Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Prep Ahead Dinner Party: Sides: Braised Lettuce and Pommes Puree

Getting on with the dinner party. I called this one Prep Ahead, because unlike pretty much every other Heston dinner, I didn't spend the entire day cooking up a frenzy. 

Seriously. I even took my daughter to her sport game in the morning. It certainly was a change of pace!

We had: (Heston dishes marked with a *)
  • Prawn cocktails*, with from scratch Mayonnaise* and Soy-marinated roe*
  • Braised pork belly with cracking*, pommes puree* (mk2), braised lettuce* and steamed carrots.
  • Coffee creme brulee*
I'll talk about the sides today, and then we can get into the... ahem... meat of the dinner in the next blog post.

Braised Lettuce 

Heston Blumenthal at Home

As discussion on the netball sidelines that morning indicated, not everyone has heard of buttered lettuce. It's a French dish, but I've had a few times in nice restaurants, including at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London. They added peas.

I think it's delicious. I consider it like the best kind of buttered cabbage, but without weird cabbage smell and a much more delicate flavour. Since trying it in London, I've been keen to try Heston's recipe from Heston Blumenthal at Home.


  1. Prepare your lettuce
  2. Blanch your lettuce
  3. Make some brown butter
  4. Make the buttery emulsion
  5. Heat the lettuce in the emulsion when ready to serve.
Pretty straightforward huh? Even better, you can do steps one and two ahead of time (before your guests arrive) and then just need to heat it up to serve.

Prepare the lettuce:

The recipe calls for Romanie lettuces, which I'd never heard of. Thankfully, so google-fu tells me that they are what we call cos lettuce - which is terribly easy to get. I got two small but bushy numbers. These get quartered.
 And washed and drained.
Put aside an iced water basin put to one side to stop them losing their colour.

Blanch them

In slightly salty water.
 Then into the iced water to keep their color.
 You can then trim the stems off and put the aside to heat up later.

Make the brown butter

We've done this before... old hat now, right?

Melt some unsalted butter.
 Whisk it...
 Until the butter solids turn brown and it smells kind of like toasted nuts.
 Then filter it through a coffee filter to get out the dark solids, leaving nice clear butter.

 Make the emulsion

I was kind of... sceptical about this. you are basically putting some of the butter into some water and blitzing it with a stab/hand blender until it emulsifies (becomes a single liquid, not two separate ones).

Then, you keep adding butter... until.. ta da! frothy buttery-flavoured water! That was surprisingly easy. Also, made ahead of time, and then just re-blitzed just in case before serving.

Warm up to serve

Okay, so I was kind of busy, but you just heat up the butter emulsion in a fry pan, and then warm through the lettuces. This take about 1 minute, or the amount of time it takes you to serve up the pork. (Actual cooking times may vary.) 
I recommend serving into a covered dish as this keeps it from going cold and you can keep it on the table, letting people serve themselves.

Pommes Puree (Mark 2)

I blogged about this dish once before, when doing the mammoth Fish Pie with Sand and Sea Foam Topping. These were better the second time around, learning from past mistakes.

Unfortunately, this time I forgot to take pictures when doing the spuds, so you'll have to sue your imagination, or the pictures from last time. 

Peel and dice your spuds. Cook them at 72 degrees for half an hour. Then rinse them, like so.
Then boil them in a fresh pan of salted water until they are falling apart. (Very, very soft but not disintegrated.) Carefully drain the falling apart potatoes, the put them back in the hot pan to dry out.

Side-note from last time: I had previously misread the recipe, thinking you stopped here if you wanted them later. This is incorrect. On a more careful reading, I realised that you do everything up to the adding of the milk.

So next, you put the soft, but drier, potatoes through a ricer (one of those potato masher/press things) onto a large hunk of butter, and mix it through.

You are them supposed to put it through a sieve to make it extra creamy. I am lazy and did not do this.

Now if you want you can can put it aside to use later.  

When ready to serve, you mix through the warm milk (which heats the whole thing up again, and makes it ready to serve!)

Lessons learned & verdict: 

Pommes puree

  • I'm glad I figured out what went wrong with the lumpy pommes puree last time. This time they worked very well, and reheated easily with the hot milk. They would be even better if you bothered to put them through a sieve, like you were supposed to. I'll do that next time.

Buttered lettuce

  • The buttered lettuce was very easy, could be done well before it was needed and a delicious alternative green veg. (Not every one like peas or broccoli). It went very well with the braised pork belly too.
  • The one I had at Dinner was even more buttery. I'm undecided if this was because they finish theirs with more butter, or if they had a more buttery ratio to the water used. I'd consider upping the butter to water ratio next time.
  • I would  absolutely make this again.

Guest opinions:

Guest enjoyed the lettuce and the mash, with what I took to be pleasant surprise at the flavour and texture of the buttered lettuce. To be fair.. opinions on this were pretty much swamped by the satisfaction of the pork belly.

Next time: Onto the meat! Braised pork belly with crackling

1 comment:

  1. A great double-bill of Heston side-dishes! Personally I don't think the steamed carrots are too inauthentic (ok, so there's not half a block of butter) but I'd certainly say you could call this meal three courses of 100% Heston. A magnificent undertaking!

    We've tried the pommes puree ourselves, and while it;s a touch too rich and buttery for our tastes we agree the overall result is amazing! We found the sieving hard work though, so can totally see the appeal of skippin that step.

    We'd been in two minds about tryign the buttered lettuce, but after reading this post we will definitely be giving it a go soon. Outstanding results, and brilliant to be able to directly compare your results to the food you ate at Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental in London!