Cool dishes for
formal summer dining
By Linda Gabris
Issue #94 • July/August, 2005
If you're an upland hunter who enjoys showing off your birds in gourmet fashion, here is a supreme main course creation that will earn the highest praise. There are dozens of ways to showcase grouse but I must admit that this recipe earns the biggest raves at my table.
But don't fret if you're not a bird hunter or your grouse are all used up by the time warm weather dining rolls around, for you can make this dish out of chicken breasts and it will be equally delicious.
Grouse Chaudfroid is a delightful, colorful creation of cold grouse or chicken breasts jacketed in creamy smooth sauce and garnished with a refreshing glaze of tomato aspic. It makes a grand centerpiece for a buffet or picnic table and is perfect for hot weather dining. It can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated until serving time.
No feast is complete without a vegetable offering and for this meal my pick is sweet raspberried carrots. This colorful creation lifts plain old carrots to exciting new heights and when made with baby carrots from the garden it's a veggie dish that's truly hard to beat.
In my book, nothing complements grouse chaudfroid better than a fresh picked wilderness salad. Two of my favorite picks from Mother Nature's pantry for the salad bowl are tender dandelion leaves and fragrant rose petals. Together they make an eye-pleasing and mouthwatering salad especially when dressed with homemade balsamic dressing that's as easy as one, two, three.
For the crowning glory to this feast, deliver a heavenly dessert that I call Wild Strawberry Cloud. Again, don't fret if wild strawberries are not within your reach for you can make do with tame pick when you have too.
To really do it right, toast this wonderful summer feast with a chilled bottle of white wine. My choice would be a well-aged bottle of homemade dandelion or stinging nettle wine from my own cellar but any bright white will complement the meal nicely.
White chaudfroid sauce: Chaudfroid means hot-cold in French and this mouthwatering sauce gives poultry or fish a glossy, creamy coat. Make the sauce first.
1-¾ cups light cream
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 envelope gelatin (2 Tbsp.)
3 Tbsp. boiling water
salt and white pepper to taste
Mix the first three ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and let rest five minutes. Strain into a bowl and discard the bay leaf and peppercorns. In a pan, melt the butter. Add the flour, stirring into a smooth paste. Slowly add the hot cream, blending well. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer two minutes. Put three tablespoons of boiling water in soup bowl and sprinkle it with gelatin. When dissolved, stir into the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
1 envelope gelatin (2 Tbsp.)
3 Tbsp. hot water
¾ cup tomato juice
pinch each salt, celery salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
Put hot water in a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Add the tomato juice and seasonings. Stir until blended. Put in the fridge to set while preparing the grouse.
Preparing the birds:
4 or 5 whole grouse or chicken breasts, split and boned
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper
¼ cup butter
strips of red or yellow bell pepper and chives or green onions to garnish
Quickly blanch the breasts in boiling water. Drain and pat dry. Sprinkle with the seasonings. Melt the butter and sauté 20 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a wire rack underlined with tinfoil and cool. Using a spoon, lightly coat each piece with chaudfroid sauce and let set until firm, about 10 minutes. Repeat twice.
Arrange the breasts on a platter and decorate with red or yellow pepper strips and chives or green onion. Spoon the setting tomato aspic over the grouse. Put in the fridge 20 minutes. Take out and spoon on the remaining aspic. Chill until ready to serve. This recipe can be halved or doubled to suit your needs.
Sweet raspberried carrots
Here's a vegetable dish that is as pretty as it is good. And it is super easy to make. I use homemade jam made from wild raspberries but you can use store-bought jam if you don't have homemade on hand.
6 whole carrots, scrubbed
½ cup raspberry jam
3 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. fresh snipped dill (or a pinch of dried dill)
Scrub the carrots and steam until just fork tender. Drain and arrange on a platter. Bring the remaining ingredients, except the dill, to a boil and cook, stirring constantly until thick. Pour over the carrots. Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate until serving time. Just before serving, sprinkle with the dill. This is a wonderful way to dress up carrots for a party platter.
Dandelion and wild rose petal salad
You can enjoy dandelion leaves from their first appearance in springtime right up until the spine in the leaves go milky and turn bitter toward middle and later parts of summer but even at this time, there should still be some tender pick to fill the bowl with.
Pick as many young dandelion leaves as you will need to fill your favorite formal salad bowl. While out in the woodlands also gather about one cup of wild rose buds or petals.
Rose buds and petals are available from earlier parts of spring until about June or early July depending on the area, at which time they go into fruit known as hips. If using buds, force open and use the pink folds inside.
Hips can be seeded (make sure you do not eat the seeds as they have tiny hairs that can irritate the stomach), chopped and added to autumn salad bowls for pretty color and extra nutrition.
Separately wash the pickings under cold running water and pat dry on paper towels.
Put in paper bags and store in the vegetable crisper until ready to toss.
Just before serving, tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and toss with the petals. You can use any dressing you wish but my favorite recipe is below.
Easy balsamic dressing: Measure following ingredients into a clean jar:
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup virgin olive oil
8 Tbsp. liquid honey
3 cloves crushed garlic
¼ tsp. of salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Put a lid on the jar and shake until blended. Allow to stand at room temperature for at least an hour for flavors to infuse. This dressing will save up to a month in the refrigerator so you can make larger batches, if you wish.
Wild Strawberry Cloud
The meringue-base of this heavenly dessert is similar to that of Australia's noted creation, Pavlova. This sweet dessert is named after Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who performed the dying swan in Swan Lake while touring the country. When crowned with wild strawberries instead of traditional kiwi or other tropical fruits, the delicacy takes a new name.
The Cloud-Meringue base:
4 large egg whites at room temperature
pinch of salt
¼ tsp. cream of tarter
1-¼ cups sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. corn starch and an additional Tbsp. for dusting
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Grease a baking sheet and dust with cornstarch. Using your finger, trace an eight-inch circle in middle of the sheet and set aside.
Sprinkle the egg whites with the salt and cream of tartar and beat in a large deep bowl until the mixture holds soft peaks. Continue beating while gradually adding the sugar, then the vinegar and vanilla. Beat until very stiff and glossy. Gently fold in the cornstarch.
Spread the meringue on the circle, piling higher around the rim to form a bowl to hold the cream filling.
Reduce the heat to 200° F. Bake for one hour then turn off the oven, leaving the meringue inside the oven to cool, completely away from any draft.
1-¼ cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. Grand Marnier (or 1 tsp. orange extract)
In a chilled bowl, beat the cream until it begins to thicken. Gradually beat in the sugar and flavoring. Continue beating until stiffly whipped. Set in the fridge until needed.
Assembling: Just before serving, transfer the cloud to a serving plate using a spatula. Spoon the cream filling into the case. Crown with one cup of wild or sliced tame strawberries. Serve at once.
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