Fine dining for one: Home alone with 'foie gras' and mangosteens

Fancy meal for one: Home alone with 'foie gras' and mangosteens. — Pictures by CK Lim
Fancy meal for one: Home alone with 'foie gras' and mangosteens. — Pictures by CK Lim

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — For some of us, staying home alone for an extended period of time can be trying. “Torturous” I hear a few of you suggest. Perhaps more precise, in as far as its intensity is concerned.

Yet as the months pass and we enter our second year of working from home and being apart from loved ones, we discover that we have adapted. Truth is, eventually we all do. It’s human nature.

Even our cooking skills have improved. There are only that many deliveries and takeaways we can endure; cooking at home isn’t mere survival but a means to stave off boredom.

Our bank balance feels healthier too, when we toss noodles cooked al dente in the sauces of our choice rather than ordering wantan mee. (How oishii!)

We pat ourselves on our backs for being frugal when we make mouthwatering meat floss from the leftovers of boiling soup, instead of buying the expensive packaged stuff at the supermarket.

Indeed, we congratulate ourselves for our waste not, want not philosophy. There’s nothing we can’t conjure up in our own kitchen if we apply a little elbow grease to the challenge.

Or almost nothing.

'Foie gras' for the ultimate fine dining experience... at home.
'Foie gras' for the ultimate fine dining experience... at home.

Surely there’s nothing quite like the experience of eating at a fancy restaurant. Fine dining with the works: white tablecloth, fragile glassware, a maître d’ well versed in half a dozen languages and possessing of a wicked sense of humour to boot.

And then there’s the food. Haute cuisine isn’t something we’d see at every restaurant much less at home, not unless we hire a private chef. (And who has the money for that? Not to mention the social distancing conundrum...)

But who’s to say we can’t have fine dining at home, even if it’s for a table of one?

The latter has been on the top of my mind after watching a couple of Japanese food centric shows recently.

In Wakakozake, a 26-year-old salary woman wanders the streets of Tokyo after work to hunt down pubs and restaurants. Dining alone, she would pair her dish with an appropriate drink — be it beer or sake — and contentedly coo “Pshuu...” when the pairing hits the spot.

Select only seedless segments of mangosteen (or remove the seeds, if any).
Select only seedless segments of mangosteen (or remove the seeds, if any).

That same notion of exploring food spots and dining solo is shared by Samurai Gourmet, where a freshly minted retiree follows much the same path, albeit celebrating his newfound freedom from the office by evoking his inner samurai.

To bravely answer the call of your cravings. That’s the lesson I gather, though it could just be a particularly powerful imagination.

So why can’t we enjoy a taste of fine dining in the comforts of our home? Why can’t we be as creative and colourful as the head chef from a Michelin starred restaurant?

We could. We can.

PAN SEARED FOIE GRAS WITH YOUNG MANGOSTEEN & BALSAMIC GLAZE

Fine dining means something different to everyone.

For some it’s freshly shaved truffles, the dish before you and the very air of the restaurant perfumed by a rare, seasonal scent. For others, it’s a Russian roulette of thinly sliced fugu — the highly poisonous puffer fish — where it might well be the last sashimi one eats.

Slice the pink radishes as thinly as you can, perhaps with a mandoline.
Slice the pink radishes as thinly as you can, perhaps with a mandoline.

Foie gras does the trick for most of us; it’s decadent yet straightforward in execution, dear yet not impossible to source with the rising number of premium frozen food purveyors these days.

The best — and easiest way — to cook foie gras is by pan searing. Quick, simple yet allowing the fullest flavours of the ingredient to shine. I find that something tart always helps to cut the richness of the fattened goose liver.

Below I’ve suggested an accompaniment of fresh mangosteens (only the youngest morsels, preferably seedless), lightly blanched French beans (so they stay vibrant green and retain a nice snap still), crisp discs of pink radishes and thick, unctuous balsamic glaze.

Blanch the French beans to retain a nice snap.
Blanch the French beans to retain a nice snap.

I’ve used store bought balsamic sauce for the glaze but you can make your own by heating balsamic vinegar in a pan over medium heat, bringing it to a gentle boil before reducing the heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vinegar has reduced by half.

Once cool, the glaze will thicken further so you can spoon a nice dollop onto your plate next to the pan seared foie gras. Or just buy the ready made version if you’d like to save on time. Either way, you’d be happily home alone and dining in style!

Ingredients
1 mangosteen, seedless segments only
Some French beans, cut into sticks
1-2 pink radishes, sliced into thin discs
2 slices foie gras (½-inch thick)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Spiced berry compote (see recipe here)
Balsamic glaze,store bought or make your own (see above)

Method

First prepare the fruits and vegetables: select only seedless segments of mangosteen (or remove the seeds, if any) then set aside; blanch the French beans, drain and allow to soak in some iced water to stop any further cooking; and slice the pink radishes as thinly as you can, perhaps with a mandoline.

Thick and unctuous balsamic glaze.
Thick and unctuous balsamic glaze.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of your foie gras. Heat up your pan over high heat. Once your pan is very hot (say, after three minutes), place foie gras on it slowly.

Don’t worry if it starts to smoke; the high heat will start to render the fat from the foie gras. Allow to sear on one side for about 30 seconds till golden brown before flipping. Let the other side cook for another 30 seconds before removing from the pan.

Drain any excess fat from the pan seared foie gras by resting it on a plate lined with kitchen towels. While the foie gras is resting, you can assemble the rest of the ingredients: plating the mangosteen, French beans and pink radishes as creatively as you like.

Where the final plating is concerned, be as creative as you like!
Where the final plating is concerned, be as creative as you like!

Add a smear of berry compote and dollop of balsamic glaze before placing the foie gras on the plate. Serve immediately while still warm.

For more Weekend Kitchen and other slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.

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