Sunday, June 28, 2009

June Dinner Club

Last night I had the honor of being invited to cook for a group of foodies as this month’s pick for their traveling dinner club. It’s quite a challenge, and equally rewarding just putting an interesting menu together. Executing it to anything near perfection is almost impossible. We did a good job this time around. This is the second year I’ve done this and last year was a great learning experience. This year I did as much prep work, and cooking as possible in the restaurant kitchen. While the host kitchen is mind boggling well equipped, it was nice to need only a few pans, and a few dishes off their shelves. Oh, and a cherry pitter. I said to myself, “If there is anyone who has a cherry pitter in their cupboard I can find it here,” and sure enough the first drawer I opened. That saved me 20 minutes of finger staining work alone.

The menu went like this:

Hor’s derves of;

Foie gras mousse
Ceasar salad satay
Classic shrimp cocktail

Chilled Gazpacho, celery aquavit

Sautéed soft shell crabs with lemon and sea salt

Grilled cherries salad, Lake Erie Creamery chevre, baby greens, smoked salt, pickled kumquats

Scallops sliders, apple-vanilla slaw, espresso-balsamic syrup

Grilled hanger steak, roasted marrow butter, lobster tater tots, spinach-gorgonzola fondue

The satay went over very well praised as such a simple idea that came out quite well, not to mention the exquisite Italian white anchovies. The gazpacho had celery flavored vodka with it. The idea was to sip the vodka then pour the rest into the soup adding a little zip to it. I had a gut feeling we filled the cups too much with vodka, and that’s the only thing I would have changed, less vodka, who would have guessed….LESS vodka?

Simple soft shell dish was all about the crab. There are times where you just have to show some restraint. The cherry salad went over well, but the chevre was the star. Once again finding good product is key and Lake Erie Creamery does a great job. I got some of the best scallops in on Friday; they were firm, dry and cooked up with nice carmalization. I like the apple-vanilla-coffee-balsamic flavor combinations, especially with scallops. The marrow butter was tasty, but I wish I could have melted it a bit more before sending it out. Lobster tater tots went over as a nice starch, but they weren’t perfect. I used a recipe that included pate choux, and the ratio of dough to potato resulted in a very moist, mushy, almost undercooked consistency. They cooked for an hour and a half, but at least they weren’t dried out.

Grilled Hanger steak was great; it really is a nice cut of beef. I went to the West Side Market Friday looking for hangers and didn’t see any. There are about 15 beef vendors, and on my second time around I started asking people if they had hangers. Everyone kind of looked at me weird and offered up Flank instead, but they are completely different in my opinion. Finally I come across a very talkative butcher who goes on to tell me, “these damn chefs come up with fancy cuts and go on TV, now everyone comes looking for things you never heard of.” I just smiled at him, nodded, and walked away shaking my head. Kari on the other hand thought it was great fun.

On that note, thanks Rachel at Three Birds for getting some hanger steaks for me. She must be one of those damn chefs going on TV and stuff. Also thanks to Kari for helping me shop. Thanks to Sharon the server on this night who did an excellent job helping both me and the guests. Lastly, thanks to the hosts for the opportunity to come to their house and cook for them in a way that makes everyone happy.


DianeS said...

What great fun!

Rachel said...

Nice! Thanks for writing about your evening -- sounds like a fun night for the diners.

And for the record, if there is one kitchen utensil that I've been craving but I'm waiting until I settle down in the new country -- it's a cherry pitter. Awesome gadget! I want one that is cast iron and blue. :)

Michael Walsh said...

See, I bought a cherry pitter from England on E-bay a few years ago and the hinge broke, so you better get to William-Sonoma ASAP. Cherries, olives, even small apricots and Italian plums fit.