Well it’s that time of year, the time when all blogs around the world roll out their Top 10 “whatever” of 2011 lists. We could go down that path, but we here at Eat a Duck try to use our time each year to steadily ramp up our culinary experiences to a fever pitch, so we can go out with a fitting food-related fracas to be remembered. I believe we have succeeded in that goal my friends, and as always we’d like to share it with you.
Logan has mentioned many times before that whenever we get together, a tasty food experience is bound to find us and this past trip was no exception. I was informed by my colleague that he had been offered the chance to cater a party for a co-worker of his and that he needed a sous chef. Of course the answer was an immediate yes, so he sealed the deal and Eat a Duck was primed for its first dinner service for non-family members. When I arrived from Miami, Logan had already begun to brainstorm and the client also had some requests, so it was up to us to bring what could have been an everyday party, into a tongue tingling, finger food fiesta.
After much deliberation and a few heated arguments over presentation, this is the menu we came up with:
1. Panzanella salad skewers with mozzarella bocconcini, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil in a sherry vinaigrette
2. Cannellini bean hummus with garlic, green onion, cumin, paprika and generous amounts of olive oil
3. Turkey and pork chorizo on puff pastry with stone ground mustard, caramelized onions, quince paste and a dusting of manchego cheese
4. Lamb meatballs with shallot, garlic and mint on crusty bread topped with romesco sauce, pine nuts and grated cotija cheese
5. Scotch eggs using quail eggs wrapped in breakfast sausage and coated in Panko, deep-fried and served with a horseradish mustard dipping sauce
6. Fresh strawberry, pineapple, pound cake and marshmallow skewers
After we set the list, we took a step back to take in the dizzying amount of ingredients we would need to procure in the two short days we had to prepare. It was truly a daunting task, coming up with estimated prices and amounts for each ingredient, where to get them, when to prepare and then assemble the various components, not to mention how we would transport everything to the event!
All told, it took nearly a full day to collect everything and bring it home. As we stared into the fridge, which was now a solid wall of foodstuffs, we were having trouble figuring out where to begin attacking this mammoth task. We agreed to get the sauces and various garnish items taken care of and work our way towards the different proteins. With a few strokes of the knife and a couple of seconds with the food pro, the hummus was done and chilling in the fridge, good, one dish down. Then the Romesco, a nice sautée of bread, almonds and garlic, combine it all in the food pro with some piquillo peppers and tomato, throw it in the oven to caramelize and done.
The Scotch egg sauce came together quickly, as well as the sherry vinaigrette, although we had a scare when I dumped all the necessary olive oil in the mixing bowl without so much as a single whisk. Luckily for me we had a blender nearby which took care of the emulsion handily.
Now that the sauces were in the bag, we could start thinking about the meat. We needed to boil and peel 72 quail eggs, encase them each with sausage, bread them in panko and fry them to golden crispy perfection. Have you ever seen that many quail eggs in one place before?! What a beautiful thing, it’s a crime we didn’t have any fresh Uni on hand!
We also needed to roll roughly the same amount of lamb meatballs, not to mention cook and slice up the chorizo. We weren’t out of the woods yet. Logan started in on boiling the eggs Friday morning and we got them all peeled and cleaned in under an hour. I cranked out all the meatballs that afternoon while Logan attacked the chorizo. We were looking good, raw ingredients were being transformed into finished components and we could finally see our creations taking shape.
Saturday morning came like a thief, and while we had made great progress, there was still a lot of work to be done. I had an engagement to attend that afternoon so I worked on surrounding each egg with sausage to prepare them for breading and frying. I unfortunately had to leave Logan for a while so it was up to him to juggle the cooking of both the meatballs and the scotch eggs. While I was away, Logan began the frying process. We both thought this was going to be the easy part, little did we know that the egg-meat physics were conspiring against us. For some reason, when the eggs hit the hot oil, some of them were getting blowouts, exposing the fragile egg to the scalding oil bath. In the end, it didn’t end up being a big deal, although Logan and I, being the perfectionists that we are, would have liked to have had a nice pyramid of pristine eggs. In any event, they tasted amazing and that’s all that matters.
We finally finished all the components of each dish and packed everything into a cooler and a couple of serving trays. Off to the party we went. We arrived before the guests, so we had some lead time to assemble the dishes and get them ready for service. I tackled the Panzanella skewers while Logan hit the dessert. We tag teamed the chorizo, following each other with each piece of the puzzle. Puff pastry down, mustard smeared, chorizo placed, caramelized onions slathered, quince placed, manchego tossed. The same process for the meatballs. After constructing a tidy little Scotch egg pyramid (architecture school finally pays off!) the spread was complete. We were rewarded with an ice-cold Yeungling as we stood back to appreciate the gravity of what we had accomplished.
It was a fantastic way to end the year, the two of us together, doing what we love, and on a scale neither of us had ever experienced. On the drive home, all we could talk about what when we might be able to do it again. So if anyone is looking for a deal on some gourmet caterers, Eat a Duck has you covered. Check back in the days to come, because Logan will be going into detail on some of the dishes we prepared so you can try them at home!