I was lucky enough to spend some time with my Dad this week. I’ll admit that Father’s Day didn’t really enter into it when we were making our vacation plans, but it worked out that both Nick and I get to see our fathers this June. Father’s Day gifts can be difficult – you know your Dad probably doesn’t need any more stuff, but you want to commemorate the day and a card somehow doesn’t seem like enough. But what do you get for the Dad Who Has Everything?
A huge mess in his kitchen. I mean dinner. A heartfelt, home-cooked meal is a surefire winner. Everyone needs to eat, right? So this year, that’s exactly what we’re doing. For my Dad, whose honorary Father’s Day was on Wednesday, I drew up a menu consisting of Parisian gnocchi (pictured above – can you guess what I’m doing?), grilled salmon and zucchini (harvested from my parents’ garden), and lemon profiteroles for dessert. I printed up some cute little menus on plain card stock and put my Mom in charge of setting the table on the back patio. The meal was a hit and my Dad was surprised and impressed.
This was my first ever attempt at making Parisian gnocchi, but it won’t be my last. These things are basically poached savory choux pastry (the very same dough used for the cheesy poofs, in fact, only seasoned with black pepper instead of mustard and chili powder) and they are so delightfully light and easy compared to their potato-based Italian counterparts. Instead of piping out bite-size puffs, I pinched bits of the dough into simmering water and cooked them until they floated. I spooned them out onto a sheet pan lined with a clean dishtowel until I was ready to finish cooking. Inspired by a recipe from Ratioby Michael Ruhlman, I sauteed the poached gnocchi in bacon fat and tossed them with bacon, peas, and grilled corn.
Next time, I will be sure to do this in a nonstick pan, as the gnocchi stuck to the stainless steel one I was using. No problem, I just added a little more bacon fat and turned the heat up, but I wouldn’t want to be the one cleaning that pan later. I made the same amount of choux pastry as I made for cheesy poofs, combined with four or five strips of bacon (chopped) two ears of corn and about 2/3 of a cup of peas, and it served five of us as a substantial appetizer (it could definitely feed two as a main course). A note on the flour: if you can’t find pastry flour, a mixture of half cake flour and half unbleached all-purpose flour is an indistinguishable substitute.
On to the main course…
Maple-soy salmon, lemon-garlic zucchini, and brown rice.
Nick handled most of this plate himself, now that I look at it. He cooked the brown rice, made a maple-soy glaze for the salmon (the secret ingredient is a squeeze of lime juice), and prepared the lemon-garlic oil for the zucchini (the secret ingredient? A pinch of ground coriander seed). All of that was done early in the prep time, so he got to take some time to have a beer and watch baseball with my Dad. Closer to dinnertime, Nick cut large planks of zucchini and scored them, the better to soak up all the great flavor from the mixture of olive oil, lemon zest, and minced garlic in which they were briefly marinated before being slapped on the grill. Glazing salmon on the grill can be a sticky mess, so we went the no-fuss route: a simple reduction of soy sauce and maple syrup, brightened with lime, was served in a small pitcher on the table. It married really well with the robust flavors of the wild Pacific Sockeye salmon, which was grilled to perfection – looks like Nick hasn’t lost any of his grilling skills during our Weber-less time in France.
Somehow, we all managed to save room for dessert. My Dad’s favorite dessert has always been lemon meringue pie (you may recall that my husband shares his love of lemon curd– what’s that they say about girls growing up and marrying their fathers?) so I wanted to do a twist on that. My parents conveniently have a Meyer lemon tree in their backyard, and the two humongous fruits I harvested yielded more than enough juice for my purposes. Since Meyer lemon juice is naturally sweet, I punched up my curd with the juice of a lime (truly, it is a magical ingredient).
This time, I chose profiteroles as the vehicle for the lemon curd. I made another batch of choux pastry (is there anything this stuff can’t do?), switching the amounts of sugar and salt and seasoning with some lemon zest. I wanted nice, big puffs, so I scooped the dough onto a greased sheet pan with an ice cream scoop. The same amount of dough made six big profiteroles, just in case one fell (and it did).
After dinner, I sliced the cooled puffs with a sharp bread knife and dolloped a bit of lemon curd into the bottom half of each one. On top of that I placed a scoop of vanilla ice cream (if I don’t have time for homemade, I prefer Haagen-Dazs, since they use the same ingredients I do) and put the tops back on the profiteroles. Another few spoonfuls of lemon curd completed the dessert, and brought our Father’s Day meal to a satisfying conclusion.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.