Friends. They're the people who make you laugh, are always ready to lend a hand, and - in my case in particular - never complain when you take a photo of their meal. In 2008, a motley group of my friends gathered for a home-cooked dinner. We had such fun we decided we'd take turns hosting dinners, calling ourselves Stomachs Eleven. The first dinner was at the home of Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin, and truth be told, over time we have consistently ended up eating there the most. Not only are they incredible homecooks, but they are always so welcoming and hospitable. They always volunteer to cook Christmas dinner, an event we all secretly look forward to every year.
Baby radishes with homemade bagna cauda
We start with baby radishes and bagna cauda, the juicy crunch of vegetables acting as the perfect carriage for the salty anchovy hit, combined with lashings of butter.
Much of my attention is on the platter of beef tendon puffs and beef tripe puffs. I first had beef tendon puffs at Animal in LA and have been obsessed with them ever since. Making these is no easy effort, a convoluted process that involves slow cooking, slicing, dehydrating and then deep frying. The beef tripe puffs have no offal taste at all. The beef tendon puffs are like the beef version of pork scratchings.
Homemade sourdough by J-boy
J-boy has brought along his amazing homemade sourdough which Pig Flyin serves with his homemade kefir butter, virgin butter and chicken jus butter - inspired by Automata of course.
Cherry tomatoes from the Pigflyin garden
This year's table centrepiece is both decorative and functional - hanging cherry tomato vines that we plunder throughout the evening as we please.
Homemade kingfish pastrami and apple slaw
Homemade kingfish pastrami was made using a Mark Best recipe I passed on after attending his class at the Sydney Seafood School. It's amazing how the kingfish transforms after curing, and Pig Flyin's combination with apple slaw works so well.
Hakurei turnip "sandwich" with homemade mullet roe and homegrown shiso leaves
These Hakurei turnip sandwiches looked just like the ubiquitous bao at first glance. Instead we are rewarded with crunchy turnip slices paired with salty batons of homemade mullet roe against aromatic shiso leaves.
Monaka wafer shells
Filling the monaka shells with foie gras, cucumber narazuke and Amarena cherries
Monaka wafers are usually used to hold sweet red bean fillings in Japan. Instead Pig Flyin directed sous chef silvrlily to sandwich these with foie gras, cucumber narazuke and Amarena cherries.
Foie gras wafers
Those luscious chunks of foie gras were incredible, enhanced by the sweetness of those Amarena cherries.
Veal heart tartare on homemade linseed crackers
Veal heart tartare (sourced from Feather and Bone) is surprisingly spicy, dressed with fermented chilli sauce, pickled fennel and fried capers. The homemade linseed crackers added a delicate crunch, and chive and parsley flowers were ever so pretty.
And in among all this, we had options of juice pairings which I neglected to photograph. This year's juices all included tea infusions which Pig Flyin says helps pare back the sweetness and "brings a subtle but complex profile with tannins". The snacks are paired with a bright green juice made from snow peas, cucumber, cos lettuce and bergamot. They used a cold press juicer - you could really taste the snow peas!
Fresh soft curd
In our first savoury course, Pig Flyin made his own fresh soft curd using milk and vegetarian rennet. It looks just like tofu fah, the sweet tofu dessert you get at yum cha.
Homemade soft curd with oca and tarragon oil
I love this dish much more than I thought I would, the curds reminding me of junket. It tastes like an unsweetened soft milk pudding, made savoury here with tarragon oil and oxalis, pleasantly sour leaves that taste similar to sorrel.
Homegrown cherry tomatoes in the kitchen
All the action happens in the kitchen of course. It's no surprise that I usually nab the seat nearest to the kitchen for behind-the-scene photos.
Blowtorching the pancetta
Char grilled fresh peas, homemade buttermilk and pancetta
All too often, dishes are more complex than they seem. When we comment on the smokiness of the peas, we found out they were chargrilled in their pods over charcoal before podding. The fresh peas are smoky and juicy, draped with a blowtorched blanket of fatty pancetta. There's a comforting coolness from the puddle of homemade buttermilk and then accents of zing from the tarragon oil.
Pig Flyin bought his peas from farmer Phil Lavers who runs the organically certified Moonacre Farm in Fitzroy Falls in the Southern Highlands.
Steamed cuttlefish bundles
Adding fresh squid ink to each plate
Cuttlefish gnocchi with squid ink and prawn oil
Cuttlefish gnocchi hold little bundles of sweet prawn, surrounded by prawn oil and fresh squid ink. Everyone ends up getting black stained lips and tongues after eating this dish but it's worth it. The squid is so tender, steamed at 65C.
The three courses of fresh soft curd, sweet peas with pancetta and cuttlefish gnocchi are paired with a jasmine tea and pink lady juice. The Mariage Freres jasmine white tea tea was cold infused in a concentrated form and then combined with cold pressed pink lady juice. This is such a refreshing drink, the gentle tartness of pink lady perfumed with heady scent of jasmine.
Grilling scarlet prawns over charcoal
Charcoal grilled scarlet prawns with seaweed flakes
We can smell the scarlet prawns as soon as they hit the, er, charcoal barbie. Scarlet prawns are a rare treat, especially the prawn heads which are packed with meaty brains. Of course we eat them clean! The addition of seaweed flakes enhances their briney sweetness.
Finishing the slow-roasted muscovy duck over charcoal
Chargrilled gem lettuce hearts
Roasted Muscovy duck with chargrilled gem lettuce hearts and grilled blackberries
Our final savoury course is roast duck, a late winter Muscovy from Burrawong Gaian. The duck legs were removed, deboned, rolled and cooked separately. Grilled blackberries add just the right amount of tart sweetness, and I relish the gem lettuce hearts, chargrilled and then braised in duck jus.
The final savoury courses are paired with a Mariage Freres Grand Cru darjeeling and rhubarb juice, almost reminiscent of wine with its savoury notes.
Chocolate crepe cake with chestnut mousse and a chocolate mirror glaze
Dessert is a show stopper. All conversation halts once we spy the chocolate crepe cake emerging from the kitchen. Mrs Pig Flyin had dutifully made 21 chocolate crepes which Pig Flyin then assembled with layers of chestnut mousse spiked with dark rum. The mirror glaze has such an incredible sheen, and it's not overly sweet either.
21 layers of crepe
And now it's Christmas Eve and the year has almost come to an end! I hope you all have a terrific break, wherever you are, and whoever you're with. On Christmas Day, I'll be having a much less fancy lunch with family that will involve oysters, prawns and the classic Aussie pav. What will you be eating?
Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone!
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven Christmas - 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008
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12/24/2015 02:38:00 am