Monday, November 26, 2012

Electrolux masterclass: Peter Gilmore's festive Christmas menu

At a month away, it's certainly not too early to be talking Christmas. But who has thought about Christmas dinner or lunch menus as yet?

Fear not, Peter Gilmore,  Electrolux cooking ambassador and executive chef of three-hatted Quay Restaurant, is happy to share some tips for stress-free (or at least stress-reduced) Christmas cooking.

Peter Gilmore for the Electrolux Masterclass, Quay Restaurant, Circular Quay
To me, Christmas food is synonymous with sunshine, children's laughter, water fights, the ripping of wrapping paper and a little bit of indulgence. So whether it's the full roast, a seafood feast or outdoor barbeque, the quintessential Australian Christmas lunch is less about the food than the company and surroundings.

Peter Gilmore preparing live marron
Nonetheless, Gilmore's festive season menu is relatively simple and all about letting our gorgeous local produce feature. Gilmore thinks roast turkey is boring, but he reasons that our summer Christmas is prime for devouring our excellent seafood choices.

With marron - best bought live, placed in iced water to induce a "coma" and killed swiftly with a knife down the middle of the head - it's such a beautiful and uniquely Australian crustacean that little needs to be done to it.

Fresh water marron with herb butter, aioli, young leaf and flower salad
Gilmore grilled the halved marron in a non-stick pan and served them with an exquisite herb butter comprising parsley, chervil and chives and Gilmore's favoured Girgar Danish-style Australian cultured butter.

Lobster and scampi are also ideal in this fashion, although the latter is difficult to source live, says Gilmore.

Alongside was a simply dressed micro herb, French breakfast radish and flower salad, in a naturalistic style that has become Quay's signature.

The result was a swoon-worthy dish: sweet with the freshness of the marron, boosted into uber-luxe territory with the herb butter, and brought back to earth with the refreshing salad.

Roasted rib of Angus beef
For the main meal, Gilmore had a huge roasted rib of Rangers Valley grain-fed Angus beef, sourced from Vic's Meats, ready and resting.

In the Electrolux convection oven for 30 minutes at 200 degrees Celcius, and then two hours at 150 degrees Celcius, the meat is cooked to a medium-rare when the internal temperature reaches 60 degrees Celcius.

Gilmore highly recommends a meat thermometer when it comes to roasting meats, as well as appropriate resting time for the meat - in this case, about 30 minutes under loosely-wrapped foil before 10 minutes' reheating ahead of serving.

Gilmore whisking a Bèarnaise sauce
Meanwhile, an array of young baby vegetables - orange and purple carrots, turnips, spring onions, asparagus, radishes, cauliflower, leeks -were steamed, and Bèarnaise sauce made from scratch.

Gilmore says that whisking Bèarnaise is an ideal job for two people: a whisker and a pourer of butter at precisely 60 degrees Celcius. Egg yolks, white wine vinegar, white wine and eschallots are whisked over simmering water, while melted butter and lemon juice are added slowly while whisking to an ideal texture.

Described as a "labour of love" by Gilmore, he says whisking too hard or too fast can split the sauce, which is definitely not what you want half an hour before Christmas lunch.

Potato and truffle gratin (back, left) and roasted rib of Angus beef
Prepared earlier was the most heavenly potato bake - already one of my favourite side dishes but pimped up via the addition of truffle, and probably a lot more cream and butter than I'd use at home.

But it's Christmas after all, and there's no better date in the year for a spot of indulgence.

Roasted rib of prime Angus beef with young steamed vegetables,potato and truffle gratin
and classic Bèarnaise sauce
Also served with a beef jus, it was traditional Christmas on a plate with a few improvements and some of the best meat money can buy. I'm dreaming, not of a white Christmas, but that potato and truffle gratin still.

Christmas pudding ice cream (left) and caramelised figs
The festive dessert that Gilmore had prepared is probably the recipe I'll most likely attempt, although I'd be using store-bought ice cream, not the vanilla bean and amaretto enriched ice cream that we had here.

With crumbled dark Christmas pudding frozen into a terrine of ice cream, this was only the beginning of the decadence.

Gilmore ran through the basics and dangers of caramel, producing a deeply tanned version in minutes, then adding halved fresh figs to the fold. Basted in caramel, the figs were allowed to set and harden a little before becoming the star on the tree that was Christmas pudding ice cream.

Christmas pudding ice cream with caramelised fresh figs
But there was more: fresh raspberries, crunchy caramelised almonds and a light 'snow' covering of icing sugar. Not being the hugest fan of Christmas cake, this was the most amazing version of it that I could possibly imagine.

Festive table setting for Electrolux Masterclass at Quay
Peter Gilmore's tips for taking the stress out of festive cooking while still impressing guests with a restaurant quality menu:
  1. Plan ahead for the festive season menu. Try to do as much as possible the day before so it is not too stressful on the day.
  2. Include dishes on your menu that can be made a few days ahead of time.
  3. Using high quality seasonal ingredients means you can do less preparation and yet achieve spectacular results.
  4. Incorporating a little tradition in a modern way has the effect of maintaining the essence of Christmas but making it new and exciting.
  5. Using the right kitchen appliances, such as the Electrolux Compact Combination Steam Oven or the Electrolux Induction Cooktop, will help you save time, create less of a mess and take the heat out of the kitchen.
  6. The resting of a large piece of meat is just as important as the correct cooking. Carving a piece of meat too soon may result in losing all of the precious juices.
  7. Using a small amount of a luxury ingredient like fresh truffles really gives your festive menu a sense of occasion.

White sourdough bread and butter
Following Gilmore's demonstration of his festive season menu, we were treated to a five-course degustation dinner in the upstairs private dining room of Quay. Christmas had indeed come early.

Salad of preserved wild cherries, albino and chioggia beetroots,
treviso, crème fraiche, black truffle, violets
Starting on red with the 2010 Margan White Label Barbera matched wine, the exotic salad to start had a spring forest feel to it and was all about texture.

Soft yellow beetroot contrasted with insanely crisp bread dyed beet crimson, while crème fraiche softened the almost harsh tartness of the preserved cherries.

Congee of northern Australian mud crab, fresh palm heart, egg yolk emulsion
I was pretty excited to be served the mud crab congee next, with the 2010 Red Claw Chardonnay matched to the abundant crab flesh. It was watery for a congee, but with exceptional depth in sea flavours and made rich with the bright yellow egg yolk emulsion.

Smoked and confit pig cheek, shiitake, scallop, jerusalem artichoke leaves, juniper, bay
The internal excitement continued with the smoked and confit pork jowl dish, garnished with deep fried jerusalem artichoke skins I remember from last time.

Also layered atop the meltingly soft pork were two of my favourite things: barely-cooked scallop and mushrooms of the shiitake variety - both thinly sliced.

Served with my favourite wine of the night, the 2010 Sticks Pinot Noir, the delicate textures of the mushroom and scallop were the perfect accompaniment to the boldly smoky pork.

Poached fillet of pasture raised veal fillet, parsnip cream, roasted grains, mushrooms
And the food and wine kept coming; namely the big 2010 Two Hands Gnarly Dude Shiraz matched with a poched veal fillet.

The ridiculously tender meat was served on ridiculously creamy parsnip cream, with mushrooms and crisply puffed, roasted assorted grains on top, and just sneaking in to be my favourite dish of the night.

Jersey cream, salted caramel, prunes, walnuts, ethereal sheets
I was honestly thankful for what looked like a small, light dessert, but like everyone else, completely smitten with the 'ethereal sheets' that topped the jersey cream and blobs of salted caramel and prunes.

Crisp but impossibly thin, the sheets of milk, white and dark chocolate, and toffee / praline / brittle (I think) were a delight to look at and consume with a bit of everything beneath too. The golden brown Campbells Classic Topaque was a weighty sticky to end the meal.

First Christmas present - thanks Open Haus!
With tutelage from one of the nation's best chefs and that stunning degustation in mind, I'm more than ready for Christmas now.

See full recipes here and more photos from the Electrolux Masterclass on my Facebook page.

Food, booze and shoes attended the Electrolux Masterclass at Quay as a guest, with thanks to Open Haus.

Quay  on Urbanspoon


JB said...

Damn. Not sure what I want to try more... the congee or the pork cheek or the ethereal sheets!

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

I love Christmas and it's only a month away now! Exciting! December sure is the festive season!!
What a feast with Peter Gilmore. I adored his food at Quay and how awesome of him to do masterclasses so that people can make these dishes in their own homes, or at least try to with the right produce and equipment..

Jacq said...

I'm still dreaming of that potato and truffle gratin too!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

fantastic! i'm one of those eager beavers ^^" started my christmas planning last week! starting to get some great ideas, great write-up

Not Quite Nigella said...

I'm all in a frazzle about Christmas although I think I know what I'm going to do-maybe!

Tina said...

Hi JB - How's about all three? ;)

Hi Tina - I know! I feel particularly festive this year - can't wait till Chrissy :) I won't be making any Gilmore masterpieces though...

Hi Jacq - Oh yeah.... *Homer Simpson-style drooling*

Hi Vivian - I hope we get to see some of your Chrissy celebrations on the blog!

Hi Lorraine - Haha, today I decided I'd do festive ice cubes. Not sure how I'll use them though... :/

Mr C @ The Food Diary said...

I'll be back in Japan in just a months time! This will be my third visit and I can't wait to visit some of these places.


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