my weekend with a four-star chef - the summer of gelato, week 2

this was a weekend i’ve been looking forward to for at least a month. even still, i found myself getting nervous as friday approached. seems ridiculous to be nervous for a weekend, right? i mean, the weekend i went to visit an old pseudo-boyfriend after not speaking to him for almost three years, that was nerve-wracking. the weekend before my new job started? i barely slept. but this weekend, this was just a simple weekend out of the city with my parents and a few friends.

except that it wasn’t. one of dad’s friends happens to be a bona-fide four-star chef at a french restaurant in new jersey. and, to compound the issue, dad told him that i like to cook. so of course chef is all polite and tells dad that we should cook together. saturday morning, i was speechless all through breakfast because i wasn’t sure what to say. would i be expected to, like, know stuff? to be useful? to be a student? or to stay out of the way?

my answer came slowly as we sat by the pool. mom asked chef what he wanted to make for dinner, and my dad asked about dessert. my dad he who won’t eat cooked fruit, actually requested that chef make use of some of the fresh peaches, even if it meant pie or a tart. here was my moment of glory: “oh, i made a really excellent peach tart tatin this week.” chef looks at me and asks me what i used for a base--puff pastry? “no,” says i. “i made a pate brisee.” chef gives me this huge smile and says, “if we make a tart tonight, you’ll make the pate brisee?” “of course,” i answer. and suddenly i am not feeling so awkward. we spend several happy moments following this one settling on an actual dessert (white cheese citrus ice cream with a peach and blueberry compote) and determining our dinner menu (corn valoute with a fresh pepper relish, marinated skirt steak with red wine, garlic, ginger and thai basil, couscous with almonds and golden raisins).

our afternoon we gave over to the farm stand on route 27, getting corn, peppers, garlic, clinatro, and other staples. i found--oh joy--another yellow watermelon to cap my summer. we went home and began a very happily chaotic mise en place.

we started with the ice cream, since that would have to chill. chef made it up as we went along, starting with a simple syrup and ending with sour cream and candied orange peel. the ice cream base was born from the cross-breeding of a sorbet and a philly-style ice cream. the tang from the sour cream was shockingly pleasant as it was mixed with a lemon-sugar syrup. we decided to break as the ice cream cooled, but i couldn’t help myself. i made a ginger shortbread cookie (inspired by emily luchetti’s passion for desserts) and began dicing the peppers. after all, i needed the knife practice. i had only just finished when chef came back in from the pool and we began all over again. we had a list, but neither of us could keep track, and it’s nearly a miracle--except, of course, with a four-star chef at the helm, it’s not--that we got dinner on the table in time. i learned a lot about food plating. i was put in charge of the marinade. i got an extra smile out of chef when i asked him to describe what the corn valoute should look like as it thickened. “should it coat the back of my spoon?” i asked. the flanksteak was cooked to medium-rare perfection, and we soaked the golden raisins in some of the leftover simple syrup to bloom them for the couscous.

we macerated the fruit with some sugar and some cointreau. each plate got a scoop of the cream, a spoonful each of blueberries and peaches, and a sliver of ginger shortbread for a crunch.

for sunday, i desperately wanted chef to teach me how to make crepes. unfortunately, i had to settle--oh, the humanity!--for the secret to his life-changingly good french toast.

1 comment:

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Ahhhhh, you are on a great roll! What a fabulous day.