To The Nines

I have not been feeling it in the kitchen- and by extension, here- at all lately; it’s pretty much the norm when I have momentum in the studio (and I have a lot right now.) So on Saturday I ground gears pretty badly trying to get from studio mind to kitchen mind in time to make dinner for Liz and Duncan. It all came together, which was kind of a surprise given the haphazard approach I took. And they brought a 2-part dessert in addition to the one I made. So we had that going for us.

The first course was just a clear broth made from duck neck and offal plus fennel, leek, carrot, onion, ginger, serrano, anise, and clove. It was chilly that night, as it continues to be, so a little bowl of hot and spicy liquid was a nice way to begin. We opened a 1989 Moulin Touchais Côteaux de Layon; it’s made with 20% under-ripe and 80% super-ripe grapes so the acidity from the 20% balances out the sweetness of the rest and makes for a fascinating non-desserty sweet wine that can age forever (they guarantee it for 100 years.)

The wine continued, since I designed the first courses around its affinity for spicy yet delicate food. Course two was sake-steamed king crab legs on a curried cauliflower-dashi gel with a sauce of mussel cooking liquid from a few nights ago; I had steamed them with sake, fresh yuzu juice and peel, garlic, and lemon thyme. To this I added a little ponzu and a drop of agave nectar, and then stick-blended it with Ultratex 8 to make it nice and thick. To complete the plate, a mixture of spirulina, salt, sugar, 5-spice, and sudachi zest plus minced serrano chile as a garnish. This all worked together way better than I had any right to expect.

Next up, a duck smoked on our own applewood with sweet potato gnocchi, dandelion mash (with garlic, ume plums, truffle and olive oils, and lemon juice) and homemade barbecue sauce sweetened with shiro plum-infused sake. To save the whole rolling and cutting step, I just put the gnocchi dough in the pastry bag and cut them right into the boiling water like the pros do. Worked like a charm. To match with this rich and assertive plate- we added kimchi after the picture- a 1999 La Poderina Brunello which performed as admirably as I had suspected it would. These 99s are really something right now.

Then, their dessert: apple compote with coconut ice cream (made from fresh coconut meat and water, with no dairy) and toasted walnuts. Liz really has a thing with these vegan desserts, especially for a non-vegan. And last, as a sort of palate-cleanser, my blood orange-grapefruit sorbet with lemon thyme. A clean finish to a delightful meal- it actually made me miss cooking like this, but probably not enough for me to return to it too often in the near future.

6 comments to To The Nines

  • Brittany

    I’m first I win.

    Your sorbet intrigues me. Did you infuse your simple syrup with lemon thyme? I did a honey lemon thyme sorbet a couple of years ago and thought it would have been really good if I’d ditched the honey…

    PS- my word verification was tienencini…Obsurdly long and difficult when It’s midnight, my glasses are in the other room, and I’m trying to sober up.

  • Jen of A2eatwrite

    I find the same thing – I’m far less on my blog when my “real” writing is going well.

    At the moment, I’m recovering from a really horrendous flu, so I’m not doing anything very well.

    Except sleeping.

  • Heather

    If I hadn’t broken my toe, I’d be another chapter into my book and woulda posted my failure pile brunch from Sunday. Now it’ll all just hafta wait.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the sweetness of crab with fatty shreds of duck (for my gumbo on Saturday). You win this round.

  • The Spiteful Chef

    The broth with the fennel in that bowl is perfect. It’s so natural, almost like looking at a fishless koi pond. Gorgeous.

  • Brooke

    Okay, everything looks beautiful and sounds delicious (except the kimchi). Honestly though, how much time did you have to spend in the kitchen? Cuz I’m only good for about two good courses. You make me seem exceptionally lazy, and I kinda hate you for it.

  • peter

    Brittany: Honey is kind of overpowering. I used agave, so I simmered a little of the juice with it and thyme before I chilled it all together.

    Jen: I hope you’re all better now.

    Blanche: Well, it’s been a week now; that toe must really be dragging you down.

    Kristie: Thanks; I used these bowls again last night and they awakened my hankering for more pottery-making.

    Brooke: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: making other people feel bad is the whole point of cooking.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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