Sometimes, in moments of grumpiness, I have been known to stomp my foot and declare my life awful. But seriously, after an event like last night, I should never be so silly again. My life is full of wonderful things - a warm and cozy home, a fun husband, good friends, great food, and last night the one-of-a-kind opportunity to spend time with a talent chef and his assistant. And all in the intimacy of my own kitchen. Last night Sam and I hosted D.U.K. #7. D.U.K. stands for Dady's Underground Kitchen, a private dining experience hosted by local chef and restaurateur Jason Dady, and his fearless assistant Josh. It's considered underground, because he sends out the dates at random on his Twitter feed, and the first to respond get the date. We provide the kitchen. We bring the wine. He cooks a five course meal, and we eat it. Yum.
We were part of D.U.K. #2, hosted at friends John and Lauren's home, last fall. #2 was a special dinner, because it was our first, but #7 was extra special for me, because Sam and I hosted the event in our apartment. Our home is a far cry from a professional kitchen, and we warned Chef Dady about the tiny space and wealth of weird kitchen quirks, but being ever kind and adaptable, he said it would not be a problem. And I guess we undersold our place, because he confirmed that we had more than enough room. The disposal may not work, the oven runs hot, and we do not have a microwave or any ice, but that did not stop any of the food from being amazing.
Hors de oeuvres
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Magic Pop and Nutella
Rabbit Terrine with Dijon and Butter Toast
"What's in Your Fridge"
Appetizers are one of the great pleasures of eating. They are small, diverse, and arrive exactly at the moment when you are most famished and ready to eat. So the hors de oeuvres course remains one of my favorites at all meals. Pleasantly, we ate four different hors de oeuvres last night, including one conceived and constructed on the spot from food from our own kitchen pantry and fridge.
In case you were wondering, what was in our fridge to choose from was a lot of delicious stuff. We had some Nueske's bacon (the best!), lemon creme fraiche, goat cheese, fresh cauliflower from the CSA, and a variety of Bon Maman jams and spreads (we are officially addicted). But interestingly enough, Chef Dady opted not to go the easy route, and rather made something completely unexpected. He used some dried pineapple, old mint, and keffir lime leaves, and made a tasty Thai pineapple salad which was served on cucumbers. I wish I had been paying more attention to what else went into the dish, but honestly the bubbles of the prosecco and the thrill of using John and Laurens Nikon digital SLR had gone to my head and I was a little distracted at the moment of hors de oeuvres.
The rabbit terrine was a hit. Tiny, furry little animals are so delicious. And there is no denying that there is almost nothing in this world as delicious as warm goat cheese with fig preserve. Chef Dady "poached" the bread in an obscene amount of butter before adding the cheese and figs, which seriously doubled the already exceptional level of taste bud pleasure one might expect to experience eating goat cheese grilled cheese. And as for the Magic Pop and nutella, well, as we learned at D.U.K. #2, there is really nothing that isn't better with nutella.
Heirloom Tomato 3 Ways:
Yellow Tomato-Buttermilk Bisque
Classic Orange Tomato Bruschetta
Fresh Tomato with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Most in the food world agrees that a perfect heirloom tomato is one of the more perfect foods to come straight from nature. I am not always a tomato person, but I have to agree with this assessment of tomatoes if they are utilized the way Chef Dady used them for our first course. Chef Dady prepared the tomato three ways, ranging from au natural to pureed into a creamy buttermilk soup, with a bruschette in between. He served the soup chilled, tangy with buttermilk and drizzled with pureed tomato. The sliced tomato on its own was beautiful, like a warm sunset with streaks of pink and red running through the hearty yellow flesh.
Crab Lasagna with Side Salad
Early in the evening, when Chef Dady arrived and was prepping in our kitchen, he pull from the depths of his giant chef's cooler a very heavy looking casserole dish wrapped in foil. Setting it in the over, he declared it the part of the meal he was most excited about serving, and told me how he spent all morning preparing a crab lasagna. He made fresh pasta sheets which were layered raw with a white sauce, fresh ricotta, and loads of crab meat. It all baked together into an insanely rich, cozy dish. He served us portions big enough for a dinner on its own. While we were all warned not to finish the entire piece in order to save room for the courses to come, we all ate it up anyway.
Butter Poached "Sous Vide" of NY Strip with Brussels Sprouts, Sunchokes, Celeriac and Pear "Demi"
Underneath the grilled cheese, in that big bucket is a package of delicious beef, cooking to perfection. If you watch Top Chef, you are familiar with the sous vide style of cooking. Basically, it involves cooking food sealed in a vacuum pouch in a bath of warm water. The benefit is that the food is brought to a perfect, uniform temperature throughout, meaning nothing gets overdone or underdone. The cooking method also eliminates liquid loss, and allows food to be almost poach in any liquid and marinade sealed into the vacuum. Sam is absolutely obsessed with a new home-kitchen immersion circulater model currently on the market, so we were thrilled when Chef Dady brought his own.
He prepared his favorite cut of steak, the NY strip, and he did it in the most interesting way. I assume he purchased the cut unbutchered and carved it himself, because he cooked and served the NY strip cut in these amazing semi-rectangular shapes. For cooking the beef was sealed in a pouch filled, and I mean filled, with giant pats of butter and other aromatics that infused the meat as it cooked. When the sous vide was finished, he seared the meat on every side. ON EVERY SIDE people. So not only was it perfectly medium rare and flavorful, but we each had four sides of charred, caramelized crust. And it sat on a bed of roasted, caramelized Brussels sprouts, sunchokes and celeriac (whatever that is) drizzled in a reduced veal stock sauce.
For our pescatarian friend Anne, Chef Dady poached scallops in yuzu, although he joked that he cooked pescatarian begrudgingly. Sam, who loves scallops as much as he loves tender baby animals, beef, and meat of all kinds, convinced Anne to share and scored a taste of the scallops, to much approval.
Brioche French Toast with "almond" Blackberries and Meyer Lemon Chantilly
Alongside appetizers, desert is a high point in a meal for me. I have a sweet tooth that dominates my entire palate. And who does not love breakfast. So imagine my delight when dessert was based on breakfast's classic french toast, and served in excess! I do not know if there was a miscount, or if perhaps somehow Chef Dady knows how much I adore the dessert course, but at the end of the night, there were 11 desserts plated for only 10 diners, and I got to eat two! Of course, by that time I was so full I really almost couldn't handle one, let alone two, but full or not the moment represented the fulfillment of my great glutenous desire for extra dessert, which was a dream come true in itself.
D.U.K. #7 ranks as a five star meal in my book. Good food, great friends, and a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Of course, it doesn't hurt that there are still two pieces of crab lasagna and a hunk of sous vide NY strip in my fridge for leftovers this weekend, leaving me with a great memory and a treat to anticipate.