Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Our Degustazione

My first challenge when I arrived at my sisters was to deplete what was currently stocked in her kitchen. Like a good Italian Mother, I re-imagined previously purchased items into a weeks worth of traditional Italian dishes. Without realizing it, I was making room for Thanksgiving and all of its accouterments. What followed our perfect Thanksgiving was another week of depletion, now in the form of innovative leftovers. A layered casserole, Turkey A La King, Matzah Ball Soup, Ribolita with Roasted Turkey, a sandwich of Cranberry Relish, Red Apple & Brie etc. Only after this (and a Brooklyn intermission) could I begin the next stage of cooking post Italy, the "Nouveau". This growing need to experiment combined with a visit from a close friend and chef from SF, Jessa, meant it was time to “wow” my sister. Welcome to our "Desgustazione".

This post will follow in the order of our 6 course meal. I will not outline the details of each recipe, only specific learnings both as a Chef, Sous-chef and Diner (of which I was all and more). As my boy Chaney would say, "We went in"...

Sausage encrusted Butterfly Shrimp atop Braised Cabbage

A dense patty of Large Shrimp married to a layer of Sausage, grilled Sausage side down. A classic combination, re-interpreted. Served on a bed of Braised cabbage with a garnish of caramelized Shallot.

Chilean Sea Bass and my Fennel Salad (deconstructed) atop

A brightly stacked and light assemblage of (in this order) Chilean Sea Bass, Orange wedges, shaved Fennel with Red Radish garnished with pungent black Olives.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Polenta

A tribute to Bill Buford’s “Heat”. Our chance to honor a meal that clearly changed this dudes life and evoked beautifully ripe descriptions like “the food equivalent of a male movie star: dark, rich and thick” or sauce instructions like “Hammer it”, “Boil it to hell”, “Torch it”. We followed his detailed and comedic instructions enjoying the intensity of the process and knowing it would inform all of our future braising. Fun!

Grilled Caesar Salad wedge
A Jessa special which transforms a classic American dish into a just wilted “contorni”. With this approach the flavors of Anchovy, Cheese, Egg and Worchester convene and caramelize the central ingredient, the Lettuce.

Lamb Mignon Medallions served with a Potato and Mushroom Gratin

A boldly original and articulate cut of meat which I have never seen on a menu. Jessa trimmed a rack of lamb down to its most prized center tenderloin which we served in the style of a Filet Mignon. Pink in the center and perfectly charred on its perimeter.

Stinky French cheese ;) offset by a puddle of Honey and a dusting of Walnut

A gluttonous and traditional end to our small plate feast.