Happy birthday, dad!

It was my dad’s birthday last night.  It’s my policy not to buy things for people, but to give them edible gifts.  Most people have enough stuff in their life, but I’ve yet to meet anyone worth knowing who doesn’t appreciate a good meal.

Lamb loin chops: these were so ridiculously easy to do.  I removed them from the package (strange that I have to specify that, but you never know), seasoned them with salt & pepper, tossed them in a pan with some olive oil and butter to get a nice crisp sear, and then left them in a covered pan until they were a deliciously tender medium rare.

Red wine-rosemary-shallot sauce: this sauce was a great accompaniment to the lamb chops.  I made a pan sauce, meaning that I took some of the lamb drippings and all the stuff crusted on the bottom of the frying pan and made a sauce out of it. I threw in some red wine, fresh rosemary and finely diced shallots and mmm, it was tasty. It was the perfect marriage of the big shiraz, the meaty lamb, and the really delicate shallots.

Garlic mashed potatoes: the fluffy, non-gluey kindMy pet peeve with mashed potatoes is that people tend to over-mash them, thus turning them into a gluey starchy mess. Over-mashing causes the cell walls to break down and release starch, resulting in the whole thing turning into a gloopy, gloppy goo that is nothing like fluffy mashed potatoes. The trick is to put them through a potato ricer, food mill or sieve once and only once, and to molest them as little as possible.

I finished the potatoes with cream (infused with onions, garlic and nutmeg), butter, salt & pepper). On their own, the potatoes were really good – but on the plate with the robust lamb flavours, they could have used a lot more seasoning. Good to remember for next time.

Rainbow chard: it haunts my dreams. It’s so fantastically bright, sometimes almost fluorescently so. The bunch that I grabbed was a combination of green chard, red chard (neon pink, more like) and this gorgeous in-betweener that had stripes of pale pink and white. I braised the stems with garlic and chili flakes, and then tossed in chopped leaves just until they wilted.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label 2006 Shiraz: a big wine for a big meal. I can’t take credit for this one, but it went really well with the lamb. Had the lamb been from New Zealand, this might have been some sort of Australia/New Zealand-themed dinner.

Green tea creme brulee: yay!  I infused the mixture with a floral jasmine tea, and the flavour came out really nicely. I bought a blowtorch for the occasion, and got the thinnest possible layer of caramelized sugar without heating the custard underneath.

Creme brulee is one of those things that I refuse to order in restaurants.  If they get it right (which is rare, because I’m picky) then I feel like I’ve paid too much for it.  If they get it wrong, then that just makes me sad.  It’s one of those lovely things that seems so simple, but is tricky to get right. It’s a delicate interplay between textures and temperatures: the caramelized sugar should be thin enough to just shatter in your mouth while the custard is cold, impossibly smooth, and cooked until just set (and not a minute more!). When you get it right, it’s divine.

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