Whenever we go to Chicago for a holiday I like to give Christine’s Mom a break by doing the cooking. This time around I tossed a bag of activa in my dopp kit just in case, because the pea soup gnocchi got me thinking about other gnoccification possibilities. Filet of beef was the focus of the meal, so I began by using the activa to glue bacon around it in rings, plus gave it a little rub with salt, pepper, herbs, and coffee. Then the rest of the activa turned a big ol’ tub of ricotta into beautiful gnocchi after a night in the fridge; they browned up perfectly in a little butter, and then I tossed them in parmesan.
For sides, I made arugula-horseradish pesto, brussels sprouts, mashed parsnips with horseradish and vanilla, and shiitake mushrooms cooked with aromatics and a bottle of red wine. Christine’s Aunt brought mashed potatoes. I figured the leftover meat would be sandwiches the next day, so I sliced the filet thickly into steaks so that each one got a slice of bacon around it. We drank a 2004 Château de Saint-Cosme Gigondas and then a 2003 Ceretto Barolo “Zonchera” which I wisely decanted 5 hours before dinner. Both delicious, though the Barolo has more going on in that gorgeous transparent way they have. The next night, the last of it- about a glass- that had sat in the decanter the whole time was even better.
For dessert I poached big pears in a gewurztraminer-vanilla syrup and made a cointreau-lavender-eggnog crème anglaise to go on top, which sounds great (and was yummy) but you try explaining the virtues of that to a bunch of kids when there’s a behemoth of a chocolate cake from the cheesecake factory next to it on the counter.