Tarragon Sugar and a Faroe Islands dinner

September 23rd, 2014 8 Comments

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Fresh tarragon with sugar was not my original idea, but reading it in a menu convinced me this was the meal I wanted to attempt to recreate for a Scandinavian dinner for my friend Dennis, the generous Dane who loves to host elaborate festivities.

The Faroe Islands were the geographical highlight of this year’s feast, small bits in the North Atlantic between Norway, Scotland and Iceland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.  Puffin, seal and whale blubber are common foods eaten there…but we weren’t going that route.  Monkfish liver, langoustine and salmon were the guests of honor this night.

 

A blurry shot of Faroe Island flags ready for the dining tables

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The dinner was based on a menu from the KOKS Restaurant in the Faroe Islands.  “Earthy and refined, ancient and modern”, it’s a place after my heart.  And here is a little more about the islands and the Manifesto of the New Nordic Cuisine.

Actually, the dinner was based upon only a memory of a menu—check out Kate McCulley’s meal at KOKS with AdventurousKate.com.   Her photos and words were our only clues, the rest was left up to interpretation and adaptation.

 

This is the result.

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THE MENU

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Appetizer:

Monkfish Liver with Crackers

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Course One:

Smoked Faroe Islands Salmon with Burned Leeks, Cream Cheese and Sorrel Pesto

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Course Two:

Three Times Celery: Celery Root Puree, Celeriac Leaves, and Sautéed Celery with Apple Cider Syrup and Dill Oil

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Course Three:

Langoustines and Quail Eggs with Salmon & Lumpfish Caviar on a bed of Cabbage Horseradish Slaw

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Course Four:

Three Times Lamb:  Cold Smoked Leg of Lamb with a Juniper Berry Allspice Rub, Roasted Lamb Shoulder, and Spekekjott served with a Gratin of Turnips, Peas and Chevre Goat Cheese

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Course Five:

Radishes, Cheese and Sherry

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Course Six: 

Faroe Island Oat Cake with Crème fraîche, Granite au Champagne and Tarragon Sugar with slices of Radish and Cucumber

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Course Seven:

Brandy and Cigars

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Beverages

Beer (Tuborg, Carlsberg & Elephant); Akvavit (Linie, Alborg, North Shore, Krogstads, Gammel Ode Dill, Vikre and Homemade Raspberry); Redwoods Farm Goat Milk Kefir; Sparkling Lemonade; Wine (Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Merlot, Old Vine Zinfandel); Sherry; Brandy; Strong Coffee

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These magnificent salmon weighed around 20 pounds each.  Six arrived in the shipment but we only smoked four because only four would fit in the smoker!  I’ll share with you an important lesson I learned this week:

1) Large salmon cannot be hung by strings wrapped through their mouth, they’re too heavy and the ties will rip through the jaw.   Butcher netting is the way to go.

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I made a rub of dill seed, bay, allspice, cinnamon, mustard, caraway, sugar, salt, aqvavit and maple syrup, and stuffed the inner cavern of our friends then let them rest overnight.  At 7 a.m. the next morning our smokemaster and I hung the four enormous salmon in a chimney-smoker and breathed a sigh of relief that they were in place.

 

We chatted some small talk about how that went and about the rub, then within 5 minutes we heard a series of muffled slumping sounds—the jaws of the salmon had given way leaving 80 pounds of slippery meat laying at the bottom of the smoker canister.  Moments of stunned silence followed.  It’s now 7:15 a.m. the morning of the meal as I reach into a smoker trying to grab four mongo slippery salmon, but the only way to get any kind of hold is to reach into the mouth and let the dozens of razor sharp teeth grip into my flesh.  Later that day I couldn’t understand why my hands were covered with incisions…the salmon had conducted a little revenge.

 

What to do??  Four enormous fish had to be cooked and they weren’t going to be held in place by the preconceived manner.  We transferred two of the mammoths to the horizontal-grill part of the smoker (it’s an amazing smoker)—the top fish in this photo was one of these and has no markings.  We then had the brilliant idea of using butcher-netting so I sped off to our Fareway meat department for help.  Yes!  It took 45 minutes and some colorful language to cram those massive monsters into the netting, but other than that it worked well.  We tied the netting at both ends, hung the two netted salmon back in the chimney area, and prayed nothing more would go horribly awry.

 

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The netting lines reveal the almost sparkling golden skin underneath.  Our smoke-master tended the fires with grape vine wood for the smoke—it was divine.

 

 

Little lobsters!

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A pair of langoustines with adorable hard boiled quail eggs topped with both salmon and lumpfish roe for the third course.  It was night and the lighting is not ideal…but you get the idea.

 

 

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Greenery!  The tarragon in my garden takes over this time of year, I was grateful to have a good reason to harvest and cut back some of the overgrowth.  I was also grateful for the bizarre concept of blending it with sugar—it opens another world of sweet and savory mixups.

 

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Faroe Island Oatcake with Granite au Champagne (a champagne slushy), Crème fraîche, and Tarragon Sugar—how many times have you eaten cucumbers and radishes with your dessert?

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It’s always risky to host an outdoor dinner on September 19 in the upper midwest, but it was a perfect evening of feasting and hyggelig.  The last guests left around 12:30 and the thunderstorm hit at 1:00 a.m..  Whew.  There were other bizarre glitches throughout that week and night (the coffee grinder burnt out but we had exactly enough coffee) but in the end the meal itself went smoothly and was enjoyed.  This is what catering is about: holding it together through near-disasters and smiling when you serve!

 

 

Tarragon Sugar

Pulse chop in a food processor:

2 cups fresh Tarragon Leaves, stripped from the stems

Add: 

2 cups Sugar

Pulse chop, then blend until the consistency of moist sand. 

Serve with anything that sounds good. 

 

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A tray of enormous monkfish livers!  Dennis brined then steamed them, then served in thin slices with a balsamic vinegar/maple syrup/wild thyme drizzle—creamy decadence on a cracker.

 

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A host of langoustine

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8 Comments

  1. Elisabeth Maurland says:

    Holy cow!I’m impressed!I’m impressed by the odd food that the Faroese eat (other than whale, puffin, and seal, that’s to be expected), and I’m impressed that you guys were able to cook an entire Faroese meal in the middle of Iowa! I am pretty sure no one has ever done that before.

  2. Leslie Sand says:

    Lucky me, I was there! Fun to read about your adventures in preparation, Ruth, AND it was ALL fabulous. I am not a fan of liver anything but had multiple helpings of monkfish liver and the lamb liver paté. The salmon was delicious, and it’s fun that you wrote about the dessert…I definitely cleaned my (multiple) plates. Thanks, again!

  3. Sarah Rutledge says:

    Holy cow!! Those big fish looked more like alligators! These crazy dinners really put you to the test, and you ALWAYS pull it off—very impressive. I bow to the master!

  4. Norma Hervey says:

    Recipes and photos are always awesome but this takes the cake. WIsh I had been there!

  5. Marilyn Southard says:

    As the one who gets to taste everything before and after preparation AND the self-appointed cleaner of the kitchen, let me just give 3 cheers of gratitude and approval to you Ruth and the magnificent 7—-I counted 7 kitchen/serving assistants to Ruth and not a one of them was still for 10 seconds…..whew. I had a smoked salmon sandwich for lunch today and all i could think about??….those honkin’ big salmon in the bottom of my freezer. Marilyn

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