Monday, August 3, 2009

Coronado Concerts in the Park - Journey to Russia

"Russian cuisine derives its rich and varied character from the vast and multicultural expanse of Russia. Its foundations were laid by the peasant food of the rural population in an often harsh climate, with a combination of plentiful fish, poultry, game, mushrooms, berries, and honey. Crops of rye, wheat, barley, and millet provided the ingredients for a plethora of breads, pancakes, cereals, kvass, beer, and vodka. Flavourful soups and stews are centered on seasonal or storable produce, fish, and meats. This wholly native food remained the staple for the vast majority of Russians well into the 20th century.

Russia's great expansions of territory, influence, and interest during the 16th–18th centuries brought more refined foods and culinary techniques. It was during this period that smoked meats and fish, pastry cooking, salads and green vegetables, chocolate, ice cream, wines, and liquor were imported from abroad. At least for the urban aristocracy and provincial gentry, this opened the doors for the creative integration of these new foodstuffs with traditional Russian dishes. The result is extremely varied in technique, seasoning, and combination.

From the time of Catherine the Great, every family of influence imported both the products and personnel—mainly German, Austrian, and French—to bring the finest, rarest, and most creative foods to their table. This is nowhere more evident than in the exciting, elegant, highly nuanced, and decadent repertoire of the Franco-Russian chef. Many of the foods that are considered in the West to be traditionally Russian actually come from the Franco-Russian cuisine of the 18th and 19th centuries, and include such widespread dishes as Veal Orloff, Beef Stroganoff, and Chicken Kiev." [from Wikipedia].

Handsomely sporting his ushanka, John kicked it up notch with Emeril's Smoked Sturgeon Napoleon with Caviar Cream & Lemon Gastrique, a must have for any posh Russian picnic in the park! We were able to find smoked sturgeon at Continent European Deli in La Jolla.

We've managed to attract quite a crowd of food gawkers these days, all curious about our theme for the week and fascinated by the elaborate plating going on at our table.

John had everything organized to make assembly of his Napoleons a breeze: Freshly baked Puff Pastry triangles neatly stacked in a Tupperware container, Caviar Cream carefully spooned into a pastry bag, Lemon Gastrique poured into a squeeze bottle, smoked sturgeon cut to fit the Puff Pastry triangles, and extra caviar and chives for garnish.

We always do a test plating at home, for photographing and tasting purposes

After John's exquisite first course, Alec razzle-dazzled us with Chicken Kiev, courtesy of Alton Brown. Compound butter (butter, tarragon and parsley) and a teaspoon of Panko bread crumbs is placed in the center of each pounded breast before it is tightly rolled, dipped in an egg mixture, rolled in additional Panko, and cooked in oil until golden brown. The chicken was crispy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside, and the tarragon came through very nicely.

Some say Chicken Kiev was conceived by the French inventor Nicolas Appert in the 18th century; others claim it was created at private club in Moscow in 1912. Either way, Alec, it was fabulicious! Good Eats!

Earlier, while Alec was busy preparing his Chicken Kiev at home, Nina was kneading and rolling dough for her Moscow Ponchiki, scrumptious Russian donuts for teatime.

For our group, they were scrumptious Russian donuts for Vodka time. We sampled St. Petersburg vodka (I've got an "in" with the vodka maker). St. Petersburg was granted a 94 point rating by the Beverage Tasting Institute in 2008 and is locally available at Bristol Farms in La Jolla. It's very smooth and competitively priced.

Jack & Sandra unveiled this nice basket loaded with Roast Beef & Havarti Sandwiches on toasted pumpernickel, with a horseradish-chive spread.

Pammy, back from a relaxing vacation in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, resumed her role as Salad Queen and tossed together Savannah Tearoom Chicken Salad with homemade Russian Dressing. Rumor has it that the "Russian" title comes from the fact that earlier versions of this dressing contained caviar.

Bradley also whipped up a batch of homemade Russian Dressing for his salad, featuring radishes, olives, eggs, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Sparks hopelessly attempted to disguise the Colonel on her ubiquitous bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken... You can lead the girl to the kitchen, but you can't make her cook!

Our menu also included Cynthia's Beet Salad, with Peas and Cucumber; Madeleine's Double Chocolate Brownies; and Rich's Potato Pierogi, which he proudly proclaimed were steamed over vodka. I wonder if that would be considered alcohol abuse?

I've been wanting to make Pierogi for some time, and am now even more inspired. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen looks tasty.

Since John was the featured Russian chef in our kitchen this week, I decided to try my hand at Profiteroles with Coffee Pastry Cream & Black Russian Chocolate Sauce.

These were surprisingly easy to make. I transported the Profiteroles to the park in Tupperware, with my own pastry bag filled with pastry cream and squeeze bottle filled with Kahlua-Vodka sauce.

I followed Ina Garten's recipe from Barefoot in Paris, which is also available here. For the chocolate sauce, I simply added a splash of Kahlua and vodka, in place of the honey and coffee. Ina's recipe for Pastry Cream, from Barefoot in Paris, can also be found here. I followed her recipe, but added a few drops of LorAnn's super strength coffee flavored oil.

Another relaxing evening in the park. This summer is just flying by!

Everyone sends a big hello to Kai, Hill, Max & Olivia in Germany! Bring back some German goodies!


Cynthia Luvlee said...

What a wonderful space you have created! I loved joining you for a spectacular night of tasty treats. The official name of the Beet Salad has been revealed as "Venigzet (Behurpet)" Now I'm not surprised I didn't remember that! Have a fabulous week!

Kai said...

What a tasty looking spread! Cool hat, too. Sorry me missed it; but thanks to you we can at least enjoy it by proxy (5 percent of the fun with none of the calories!)
Max and Livi say hi!

Anonymous said...

Denise & John, Beautiful blog, great photos (although the one picture of Brad a few entries back might frighten the children). I will come by scrounging for leftovers after the concert. Jack