Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ladies Lunch Menu for Four

I cooked this luncheon for my grandmother and her three guests - the former Philippine ambassador to France, the owner of the best pastry shop in town, and my mother. I met the former ambassador when I was studying French cuisine in Paris a long time ago. She would call and ask for recipes I learned at school so she could serve it at her dinner functions. I wonder if she ever did use them?

Puree of Black Bean Soup with Sour Cream & Toasted Cumin Seeds
(adapted from The Culinary Institute of America's Book of Soups)

Mustard Chicken on a Bed of Greens
(adapted from Le Cordon Bleu's Classic French Cookbook)

Chocolate Meringue Gateau
(from Le Cordon Bleu's Classic French Cookbook)

Puree of Black Bean Soup
The original recipe included chopped tomato and scallions as a garnish with the sour cream. Instead, I placed a dollop of sour cream on the soup and sprinkled it with toasted cumin seeds, giving the dish an Indian flavor instead of a Mexican one.

1 lb dry black beans
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped fine (about 2.5 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1.25 cups)
2 quarts vegetable broth (may use chicken broth)
sachet: 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1-inch slice fresh ginger, 1 dry hot chili, and 4-5 parsley stems tied in a cheesecloth pouch
1/4 cup calamansi juice or 1 lemon, juiced
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tsp cumin seeds, dry toasted

Place beans in a large pot and pour enough water to cover by at least 3 inches. Bring to a boil, then remove fromthe heat. cover and soak, 1 hour. Drain the beans and set aside.

Heat the olice oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, leeks and onions. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the beans, broth and sachet. Bring to a simmer and cook covered until the beans are tender, 1-1.5 hours. From time to time stir down the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to prevent the beans from sticking.

Toast cumin seeds in a small pan over medium heat, being carefull not to burn the seeds.

Remove the sachet and discard. Puree the soup in blender. Return to soup pot and bring back to a simmer. Just before serving, stir in the calamansi or lemon juice, season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with sour cream and toasted cumin seeds.

Mustard Chicken
The original recipe called for grilling the marinated chicken. I roasted mine in a turbo-broiler which made the succulent chicken quite tender and crisp on the outside. An alternative would be to roast the chicken on a grill in a roasting pan in a conventional oven.

1 chicken, weighing about 1 kg.
180 ml (6 fl oz) lemon or calamansi juice
75 ml (2.5 fl oz) olive oil
salt & pepper
3.5 tbsp Dijon mustard

With the breast of the bird down, split open the chicken by cutting along both sides of the backbone. Cut along the carcass, removing and discarding all the bones except the leg and wing tips. Open the chicken out flat, skin side up, and press it down with the heal of your hand to flatten.

Mix the lemon juice and oil, pour over the chicken and leave to marinate for 2 hours.

Brush the chicken liberally with mustard and season with salt. Roast the chicken in a turbo broiler, set at 350 degrees F, for 20 minutes or until the juices run clear and skin is crisp.

Remove the chicken from the heat and brush lightly with more mustard. Cut in four pieces. Serve on salad greens tossed with favorite dressing. I used a simple vinaigrette.

Chocolate Meringue Gateau
Probably the most difficult part of making this gateau is making the chocolate cigarettes for decoration, especially in a tropical kitchen with out airconditioning. But, with a little ingenuity, it is indeed possible.

for the almond meringue
100 g ground almonds
100 g confectioner's sugar
3.5 tbsp milk
7 egg whites
350 g granulated sugar

for the chocolate mousse
150 g dark chocolate, cut into pieces
250 g (2 sticks) butter
4 eggs, separated
45 g granulated sugar

for the decoration
500 g couverture chocolate
5 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven 250 edgrees F (Gas 1/2).

Make the almond meringue: mix together the almonds, icing sugar and milk. Whisk the egg whites with the granulated sugar to a stiff meringue, then gently fold into the almond mixture.

Put the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle (I used the bag without a nozzle). Pipe three 9-inch rounds on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper. Cook in preheated oven for 1.5 hours. Leave to cool.

Make the mousse: melt the chocolate in a bowl set in a bain marie (or use a double boiler). Remove from the hot water. Add the butter and stir until melted and completely incorporated, then mix in the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites with the sugar to a stiff meringue and fold into the mixture. Set aside in a cool place (chill in the refrigerator).

Set one of the meringue rounds in the bottom of a 10-inch springform tin. Add enough chocolate mousse to half fill the tin. Set another meringue round on top and cover with half the remaining mousse. Place the third meringue round on top and cover with the remaining mousse.

Prepare the decoration: melt the couverture chocolate in a bowl set in a bain marie, then stir in the oil. At this point, you ar einstructed to pour the chocolate on to a marble surface and leave to chill slightly. This will never happen in a tropical country. So, I poured a thin layer of the chocolate into baking pans and placed them in the fridge until hardened.

Scrape the chocolate into "cigarettes" or small fans with a palette knife.

Remove the side of the springform tin. Smooth the top and cover the sides of the gateau with the mousse, then decorate the top and sides with the chocolate cigarettes. Place back in the fridge until ready to serve.