It’s been a while since I’ve had occasion to really throw down and make a big, multi-course, fancy and fun dinner. Daniel and Erin’s visit had given me some change, but for some reason those hadn’t quite scratched the itch that I was feeling…
My poor neighbors. Subjected to such cruelty. Having to come over and get fed.
I don’t think they minded, so much.
The plan for the evening was a four-course meal. I’d say “nothing fancy”, but that wouldn’t quite be true… I was taking this as a chance to practice, to experiment, and to try a few recipes that I’d been wanting to try out. For quite a while, in one case!
Adding to the challenge was a new dietary restriction – I’ve cooked for vegetarians and for vegans, but never for someone dairy-free… That gave me some interesting leeway, but still put a block on many of my standard cooking practices.
I was aiming to follow the framework of a fancy Italian meal – small courses, planned and timed to flow into each other as best as possible.
Without further Ado – The meal!
Course 1 – A pasta course.
This one was a light starter, but with enough heft that we wouldn’t be distracted by hunger for the rest of the meal. Simple, clean, and pleasant:
Bucatini, tossed in a non-dairy butter sauce mixed with a tiny bit of truffle oil, with soppressata sausage, salt, and pepper added. Garnished with parsley, of course, since I’m not a savage.
Course 2 – A veggie course.
I’ve been wanting to cook this for years, even since trying it while visiting Rome back in 2018. Judaean Artichokes! Trimmed, spread out, and oiled with truffle oil, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
My neighbors were kind enough to bring over an air fryer, so I didn’t have to deep-fry them like the recipe calls for – and I’ll say, they turned out beautiful! There’s far less meat on an artichoke than I remembered, so this one was a good “rest” course, where peeling the artichoke was as much an event as eating it was. It gave us a good chance to chat and relax before the main course.
Course 3 – The main event
This was going to be a challenge.
See, I love cooking steak, and I love making fancy steak. One of my favorite “show off” dishes is a variant of Steak Au Poivre, where I flambe fillet mignon in a brandy sauce. But you see… that works because the brandy flames work with the butter and steak juice, making a glorious base for the heavy cream.
None of which are dairy-free. As a variant, I grabbed non-dairy butter along with oat heavy cream, but this was definitely going to be a challenge.
In the end… the steaks came out well, but the sauce was a bust. I tried my best, I really did, but the non-dairy butter that I got just… didn’t quite work. Somehow it opened the grains in my skillet and caused the brandy to… seep through? Or something? Which meant that, when I lit it up, it didn’t really mix or caramelize at all, and instead just set the whole pan on fire. Literally the whole pan. All sides.
I was able to get the sauce together by using a ton of fake-butter and oil, but when it did come out… It was somehow a chocolate sauce? I don’t know what I did, but I think the sweetness and nuttyness of the oat milk combined in some arcane dark ritual.
End the end, the steak was excellent on its own – especially when paired with the solid full-bodied red wine that I’d picked out.
Course 4 – Dessert
For dessert, we had chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream!
“But Ben, those aren’t dairy-free!”
“You’re right, other Ben! But I MADE THEM DAIRY-FREE!”
The ice cream was easy. I bought non-dairy ice cream. Boom, done.
The cake? Vegan chocolate cake, one-mug, in the microwave. Boom, done and delicious.
The wine pairing? Loganberry aperitif – sweet, sparkling, and a glorious pairing… especially with the tiny bit of cherry juice that I added to the cake batter 😀
I’m quite proud with how everything came out. Definitely a fun evening!
– Bucatini = Don’t need a recipe, just… cook it up?
– Judaean Artichokes = https://www.thespruceeats.com/carciofi-alla-giudia-roman-jewish-artichoke-recipe-2017775
– Steak Au Poivre (WARNING: Graphic language. Sorry. It is what it is.) = https://imgur.com/gallery/rrqSi
– Single-Mug vegan chocolate cake = https://www.noracooks.com/vegan-mug-cake/