesan, and chives to make the crab filling for the ravioli.
Allan made the fresh pasta while I cut the rounds for the ravioli and added the stuffing, and sealed the edges.
Meanwhile… getting the clam chowder ready by prepping the veggies, potatoes and leeks… and cooking the clams in white wine and fish stock.
I really loved the clams we got from Granville Island… very similar to littleneck clams but sweeter. Then I made a roux for the clam chowder and waited while it thickened up and cooked the veggies. (Note… make sure to add the clams just before serving, you don’t want them to get tough).
Next was making the prosciutto-wrapped halibut.
We wrapped the very thinly sliced prosciutto around the halibut and sealed it in with a sage leaf for aroma and flavour. The halibut needed to be seared before being baked in the oven.
The last thing to worry about was the dessert of course.. in the interest of time I bought a few little sweets to go with the creme brulée. I got some marshmallows from Vancouver-based Butter Baked Goods… and rolled the vanilla marshmallows in candy cane pieces and the coffee marshmallows in a chocolate-sugar mix. I used little Christmas plates and also attached chocolate-covered marshmallows onto stainless steel skewers. The last step before serving was to torch the chocolate creme brulée.
We set up my dad’s old work table in the middle of our living room and stole my mom’s linens to make a Christmas spread. It was a little hokey but hey, we made do As for the parents meeting the parents… well we think it went rather well! This is a photo of Allan’s mom and husband Terry sitting at the table talking to my folks. Both sets of parents seemed to get along well and both had good things to say after. We kept them busy with the food
And last but not least… the photos of the finished meal!
ALLIE AND ALLAN’S FIVE-COURSE CHRISTMAS MEAL FOR OUR PARENTS
Course One: Seared Qualicum Bay Scallops with Apricot Puree and Candied Walnuts
Course Two: Creamy Butternut Squash Soup topped with Pumpkin Seeds, Chives, Parmesan, Freshly Grated Nutmeg, and Pumpkin Seed Oil
Course Three: Dungeness Crab-Stuffed Ravioli topped with a Maple-Candied Dungeness Crab Leg, in a Mushroom-Parmesan Sauce… served with Seared Beef Tenderloin in a Balsamic Vinegar-Shallot Marinade
Course Four: Prosciutto-Wrapped Halibut with Clam Chowder
Course Five: Chocolate Creme Brulée topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Chocolate Decoration, with Raspberries in a Mango Coulis served with assorted sweets (Coffee and Vanilla Marshmallows, Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow, Peppermint Bark)