Life

cooking and plating a fine-dining experience

Note: apologies for the poor picture quality. Most photos were taken using the iPhone 5.

Every mothers’ day, we would always surprise my mom with breakfast. The breakfast itself isn’t a surprise since it happens every year but the food that is served that day is definitely top secret. Breakfast is my mom’s favorite meal so despite our multiple suggestions and convincing, and maybe even begging, to do lunch or dinner instead, she would never fail to insist on breakfast. It has been increasingly difficult, in recent years, since we’ve exhausted nearly all types of breakfast – eggs and sausages, pancakes (a few types, mind you), waffles, breakfast tarts, scones, omelettes and even shepherd’s pie.

Nevertheless, this year’s was different.

Jon and I have started attending Marriage Preparation Course, as part of a requirement to get married in church and one of the sessions fell on Sunday morning. The class starts at 8.30am so its no way we could pull off breakfast before that, else we’ll turn up as zombies. I still remember my mom’s reaction when we broke this news to her… “what??? how could they have the class on mothers day???” Anyways, much to our happiness, we then decided to do saturday dinner instead. It wasn’t before long that my mom started to have a tinge of regret… “it’s so sad I have no breakfast!” Not willing to let my dinner slot off, I suggested…how about Jon and I do dinner and my other two sisters do breakfast? And there it was. My mom got 2 meals this year.

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For breakfast, my sister was rather ambitious and decided to do eggs benedict with ricotta pancakes. The eggs benedict was successful in the end, but required so much on-the-spot learning it was a lil’ crazy. Imagine…watch video on how to make hollandaise sauce x watch 3 times more…execute…watch view on how to make poach eggs x watch 3 times more…execute. I ended up doing the hollandaise sauce and the poached eggs and felt pretty satisfied with myself. The ricotta pancakes, on the other hand, were absolutely stunning. Those pancakes deserve a post on its own.

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Jon and I had planned dinner a number of days beforehand and we really wanted to out-do ourselves. It wasn’t the first time we cooked meals as a duo, but it was the first time we did it fine-dining style. You see, our typical dinners are usually family-style (and I’m presuming in most homes as well, unless you have a private chef or something) where all the dishes are served at once and we would all dig in, so we rarely get our meals in courses, besides dessert of course. Also, with family-style dining, plating is almost non-existent. All we did was to find a nice plate, and put everything on it…nicely. This time, we not only had to think of what to cook but when to cook and also how we were going to plate the dishes. We decided to step into the shoes (and attire) of an executive chef for the day, and do the necessary dots and circles, blotches and swooshes, and balancing-scallops-on-top-of-salad kind of defying gravity acts…if you know what I mean. Since we had almost no experience on how to do the dots and circles, and blotches and swooshes, we did a little practice in the afternoon and after that, we pretty much winged it.

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We decided on the following dishes:
Mushroom soup with truffle oil
Pan seared scallops with salad and grilled cherry tomatoes
Lamb rack with sweet potato mash and asparagus
Apple tart with walnut bourbon sauce

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Since we had to cook and plate the dishes just before they went out, Jon and I didn’t join them for dinner. We definitely felt the pressure of a real kitchen as we tried to plate and cook as fast as we could. Jon was responsible for most of the cooking and for me, the plating. As we were effectively multi-tasking the entire time, Jon and I had to switch positions and literally just go on the fly! We were most encouraged when my sisters came into the kitchen with “compliments to the chefs”.

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“have they finished their food”
“oh my god, they finish already! why they eat so fast!”
“it’s ok la, in fine-dining restaurants you would have to wait for a while between courses so i think we’re ok”
“oh ya, true. lets just let them wait then”

Haha, on hindsight, it is indeed quite funny how we were consoling ourselves as we worked as quickly as we could. As we slid the dessert into the oven to bake, it suddenly dawned on us that it was near the end of the meal. Our steps slowed down and hunger, tiredness and the heat from Singapore’s humid weather dawned on us. As the apple tart baked (the apple tart deserves a post on its own too!), we decided that it was time for us to enjoy the leftovers and we went outside to join the rest, listening to their conversations as we drank mushroom soup, ate sweet potato mash like it was ice cream and gnawed on the lamb. When dessert was ready, we devoured on dessert as well, slouched in our chairs in silence as we felt our cheeks radiate heat out of our bodies. We were exhausted but incredibly satisfied with ourselves.

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That night, we slept like logs and couldn’t concentrate much at Marriage Preparation Course the next morning but it was well worth it.

To my mom, Happy Mothers’ Day and to the chefs and cooks who slog day and night to put out good food, we salute you!

 

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