My SeaCookery boat is currently docked, but I haven’t stopped cooking. A few weeks ago I got reacquainted with some old friends, Steve and Amy. About 24 hours later, Steve emailed and asked if I might be interested in helping him pull off a secret birthday 40th birthday dinner party for Amy in a few weeks’ time.
When we met over coffee to organize our plot, I suggested we add an additional secret: the ingredients. Amy is the owner of a gourmet food and kitchen store in Grand Rapids, and I decided to ‘hide’ one ingredient from her store in each of the dishes.
Steve picked the wines from their cellar and I put together an exotic, globe-trotter of a menu. It was a ton of fun.
Pappedew peppers stuffed with whole anchovies and an artichoke-cottage cheese pate
Peppery parsnip soup topped with crème fraîche and wild mushroom salt
Braised leeks, barely hard-boiled egg, bacon, and butternut squash seed oil
Butternut squash croquettes with tupelo honey and cinnamon
Curried paella with snow crab, shrimp, chicken and pork
Lamb lollipops in a Mexican salt-n-pepper chocolate sauce, with cinnamon candied nuts and fried chilies
Ginger goat cheese cheesecake with a golden raisin compote
The ingredients from the store included:
– White anchovies
– Wild mushroom salt
– Butternut squash seed oil (not cheap, but I highly recommend you go out and get some)
– Tupelo honey
– Masala curry dip (I used this dip seasoning to coat the shrimp and the chicken before searing – so good)
– You can buy these racks of 16 lamb lollipops at Amy’s store. They take only a few minutes on both sides on the grill. High heat seals the outside and keeps the flavor in.
– Mexican salt and pepper chocolate (I was able to make a savory sauce for the lamb by simply adding milk to these chocolate disks and melting them in a pot. I added a little more salt and pepper, and you could add cinnamon and cayenne for a more intense mole-like experience.)
– Ginger juice (I bought this a while ago, before deciding to use it in the cheesecake – it makes a great little cocktail when mixed with bourbon)
– Effie’s homemade oat cakes (I used these to make the crust)
– Fig and golden raisin mostarda (used to top the cheesecake)
You can also get goat cheese and pappedew peppers at Amy’s store – and, as I discovered after multiple trips, an excellent wine selection. If you live in West Michigan and are buying wine at Meijer, stop. Amy is a sommelier with an well-trained palate and can help you pick out a bottle to suit any pocketbook.