Sometimes we get some pretty interesting requests for tasting menus. A good customer asked us to do a tasting menu that was dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and meat-free save for seafood, poultry, and pork.
Here is what we came up with, absent a photo of the intermezzo course, a sorbet of St. Germain liqueur. I think we succeeded in our goal of creating a menu that we and most other diners would like to eat.
In December, the weather is cold and we would have loved to have started with a little chowder, but without dairy, that’s a tough one to pull off. I decided to borrow from Brazil and do a moqueca, a stew with palm oil and coconut milk. The guys have been wanting to see how to use palm oil for a while, so we killed two birds with one stone so to speak. Moqueca generally contains tomatoes, but I wanted a clear saffron yellow stew, so I omitted them. The walleye is topped with a pineapple salsa.
We were looking for a fresh salad course and one that made a statement in terms of texture and in-your-face acidity. Vegetable seviches are commonly found in our vegetarian and vegan tasting menus and we borrowed from them, surrounding a seared scallop with a lovely salad brightened with sherry vinegar.
Mushrooms and potatoes have a real affinity in my culinary lexicon. I took my inspiration from a potato and shiitake flan that I love and extracted the eggs and dairy. That left us with a napoleon (traditionally layers of puff pastry) of mushrooms and potatoes. The mushrooms are cooked with a good bit of our house-cured pork belly, shallots, and thyme. And we garnished the top with crispy prosciutto bits.
We had a lot of pork scraps in the cooler that we were getting ready to grind into sausage. This dish evolved as a way of answering the question “How do we incorporate pork sausage into this menu?” I no longer remember all the reasoning behind the dish, but we decided to go south Louisiana and do dirty rice in a butternut squash cup with fried sage. Sage and winter squash are very seasonal now and delicious together. Adding pork just gilds that particular lily.
The duck dish was easy. Duck is our customer’s favorite. We decided to cut down a sweet potato into the same shape as the duck breast, grill both of them, and serve a fan on the plate. Fresh cranberry relish and local pea shoots complete the plate.
Dessert was the hardest course. Imagine doing a dessert with no flour, no eggs, no butter, no cream, no chocolate (it contains soy lecithin), and no nuts. This lovely dish is a poached local Asian pear sitting in a pool of coconut caramel sauce. The pear is topped with a granita of apple butter and a bit of caramel decoration. I had always supposed that you could make a decent caramel sauce by substituting coconut milk for cream, but I had never tried it. It works beautifully.