Mother’s Day 2015 – 12 Course Dinner

It’s that time of year again! This year, for my 11th annual Mother’s day multi-course dinner, I did 12 courses. This year I deviated from the French theme on several occasions and even had a guest course prepared the friend that acts as sous chef each year. It was a lot of fun with a mix of French, Korean, Lebanese, and American influences.

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Every year I squeeze as many people into my house as possible. I’ve found that it is not much more work for a few people as for many as many guests as I have plates. I have a few seats reserved for annual guests, others are rotated, where I tell the guests that next year their seat will have to go to someone else.

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1st Course – Canapés

Gruyere gougere, chorizo kale chip, truffled quail egg with caviar, and mashed peas crostini

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A course like this first course can appear simple, yet disguise the amount of work that goes into preparing four courses in one. The chorizo kale was the surprise for most of the guests. It exploded with flavor; I kept catching people sneaking the extras from the kitchen.

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2nd Course – Scallop Crudo

Scallop crudo, mineola orange, fennel, flying fish roe, habanero, and toasted buckwheat

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This was a crowd favorite. The raw scallop ( ‘cooked’ in the acid of the fresh citrus) had the perfect texture, mixed with the crunch of the fennel and buckwheat. The roe added a briny, saltiness and the habanero a little spicy bite.

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3rd Course – Eggplant

Lebanese kubbe, eggplant salad, baba ganoush, pesto, garlic cream, and toasted brioche

This was a first, in that it was a guest course, cooked by my sous chef, Yossi. It was a delicious course and helped immensely with the pacing of the meal, as I was able to get ahead with later courses as this was prepared and plated. I definitely want to revisit the guest course idea in future dinners.

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4th Course – Bresaola

Fresh cured beef bresaola and pickled artichoke, carrots, shallots, and radishes

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Homemade Sourdough Breads

I served several breads throughout the night to go with various courses, but this beautiful bread was meant for the mushroom broth.

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5th Course – Mushroom Broth

Brown beech mushrooms in a rich mushroom stock, ginger, and pea shoots

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Thick slices of sourdough bread were served to sup up the rich fresh made mushroom stock. While not as beautiful as some soups from years past, it was a unique and rich comfort food.

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6th Course – Crab

Fresh harvested Alaskan Bairdi crab with avocado, homemade yogurt, and lime oil

A friend recently returned from Alaskan where he helped his father harvest Bairdi crab for his commercial fishing operation. I was lucky enough to score a bunch of fresh crab legs. It is amazing and I didn’t want to add too much to take away from just enjoying the fresh crab meat. Here, I rolled it up in avocado and served it with a rich fresh cured Greek yogurt. The lime oil added tinges of citrus.

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7th Course – Pork Belly

Roast pork belly with glutinous rice cakes, ssam sauce, and kimchi

This was a fun play on a Korean ssam lettuce wrap. Under a layer for filo dough was a smooth red ssam sauce and bright green scallion ginger sauce. The glutinous rice cake added a fun toothsome texture to pair with the crunch of the filo and crispy fatty tender pork. Topped with a pickled yellow cucumber.

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8th Course – Cucumber

Hay smoked cucumber with a cucumber jelly, milk ice cream, fresh sorrel, and mint oil

This was a fresh and bright palate cleanser served between two heavy dishes. There were also vanilla pickled cucumbers to finish off the course.

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9th Course – Lamb

Fresh spring lamb with truffle risotto, morels, Brussels sprouts, root vegetables, and a port wine reduction

The lamb was prepared via sous vide and then seared and breaded with a mixture of panko and fresh chervil. The lamb was topped with Fleur de Sel and finished with the wine reduction. The risotto had fresh black truffle and was topped with beets, Brussels, and rutabagas.

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10th Course – Cheese

Rougette Brie with raw honeycomb

A simple cheese with cashews and locally sourced raw honey was a great way to begin the dessert extravaganza. Served with a selection of fresh rustic breads.

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11th Course – Baba au Rhum

Baba au Rhum with Chantilly and fresh peaches

The babas (brioche rolls) soaked in a rich rum syrup. I cooked all of the alcohol out of the rum and spiced it with star anise, vanilla, and cloves. This was a rich and decadent dessert that is made lighter with fresh fruit and light cream.

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12th Course – Mille Fuille

Chocolate mille fuille with a vanilla bean macaron, malt ice cream, and strawberry milk crumb

The mille fuille had a layer of chocolate sponge cake, another of chocolate praline fuilletine, and layers of rye mousse. The rye mousse was almost not sweet at all, which helped to balance a very sweet dessert.

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Extra Course – Petite Fours

Vanilla bean macarons

As my guests left for the night, I gave each one a box filled with a macaron topped with fuilletine and filled with a vanilla bean Italian buttercream. After 3 courses of dessert, I figured that most guests would want to take these home instead of eat them right then.

It was a fun night and probably the smoothest in terms of pacing between courses and cleanliness in the kitchen. Everyone helped out to keep things clean and organized.

Things learned this year:

  • Courses that are all prepared beforehand minus plating are a win
  • Plating an example plate then leaving the rest to others helps keep things moving
  • All of the plates that I plated once in practice came out much better
  • More space in the kitchen can be crucial
  • Stopping and fully cleaning between courses actually speeds things up

Homemade Sausage – Sausage and Peppers Pasta


I recently had a request on the Moonlit Kitchen Facebook page for instructions on how to make homemade sausage. It just so happens that one of my earliest posts was on homemade sausage, but I didn’t have any measurements on the ingredients. This recipe is an Italian sausage with a Spanish flair. It works as a light Spanish chorizo or a mild Italian sausage. I also include a basic recipe for sausage and peppers pasta. It makes for one good use of the sausage, though I found that I liked it better in Italian Wedding soup, where the taste of the sausage was more pronounced (this is a really good sausage, don’t cover it up!). Note – To make sausage, you need a meat grinder and if you want to stuff them in casings, you will need the stuffer.


Spanish Chorizo

8lb – Boneless pork shoulder, chilled to near freezing

1lb – Pork fat (or 2lbs bacon), chilled to near freezing

1 Tbsp. – Cumin

1 Tbsp. – Paprika

1 Tbsp. – Black peppercorns

1/2 Tbsp. – Red pepper flakes

1/2 Tbsp. – Allspice

1 tsp. – Anise

1 tsp. – Caraway seeds

1/2 cup – Red wine (I used Burgundy)

1/4 cup – Kosher salt

1/4 cup – Sugar

1/2 cup – Flat leaf parsley, minced

1/8 tsp. – Pink Salt (Curing nitrites), optional

~5 Feet – Natural pork casings


Begin by dicing the pork shoulder and fat into 1 inch cubes. It’s important the the pork be very cold (and kept that way throughout the process) because it makes it easier to cut and is crucial for getting a good grind later on.


Next add the spices to a mortar and pestle.


Grind until smooth. Add the pink salt, which is a nitrite salt that will allow the meat to cure. This is valuable if you plan on letting the sausage age for a better flavor.



Add the salt, sugar, flat leaf parsley, spice mix, and wine to the meat and fat.


Mix thoroughly and return to the freezer until half frozen. Now for the fun part! Set the sausage grinder on a coarse grind and press about a 1/2 cup of meat through the grinder. Return the rest of the meat to the freezer. Heat a skillet and fry the sausage that you’ve made. I always do this to test for salt and sugar. If it needs more then add it a bit at a time, mix the unground sausage and repeat the process until you get it the way you like it.




If you don’t plan on casing the sausage, let it rest overnight and then enjoy. If you plan on casing it, soak the casings in warm water. I like to use natural casings (they are thinner and taste better) but you can use collagen casings as well. Remove the grind blade and fit the stuffer. Grease generously. Find the end of the casings and work it up over the end of the nozzle. Work all but 5-6 inches of casings onto the nozzle. Tie a knot in the end.


Start the grinder and slowly stuff the sausage. Using a fork or toothpick to puncture the sides of the sausage. This will help press air out of the casing. Make sure to force as much sausage into the casing as possible. Let rest overnight or cure in a curing fridge until it loses 40% of it’s weight.


Sausage and Pepper Pasta

2 Tbsp. – Olive oil

1 – Large onion, diced

6 cloves – Fresh garlic, minced

1 cup – Red wine

28 oz – Stewed tomatoes

6 oz – Tomato paste

2 Tbsp. – Basil

1 Tbsp. – Oregano

1/2 Tbsp. – Marjoram

2 cups – Crimini mushrooms, halved

1 cup – Red and Yellow pepper, coarsely chopped

1 lb – Spanish Chorizo or Mild Italian sausage

4 cups – Fresh tagliatelle pasta (I use my homemade recipe here)

Salt, pepper, and fresh Pecorino cheese


This is a basic marinara sauce that has sausage, mushrooms, and peppers added at the end.

Preheat the oven at 425 degrees. Add a pan with the sausage and roast for 20 minutes or until well cooked. Let rest.


Heat a Dutch oven or large pot on medium heat. Add oil and sauté the onion and garlic until clear. Raise the heat to high and add the wine. Simmer until reduced by half. Lower heat medium-low and add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cover and cook for ten minutes. Add the basil oregano, and marjoram. Stir in well, cover and cook an additional 10 minutes.


Add the mushrooms, peppers, and sliced sausage, stir well and cook for 5 additional minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.



Cook the pasta until ‘Al dente’. Serve sauce on top of pasta. Top with Pecorino cheese.