Friday, January 1, 2010

Decadent New Year's Eve Dinner (Part One): Champagne Seafood Gratin

This year my husband had to work late on New Year's Eve. Since President Obama is in Kailua, Marines involved in Homeland Defense all had to work overtime and split up the holidays. But I still wanted to make dinner special and memorable, even if late. So I needed something I could prepare in advance and then pop in the oven just before he was due home (around 10:00pm) -- a real treat. After all, this was his first New Year's Eve home after spending a year in Iraq.

And besides being New Year's Eve, this day was extra special because we got to meet President Obama, in person, near our home in Kailua. Along with several of our neighbors, my son and I gathered, watching him play golf, and were delighted when he stopped to chat and shake hands. Needless to say we were excited and happy and even more hopeful for 2010 after shaking hands with the President. But I digress.

I decided to make a Seafood Gratin, livened up with Champagne, and Filet Mignon, served Pupu style, with a Gorgonzola sauce. Side dish was White Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto. French Bread with Baked Garlic and a Nice Tossed Salad. Champagne to drink!

I started with the Champagne Seafood Gratin. This a a delicious and rich dish which may be served as either an entree or a first course, depending upon the serving size. I made this in entree size, in medium sized gratin dishes. You can also make this really festive by serving in large scallop shells.

Champagne Seafood Gratin
1 stick (8 Tbs) butter
2 lbs scallops (foot muscle removed) and/or shrimp (peeled and deveined, with no tails)
3/4 tsp Dried Thyme Powder
1 Bay leaf
1 large shallot
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1 cup dry champagne/sparkling wine (or any dry white wine)
6 Tbsp Panko bread crumbs (Italian-style preparation, if you can find them)
2 Tbs Wondra pre-sifted flour
3 oz Pancetta (gently cooked, diced bacon may be substituted)
1 pound button mushrooms
6 Tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 1/4 cup Shredded Gruyere Cheese
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 tsp lemon zest

Prep Work:
Mash together until combined 3 tbs softened butter and all of the Wondra flour.
Dice the shallot
Finely dice the tarragon (for topping)
Finely dice the pancetta (for topping)
Finely grate Parmesan Cheese (for topping)
Slice all mushrooms
Juice the lemon, remove seeds, zest skin (zest for topping)
Whisk together heavy cream and egg yolks
Shred Gruyere Cheese

Large stainless steel or enameled cast iron skillet, Slotted spoon, spatula, sieve, large plate, 1 medium bowl.

(1) Add the diced shallot to the skillet and saute over medium heat, with 3 tbs butter.

(2) Add Bay Leaf and dried Thyme. Stir.
(3) Add seafood. I used about a pound of bay scallops and a pound of bay shrimp, because that is what I already had in my freezer. I prefer to use larger scallops and shrimp. You can use all shrimp or all scallops, any size is fine.

(4) Toss seafood in butter. Add champagne and lemon juice. Depending upon the size of the seafood, cook 1-4 minutes, until just undercooked.

(5) Remove seafood from pan, with a slotted spoon, and set aside on a plate. If seafood is large, cut into bite sized pieces.
(6) Strain cooking juices from pan through a sieve into a medium bowl, removing shallots and bay leaf & disgarding them.
(7) Add 2 Tbsp butter to same pan. Toss in sliced mushrooms and saute, over medium heat, until softened and reduced, about 3-4 minutes. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and add to seafood plate.
(8) Add reserved cooking liquid back to same pan in which the mushrooms were cooked. Reduce by 1/2. Add the four/butter mixture to the pan gradually in small plops, whisking to combine and make a smooth mixture.

(9) Add the heavy cream/egg yolk mixture slowly, while continuing to whisk, over low heat for 2 minutes, making sure that mixture does not boil. Sauce should be thickening.
(10) Slowly whisk in 1 1/4 cup gruyere cheese, making sure sauce stays smooth. Turn up heat slightly to melt the cheese, if necessary.

(10) When all cheese is melted and you have a thick sauce, add the mushrooms and seafood back into the sauce stirring gently. Remove from heat.
(11) Evenly pour seafood mixture into six indvidual gratin dishes. Set aside filled dishes on a baking sheet.

Topping: Combine bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, diced pancetta, diced tarragon, and lemon zest in a dish. Spinkle topping evenly over each gratin dish.

To serve immediately, place under low broiler for a few minutes until topping is toasted.
Or you can refrigerate, to serve later. To reheat, bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes.

Serve with a tossed salad, something very light and simple. This is a very rich dish. French bread is great, as a side, and delicious when dipped in the sauce.

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