Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cherry Poppin' Danny

The time had finally come for Dan's first meal. With his hectic work schedule, he picked Saturday to play host at Pete's apartment. With Pete, Boogie and myself in attendance (and Pete and Dan's respective ladies rolling in later on in the evening), this is what the menu looked like.

Freshly-baked focaccia with chicken liver pate

Crispy chicken, romaine lettuce and gorgonzola in a caesar dressing

Fresh Linguine with homemade meatballs

Braised rabbit with red and green peppers and puree of potato with truffle

Frozen lemon mousse with English cream sauce

This was a bit altered from the original emailed menu, but as history shows, your first meal rarely goes as planned. It started with a slight delay of our arrival, 8:00 instead of 7:00. No problem, he just needed a bit more time to finish things up. When we strolled in, onions were in the pan, bread was in the oven and Dan was hovered over multiple cookbooks plotting and planning his next move. Things got off to a rocky start when the focaccia failed to rise and turned out a bit on the crispy side. The extra cooking time waiting for the little bastards to rise had turned them into a WWF-style prop......the kind that Hulk Hogan would hit a masked opponent over the head with. Needless to say, after trying to crunch through a few bites, they ended up next to vegetable peelings and egg shells in the trash (with a resounding thud). Good thing a back-up loaf of crusty bread was there to scoop up the warm, rustic chicken livers that were mixed with butter, aromatics and a touch of red wine.

In true Thursday Club style, Dan's salad course had meat in it. The chicken was marinated in a lemon herb mixture which drew comparisons to a Chinese lemon chicken (combo meal L5 anyone?). That comparison ended when I got hold of a forkful of rich melted gorgonzola, crisp lettuce and a punchy caesar dressing. As light as our salads get around here I guess.

Up next was the soup that wasn't. Seeing Dan meticulously peeling a monstrous butternut squash could only mean one thing, squash soup right? Well.....apparently he made a wrong turn in Albuquerque and ended up with a soup less fit for a king and more fit for the sink. Again we had a chuckle, but immediately Dan shouted from the kitchen, "I swear I will make something edible tonight", and another course was in the works.

The pasta course that followed was one of my favorite moments of the meal. Fresh linguine with a bare-bones red sauce (Sunday gravy to some Italian Americans), racquetball-sized meatballs and a bright handful of basil leaves. Straight forward, but an awesome course.

The meatballs were especially good. A great crust on the outside, and moist and flavorful on the inside. Not the easiest move to pull off. Also, toasted pine nuts in the meatballs......can't wait to try that little trick.

Definitely starting to get full by this point, but Dan kept on plugging away in the kitchen while we slowly shoveled more and more into our mouths. The rabbit course was again a simple preparation. Baked bunny bits with sweet green and red peppers and mash. But this was no ordinary mash, it had an aggressive dousing of truffle oil to go along with the commonplace butter and cream. Some at the table thought it might have been a bit too much truffle, but in my mind you can't really have too much of that taste.

Now fully redeemed from the nights' previous gaffs, Dan stepped on the gas and blew us all away with his dessert. A quick peer in the freezer to make sure that the semi-freddo didn't turn completely-freddo and we were in business. It was a top dish that even a full stomach couldn't stop me from finshing. The English cream sauce was so frothy and rich, it played perfectly with the tart lemon base. It almost had a sweet hollandaise feel to it.

Contently stuffed we pushed away from the table and Dan's maiden meal was in the books. Despite all the kind-hearted ribbing, everything turned out just fine in the end. But, I'll have to wait until next time he cooks for that soup I guess.

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