"Omigod what is that?" It's hard to miss the giant pastry centrepiece on the dining room table when we arrive at the home of Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin'. Pressed into the top are pastry decorations of Christmas trees with tinsel and doves mid-flight. It's magnificent and awe inspiring. "Don't worry. You'll see more of that later," Pig Flyin' says mysteriously.
And that was our introduction to the Stomachs Eleven Christmas dinner for 2014. It always astounds me that this amazing couple have no commercial cooking qualifications or industry experience. They're home cooks with a zealous approach to food and an unsurpassed level of generosity to feed their family and friends. And we're so grateful for it.
Homemade seasoned seaweed
We start with pre-dinner snacks: homemade seasoned seaweed that tastes just like the seasoned packets you get from Korean grocery stores. Mrs Pig Flyin' explains it's easy to do. Simply moisten one sheet of nori seaweed with a little water, press another sheet on top, and then deep fry until crispy. It bubbles and blisters into the umami treat you know so well. We dip this into a dollop of Kewpie mayonnaise on the side for extra deliciousness.
Homemade pork crackling
There's homemade pork crackling too, sheets of dried pork skin deep-fried until crispy. We're crunching like happy campers.
White chocolate spheres with foie gras
Dinner starts with white chocolate spheres, not the first thing you'd expect until we're told they have foie gras inside.
White chocolate spheres with foie gras, amaretto cherry syrup and fennel flower
We ooh and ahh over their prettiness, each orb garnished with fennel flowers freshly picked from the Pigflyin' garden.
The crisp shell shatters and gives way to a cube of foie gras that melts in the mouth. Hidden at the bottom is a puddle of amaretto cherry syrup that works perfectly with the foie gras. I recognise the white chocolate spheres as part of Pigflyin's haul from the recent Simon Johnson sale but using these for foie gras, and not dessert, is wicked genius.
Crispy duck skin wafters with foie gras
We're in for more foie with crispy duck skin topped with whipped foie gras. The duck skin crackers are breathtakingly beautiful. Sheets of duck skin pressed and then roasted until they crisp up like brittle duck crackling. It's so good I want to cry.
Burrawong Gaian duck heart with candied rhubarb on homegrown red shiso
We move onto duck hearts from pasture-reared ducks reared by Burrawong Gaian on the mid north coast. The heartiness of the duck hearts is offset by the sweetness of candied rhubarb, served on beds on homegrown red shiso leaves that give a faint aniseed flavour.
Monaka (最中) wafers with foie gras
We're all intrigued by the arrival of the monaka wafers, crisp shells that are made from mochi pounded rice cakes.
Side view of the monaka crackers sandwiched with foie gras
Pigflyin' tells us he sourced the wafers direct from Japan using Amazon. Usually these wafers are filled with adzuki red bean paste and eaten as a snack. They can also be stuffed with sesame seed paste, chestnut paste, mochi rice cakes or ice cream.
Monaka crackers with foie gras, nanazuke pickles and pineapple jam
Pigflyin' says this is his copycat attempt of the signature dish at Jimocho Den in Tokyo. This amuse bouche is served at the start of every meal. He's yet to actually eat there - the restaurant is tiny and reservations are rarer than hen's teeth.
Inside the wafer package is a large slice of foie, nanazuke pickle and a small dollop of homemade pineapple jam. Nanazuke pickles are native to Nara - Pigflyin picked up a jar of these in Kyoto on one of his recent trips.
Together it works oh so well. The wafer is so light and airy, a textural foil for the creaminess of foie accented by the sweetness of pineapple and the pickled bite of the nanazuke.
Tonight's foie has come from a half lobe of Rougie semi-cooked foie gras de canard.
Eggs on toast: homemade black pudding with quail eggs
Eggs on toast is the kind of breakfast I'd like every day. It's an assembly of Pigflyin's homemade black pudding with a fried quail egg on Melba toast. The black pudding is lusciously soft, sweet and fragrant. The quail eggs were home-reared too.
Mud crab and tomato terrine
The mud crab and tomato terrine is a wonder of engineering mastery. Mrs Pig Flyin' was the chief engineer for this dish, the hand-picked crab encased with poached roma tomatoes and tomato water.
Hand-picked live mud crab terrine encased in tomato and tomato water
The hand-picked live mud crab has been bound with blue swimmer crab stock. The vibrant colour of the tomatoes is mesmerising.
Mud crab terrine encased in tomato with purslane
To serve, the terrine is sliced and then covered with fresh purslane. "I cannot go without the current practice of salad covering protein," Pig Flyin' jokes.
The lemony flavour of the purslane is an ideal match for the sweetness of the crab, its delicacy enhanced by the soft poached tomato and quivering tomato jelly.
Juice pairing for the mud crab terrine: cucumber, kohlrabi and yuzu juice
Mr and Mr Pig Flyin' have also embraced juice pairing tonight. It's a movement that's taking off across much of northern Europe and is slowly making inroads here. Juice pairing can be more than just apple juice, orange or peach. There's a heightened art form to blending different fruits and vegetables that will enhance your experience of a meal as much as wine.
After much testing and experimenting, our juice pairing with the mud crab terrine is cucumber, kohlrabi and yuzu juice. It's wildly different to what you'd expect. There's the coolness of cucumber, the broccoli-stem nuance of kohlrabi and the lemony kick of yuzu citrus at the end. Together it accents the briny sweetness of the crab so well.
Christmas pâté en croûte
It's time to break open the pâté en croûte. We're all dying of curiosity to see what's inside.
Cutting open the pâté en croûte
A hushed silence falls over the table before we find...
Ta da! Duck and rabbit terrine
... a kick ass duck and rabbit terrine hiding inside all that pastry. Everyone clamours around with cameras and mobile phones while Pig Flyin' casually rattles off every ingredient lovingly placed in the terrine.
Christmas pâté en croûte [from top]:
- duck and pigeon bones with Noble One jus
- rabbit forcemeat
- rabbit liver, loin and kidney
- veal sweetbread, foie gras and brandied figs
- confit chestnut and duck breast
- duck leg forcemeat
Butter and duck fat shortcrust pastry
It's magical. The elaborate construction has been carefully lined with sheets of back fat, hand sliced and flattened by Pig Flyin' and a very obedient steel saucepan. The layer of fat allows the pâté en croûte to mature. This one was matured for six days.
Christmas pâté en croûte aged for six days with homemade pickle and homemade mustard
The pastry itself is jaw-dropping good. It's extremely short and buttery, made with both butter and duck fat bound with eggs. "It was very hard to work with," says Pig Flyin'.
Everything in the terrine is majestically cooked. It's all plump and juicy and well seasoned. The terrine has been tightly compressed. It's the first time that Pig Flyin' has used this terrine tin too, bought from E. Dehillerin several years ago in Paris. Pig Flyin' says "I've been waiting years saving up the courage and doing my research to do this." Um, I think he killed it.
Pouring the next juice pairing
Juice pairing for the Christmas pâté en croûte: kefir fermented carrot, pear and bergamot bitters
Our juice pairing for the pâté en croûte is kefir fermented carrot juice with pear juice and bergamot bitters. There's a gentle fizz from the kefir carrot water, rounded out by the pear juice. Bergamot bitters adds a citrus complexity.
I'm so fascinated by the idea of water kefir that Pig Flyin' ends up giving me some spare kefir grains so I can brew my own probiotic drinks. It's fascinating stuff.
Spaghettini with mussel cream, homemade bottarga and crispy duck croutons
We move onto pasta, a nest of spaghettini smothered with mussel cream that is far tastier than it looks. Wafer thin shavings of homemade bottarga, or cured mullet roe, give a satisfying saltiness. The icing on the cake are crispy duck croutons, made from deep fried duck scratchings that add pops of crunch.
Pigeon, aniseed and watermelon
It's known as squab in French restaurants, but we're not afraid to embrace this bird by its other name, pigeon. The modest assembly of poultry belies its masterful execution. We revel in star anise braised pigeon legs and the most succulent pigeon breast I've ever eaten. Candied rhubarb makes another support act appearance along with a new player, aniseed marinated watermelon. I can't get enough of the watermelon - it's intriguingly good and matches so well with the pigeon. Drizzled over the top is a rich pigeon jus.
Pig Flyin' says this dish was inspired by a menu item served at Alinea several summers ago spotted online but never actually eaten.
Roasted whole cauliflower
Pig Flyin' says they'd panicked when they realised they hadn't included a vegetable side, but we're more than happy with the roasted whole cauliflower, basted generously with butter so the florets take on a caramelised nuttiness.
Sorrel sorbet and parsley granita
Dessert is Pigflyin's take on the famous Evergreen dessert at LuMi. Again it's a dish Pigflyin' hasn't actually eaten, but its omnipresence on Instagram had him intrigued.
His version includes sorrel sorbet and parsley granita, both a vivid green in hue. It's a terrific palate cleanser that works after the richness of the preceding dishes.
Summer trifle [from top]: Italian meringue, passionfruit jelly and panettone
The finale of the meal is a monster of a summer trifle. It's gigantic.
The massive glass enables us to examine every layer of its construction. From the top-down it includes:
- Italian meringue
- dice mango and cubes of passionfruit jelly
- yellow and white peaches with vanilla custard
- panettone with passionfruit curd
- passionfruit jelly and raspberries.
Italian meringue topping
The blow-torched Italian meringue on top is my favourite part.
Homemade umeshu by J&J
J&J also break open their homemade umeshu, a labour of love that's taken them over a year to make using homegrown Japanese plums. The plum wine isn't as sweet as the commercial brands but the taste of plum does shine through.
Lego winter skiers
And if you thought you noticed Lego in the background of earlier photos, you were right. In addition to sous chef duties, K was also responsible for the table decorations. There's a whole series of Lego winter scenes that bring the inner kid out in all of us.
Lego winter village candy store
The carousel is especially wondrous. It actually does rotate if you wind the crank on the side. All that's missing is fairground music.
Whether you're feasting on prawns and ham, a roast turkey with all the trimmings, or fish and chips by the beach, I hope your Christmas is filled with love, appreciation, laughter and extra dessert. Merry Christmas everyone!
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven - Christmas 2013
Stomachs Eleven - Christmas 2012
Stomachs Eleven - Christmas 2011
Stomachs Eleven - Christmas 2010
Stomachs Eleven - Christmas 2008
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12/24/2014 01:44:00 am