Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Replacement Brunch

Lab brunch was incredibly awesome, no surprise, even though, as EW observed, we needed a "disaster tally" like the one I maintain in the lab as we had not one but TWO disasters. The first one came about an hour into the mis en place, when I cleverly used the finger I had just been using to de-seed poblano peppers to rub my eye. I was hopeful that that painful but minor disaster, which occured before any of the guests arrived, would satisfy the disaster quota, but we also got a nice helping of the fire alarm going off thanks to the smoking meats, causing mr. monk to get so scared that he peed AND pooped on the carpet, all while there were 4 dishes on the stovetop. After opening all the windows in the house and putting a plastic bag over the one accessible fire alarm, we did survive, and were able to get back to the more enjoyable activities of cooking and eating.

I have to give "big ups" to JG for once again taking tons of awesome photos of the food and pre-brunch craziness, including the fruit salad shot above, where he managed to make even the boring fruit salad look awesome, and also all the photos below. Starting with, the Stilton Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce(!!!):

Despite the fact that I burnt the caramel (again! I clearly need a candy pan that heats more evenly than the pot I got at La Verde's 7 years ago), the cheesecake got three votes for favorite dish in the exit polling, and 7 votes for favorite dish if you count the four votes it got as part of "Eggs plus Cheesecake." Thus it tied for 2nd place in the favorite dish contest, and was part of the winning taste combination! Testimonial from KDF: "I don't like blue cheese, and I don't like cheesecake, but I really like this!"

Also tied for second place in the favorite dish poll were the homefries with chives and the eggs with poblano peppers, feta, and fire roasted tomato sauce. In JG's mega awesome action shot below, you can see NWY and I manning the stovetop and preparing the runners up:

Testimonial from BL: "It's like watching a cooking show, but even though it's live in front of me I still know 'I couldn't do that.'" I don't typically really enjoy homefries, so I don't make them enough to get really good at making them a way I would like them. I was almost going to toss these out and not even serve them, because even though I boiled the potatoes for 20 minutes last night I felt like they were just too hard even after about 25 minutes of sauteeing. If I'm going to improve my homefry technique in the future, I think it will be imperative to slice the potatoes even smaller, divide the butter they get cooked in and do multiple butter courses, and perhaps dredge them in flour before tossing them in to sautee so they get a little crustier instead of just being oily. Also, there is no such thing as too much salt on homefries! Despite the imperfections, these did get 3 votes for favorite dish, so I guess it's good that I served them, after all.

The eggs look even better in their finished form, with the fire roasted tomato sauce layered in there and some cilantro garnish:

I think that if I hadn't taken the easy way out and cast my vote for "Eggs + Cheesecake," and instead had been forced to choose only one dish as my favorite, it would have been this one. Putting feta cheese in the eggs is a sneaky, good addition, becuase it's hard to tell that there's actually cheese in there, and it just makes the eggs taste creamier and saltier without being watery the way they would be with the addition of actual salt. The fire roasted tomato sauce adds a quite aesthetically pleasing touch of color to the dish, in addition to providing an acidy complement to the eggs' creaminess. The color and smell of the fire roasted tomatoes simmering in scallions and garlic (visible in the action shot) was fantastic- it was at that point, when the sauce was simmering in my swiss diamond skilet, that I knew I had a winner on my hands. I even got to throw the sauce in my blender to puree it!

Our final dish was the lab's birthday present to KDF: a woven mat of bacon rolled up around cheddar cheese and bbq sauce, with a candle stuck in. Dubbed "The Meat Cake" by CL:

This bad boy is 9 strips of bacon woven into a tight braid, baked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then covered in cheddar and K.C. Masterpiece and rolled up. I did not get a taste (nor would I have wanted to), but KDF ate it all! So I was glad that those 9 pieces of bacon did not go to waste. I can now count "Bacon Weaving" among my many culinary technical proficiencies, and I am happy to be able to do so.

For the bacon-curious among you, here is an additional shot of what the bacon weave looked like when it came out of the oven:

You can't really tell from this angle, but there is about a half an inch of grease in the bottom of that pan. When I handed this to PK, who was helping me clean up, I warned her that "Just washing this dish might compromise your vegetarianism."

There were almost no leftovers: about 4 sad little grapes, a couple of patties of sausage (alas, we were only able to eat 3 lbs of breakfast meats), and one slice of Stilton cheesecake (although I have a feeling that particular morsel is not going to last much beyond the completion of this post.) I take the combined facts that there was almost no food leftover and that the votes for favorite dish were evenly spread out over many dishes as being indicative of a successful brunch. My eye isn't even throbbing any more! Final note: if you're not topping your sausage with cheesecake, you're doing it wrong.


Laura said...

Wow!! Every single thing looks incredibly amazing!!!

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