This is the story of a birthday dinner for a reluctant birthday boy. Sunday was a very special someone’s big day. Unfortunately, this certain someone doesn’t like birthdays, and last year he got away with not celebrating his birthday at all! What a crime. I have to say, this anti-birthday attitude confounds me. What is a birthday besides the celebration of the beginning of your life, and an excuse to see good friends and eat good food? Not to mention the cake and presents aspect. But, this very humble man just doesn’t like all the attention…
So, I was determined to make this year different and thus decided to make the perfect birthday meal, finished off with the perfect birthday cake. The dinner request was steak (of course, what else would a man ask for?) which is simple enough. If you have a good piece of meat, the simpler the recipe the better. The bigger trick was nailing down the perfect birthday cake recipe. In a happy accident I stumbled across an article on Smitten Kitchen about making the perfect layer cake, which then led to the page for her recipe for the best birthday cake. It was exactly the cake I had pictured: a made-from-scratch yellow layer cake with decadent chocolate frosting. Simple, beautiful and exactly what any self-respecting housewife would have served up from her gleaming kitchen in the 1950’s. For once my never-ending food blog addiction came in handy!
Saturday morning saw me scouring the giant selection of butchers at the market to find the ultimate cut of filet mignon de boeuf. I picked the vendor that had the longest line and the highest prices, and asked for two tranches of their very best cut. I then headed to the veggie vendors to see what looked good, hoping to get some inspiration for the rest of the meal. As I am panicking that tomatoes will be gone soon since summer has recently ended, I decided to start with a bushel of those bright red orbs. These tomatoes were giant, and as I picked some up to feel and smell them I immediately thought of tomates a la provençale. I also grabbed some romanesco, a sort of cauliflower/broccoli hybrid that I had been meaning to try for ages. And finally, my eyes fell onto some glistening green, yellow and red bell peppers: another summer treat that will be leaving the market stalls shortly. My mind leaped back to a few weeks ago when I was staying with a French family and the mom made the most delicious terrine of roasted bell peppers and fresh goat cheese. Alas, I had my menu for the perfect birthday dinner…a birthday dinner that could make an anti-birthday man happy to be the center of attention for once.
The terrine was light, refreshing and vibrant, and better yet it was simple and can be made ahead. The tomatoes were luscious and fragrant (see below for recipes for terrine and tomatoes). As for the steak…OH.MY.LORD. This was the Rolls Royce of steak. It was melt-in-your-mouth velvety perfection. I simply melted some butter and olive oil in a large pan over high heat, and seared the beef (seasoned with salt and pepper) for barely 2 minutes on each side. I then removed it from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. While it was resting I added some more butter to the pan (go big or go home) and several cloves of minced garlic along with some fresh thyme. Once the garlic was softened (about 4 minutes) I poured the garlic butter sauce over the beef, and served it alongside the lightly steamed romanesco and the roasted tomatoes. It was buttery, rich, robust and decadent…in short (or maybe it’s too late for that?) it was everything a birthday meal should be. And the cake was…perfect. There are no other words to describe it. The birthday boy was very happy, and so was I!
Terrine de chèvre aux poivrons de Laure Laure’s Goat cheese and bell pepper terrine
6 bell peppers: 2 each of yellow, red and green
200 grams (1 3/4 cups) fresh goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
a smattering of fresh basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the tops off of the peppers, deseed them and cut them into quarters. Lay them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast them for about 30 minutes or until the skin is charred and puckered. Remove the peppers from the oven and put them aside until completely cooled, then remove the skin.
Line a terrine dish with plastic wrap. In a mixing bowl, stir together the goat cheese with salt and pepper to taste. Layer the peppers (one color for each layer) and the goat cheese. You should have 3 layers of peppers and 2 layers of goat cheese. Cover the terrine with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight to firm up, then slice and serve topped with fresh basil.
Tomates à la provençale
4 large tomatoes, tops cut off and seeds removed
salt and pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (marjoram, oregano, thyme, rosemary or a combination thereof)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a lightly oiled oven tray or dish. Season them to taste with salt and pepper. Distribute evenly amongst them the garlic, herbs and olive oil. Bake them for for 40 minutes. Serve hot.