I got my first request for a dish online yesterday – Dryunya wanted to know if I could come up with a dish inspired by his recent viewing of Phantom of the Opera. I suppose I should have asked which version, but I was too caught up in the idea to really bother (sorry, Dryunya).
I decided that it should be a meal, and the meal should have three parts – one representing the Phantom, one representing Christine, and one representing Raoul. It’s not necessarily the fanciest meal, but it’s one that I feel fits the feel and theme of the story.
Phantom: Dusted steak with bleu cheese.
The Phantom feels like a rare steak to me – perhaps not the prettiest to look at, and bloody when the truth is revealed, but dark and mysterious, something you can’t pull away from even with all that blood. I think the proper coating is about a teaspoon of cocoa powder (not the Dutch stuff; we want the acidity) mixed with about a tablespoon of ground coffee. This will develop a very rich and dark flavor that will go well with the caramelization of a rare steak.
The mask of the Phantom is represented by the bleu cheese, which can be turned into a sauce by melting about 2 ounces of bleu cheese in about 1 tablespoon of milk or cream. Any variety of such cheese would work – in fact, if not for the fact that the story is French and is screaming for a French bleu like Roquefort, I’d probably use Gorgonzola. At any rate, I would specifically wait until it was done cooking, then put the cheese on one half of the steak and then cover it while it rests, to create sort of a half-mask effect as it melts from the steak’s heat.
Christine: Champagne squash soup
Christine was tricky at first, because I needed her to be able to accompany both of the other dishes well. Moreover, given her status as a rising star of the opera, she needed to have an ingredient that screamed glamor. This idea came to me, since it all seemed to come together.
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine (preferrably champagne)
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash, shallots and apples into medium-sized cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil and salt. Divide the squash mix between 2 sheet pans and spread it in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender.
Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock and white wine until it starts to simmer. When the vegetables are done, put them through a blender. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor with some of the chicken stock/wine and coarsely puree.) When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add the chicken stock/wine mix, stirring well.
Raoul: Mustard dill potatoes
Poor Raoul, the boring part of the love triangle. That said, he’s a solid, dependable guy, and just as the story wouldn’t be complete without him, a dish feels incomplete without a starch. Also, since we’re going with a bit of a French theme here, it’d be a shame to not involve Dijon mustard, one of France’s greatest culinary gifts.
I prefer to use Yukon Gold potatoes whenever possible, but you may want to switch to a different cultivar if you prefer something else (or you just don’t have Yukon Golds in your area). One or two potatoes is enough for a single person. For the baking, merely make large cubes of the potatoes, toss with some oil, and roast at 425 for about a half hour.
When the potatoes come out, toss them in a mixture of the following:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons dill (preferrably fresh)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.
Mind you, I’ve not actually made this dish yet; I cannot vouch for how well the experiment will work. But I do plan on giving it a spin soon – thanks for getting my mind working on it, Dryunya.