|Wellie Wellie Bo-Belly, Banana-nana-fo-felly, Be-bai-bo-bel-ly - WELLIE! Photo by Wasabi Prime|
I had almost forgotten the blog's first birthday! Does Hallmark make cards for that?! 'Twas the Kismet of pantry cooking that reminded me I had started Wasabi Prime a year ago, in January 2009, writing a post about my first attempt at making an epic loaf of Beef Wellington. Originally starting out on Vox because of their easy templates, I was the poster child of blog-unsavviness. I had read a wise post on Twitter that the definition of humble pie is to read the first few posts you've ever written -- so true! Three hundred and sixty five (and change) days later, I've made leaps and bounds to be only marginally less-unsavvy. I'm the last person in the world to say that this blog is anything more than hastily scribbled ponderings over stuff I jam into my gaping maw. But I will admit that writing this blog has cast a level of accountability over what we prepare and eat in our home. It has influenced our choices and kept us from falling too far into the easy path of take-out or drive-thru -- not that we don't enjoy it, we just view it more as a treat than a regular option. Ultimately, the food has to come from somewhere; if I'm craving a hamburger, would I derive any less pleasure by making it at home and having more control over ingredients and how it's flavored? Sure, it's more effort, but it will be custom-made deliciousness and I can continue to annoy Mr. Wasabi by shouting, "wait, I need to take a picture!" before we take a bite out of anything. That's true love, baby.
|Meaty cheesy veggie deliciousness - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
Beef Wellington doesn't exactly sound like a typical meal to make from a rummage through the pantry and fridge, but given the supply of luxe leftovers we've had through the holidays, the dish seemed like a perfect MacGyver-Meal fit for New Year's Day. We had leftover herbed goat cheese and a few scoops of mascarpone from Christmas, a lone slab of puff pastry from a baked brie and I defrosted some frozen steaks and chopped spinach in our freezer. I had gotten the idea of layering spinach and cheese from the Celebrated Chefs cookbook, more specifically Maxililien's Chef Christian Potvin's Wild Salmon Coulibiac recipe, which used wild salmon fillets baked in pockets of puff pastry, spinach and goat cheese. I could have picked up fresh salmon easily enough but I realized we have ample-stocked freezers, and it's not like we're saving steaks for a rainy day. That would be weird.
The steaks were trimmed of extra fat, cut into quarters and seared with some salt and pepper, but left extra rare, knowing the steaks would finish cooking in the oven. I didn't want us to suffer through protein hockey pucks for dinner, so the more raw the center was, the better. The pan was deglazed and the spinach was given a light toss with some shallots. Making the assembly line of meat, spinach, cheese, and pieces of plastic wrap, each little bundle was layered and wrapped so that they could sit in the refrigerator to firm up before being wrapped in the pastry dough. Compared to a more traditional Beef Wellington that uses a whole beef tenderloin, I prefer making the little Wellies. You don't get the same visual satisfaction of served slices showing off the internal layering, but the shortened cook time of smaller food parcels and individual serving sizes are nice. For plating, I let the mini-Wellies rest and still cut them into slices prior to serving, so the inside layers can be seen.
|I have a bun in the oven. And it's delicious. - Photos by Mr. and Ms. Wasabi|
For the sauce, I used some quartered button mushrooms sauteed in butter, a leftover merlot from Christmas, the spinach filling that didn't get used in the Wellies, and a special leftover ingredient: vanilla balsamic-soaked figs. These tart little gems were strained out of a fig and vanilla balsamic vinegar that I made for Mr. Wasabi for Christmas. I reserved the figs and knew they would serve us well at some point, and they made for a nice tartness with the mushroom and wine sauce. I added a little sugar to balance out the acidity and it went nicely with the Wellies.
It was a bit of a thrown-together meal, picking and choosing ideas from recipes, and it's the kind of cooking I enjoy best. I'll follow a recipe to understand a technique or comfort with a particular ingredient, but then it's a fly-by-the-seat-of-one's-pants kitchen experience, converting the experiences gleaned from recipes into tools for future cooking adventures. I'd like to believe that's the whole point behind cooking, building a knowledge base, one dish at a time, whether a person does it as a profession or a hobby. That's the nice thing about food -- it's not exclusive, nor does it need to be financially restrictive, and it's a collective experience that we indulge in every day.
|Have a slice of birthday... custard...? - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
Since it was New Year's Day, plus an anniversary of sorts, we made sure to have dessert. I followed through with my resolution to make something with rice flour, settling on my mother's mochiko custard recipe, noted in the last post of 2009. Sorry there wasn't a candle in it, nor were there any birthday songs sung. Not even a funny hat! But I'm sure the blog didn't mind. It's still just a baby, after only a year of learning new things, and I hope to have many more posts to come. Here's to another year of Wasabi Prime!