Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dinner at Dan & Lena's

Beginning the weeklong celebrations of Priya's birthday, we were invited to Dan and Lena's house for dinner. Dan is a chef at Del Posto working with meat, and he spent the past two days laboring over an enormous, elaborate pig leg he bought at Marlow & Daughters (for "way too much money").

While he wrapped up dinner, we snacked on a piping hot tortilla (EspaƱola)--very simple (the only ingredients were eggs, potatoes, and onions) but very delicious.

That gave him time to put together a salad of roasted beets and chopped endives (didn't get a picture because we ate it too fast!)--the beets were perfectly done, the endive was a great complement (better than the way I usually make endive salads, with cheese--simpler), and I had never really noticed how salt could make or break a dish before (simply by adding a lot more salt than I would--I chronically undersalt stuff--Dan enhanced the simple flavors of the beets/endive).

Next, we had soup--but a much weirder soup than I've ever tasted before. It was a bread soup, an oatmeal-thick, tan/orange mush with chunks of butternut squash, poured over cubes of garlicky toasted bread. What? The soup itself was pretty much just breadcrumbs and butter, not pureed squash or anything.

But it was fantastic! I'd get a bite of mushy "soup" slop and buried within it would be this surprisingly powerful blast of garlic couched in a crisp piece of bread (but not hard and crunchy like a crouton--it squished just right when I bit into it). Here and there a chunk of squash added some sweetness to the soup. Dan told us that there are some Italian soups that are basically only flour. Flour soups! Sounds gross. But this was the most interesting part of the meal, I think, and really really good.

Finally, the main course: the pig leg. Dan had cut the bone out, used it to make stock, and then braised the leg for hours, after wrapping it in caul fat from the Italian butcher nearby. He stuffed the leg with mashed potatoes and shallots and then roasted it until the outside was crisp and brown, then cut us big boneless slices.

The meat had such a dark, rich flavor that it didn't even need a sauce; there were plenty of big, almond-shaped pieces of foot meat mixed in with the potatoes and the thick fat outside. With a side of watercress providing a nice bitter/green crispiness to counter the oozy, rich fat, and a bit of fleur de sel, it was amazing.

For dessert, I picked up a couple of mini cakes (7.50 ea) at Black Hound--a "busy bee" cake with marzipan and chocolate, and a pear/almond custardy cake. We split each cake in half and couldn't even quite finish that.

Awesome dinner! And one I could never make myself!

Oh, and here are some horrible burns Dan suffered at work--I think all chefs eventually develop battle-scarred hands:

1 comment:

LArn said...

OMG- what a handsome chef!