Monday, October 5, 2009

Dinner for Four

Just this past Monday, I got a call from my friend's mom (who I had never met). She asked me to cook for her and her husband, and another couple on Saturday (2 days ago). I was to come over to their house and cook a basic 3-course meal, and be paid for my efforts. It was pretty short notice, but I quickly agreed. I would be getting paid for something I would have lots of fun doing!

I immediately started planning out the menu, choosing similar proteins to those that I hope to serve for the library auction dinner in a few weeks just to make sure that I could pull them off under the circumstances. The guests had absolutely no dietary restrictions so I was really able to do my own thing.

For the first course I chose scallops, corn and a tomato, red pepper sauce. I chose corn because at Lacroix, they make this awesome corn that they really just sweat in butter. I cooked mine in a little butter, some bacon fat, garlic, shallots, and sage, then tossed in some bacon at the end. I got the idea for the tomato-red pepper sauce because last week on Avec Eric on PBS, he kinda cooked down some red peppers in some red wine and olive oil to make a sauce for cod I believe. I saw this awesome looking tomato from my garden and wanted to throw that in there too, so I sweated some red peppers with some garlic, onion, and rosemary, before deglazing with a little bit of red wine and a chopped up tomato. As the liquid evaporated, I added a little chicken stock and cooked it down further. Finally I passed it through a food mill. To order, I finished it off with a dab of butter.

For the second course I chose chicken confit with homemade spagghetti, because it's a very similar dish to the duck confit risotto that I hope to do for the auction dinner. I cured the chicken confit for 24 hours in garlic, peppercorns, cloves, brown sugar, thyme, and I placed some bacon over each leg. I then cooked them sous vide at 176 for 8 hours in duck fat. For the pasta, I used Thomas Keller's French Laundry Recipe, which is real nice and rich because it's loaded with egg yolks. I rolled this out as spagghetti on my pasta machine. To finish the dish, I pulled apart the confit meat, reserving the skin. I then seared the pulled meat in flaming hot oil while crisping the skin in the oven. I then tossed the meat with the pasta, some pasta water, some butter, some olive oil, and some pecorino, then topped the whole thing off with a piece of crispy chicken skin. I made sure none of them were on a diet before I served it to them.

For dessert I served good ol' American apple pie. I was inspired by some massive honeycrisp apples from a local farm that I saw in Whole Foods, and decided that a simple pie would be the best way to utilize them. For the dough I used a 3:4:5 ratio of water to butter to flour, rather than Ruhlman's 1:2:3, because if you can get away with a higher butter to flour ratio, why not do so!? I used completely butter for my dough; it may not make as flaky a pie as shortening but it's just so darn tasty (and anyways, there's a bunch of ways to ensure flakiness even with an all-butter crust).

I prepped almost everything beforehand, and there really wasn't much to do besides sear the scallops, cook the pasta, and warm up everything else. I warned people I was cooking for that I could set their smoke alarm off when I was searing the scallops, but I used their overhead fan and that turned out not to be a problem. Overall, everything went quite smoothly and I got paid for something that was lots of fun to do.

My only regret was that I forgot to take a picture of the scallop dish before I sent it out. I wish you guys could've seen it. It looked awesome.


Mandoline said...


hochstek said...

Congratulations Nick!
Been following you for a while and love how creative and fearless you are. Your passion shows. Keep it up.

Jackie said...

Amazing! I'm so impressed..and hungry!

Geoff Egan said...

Gosh that looks awfully good. Very well done-very creative.