Monday, January 3, 2011

NYE dinner at home: Agnolotti that Tom Colicchio taught me to make

Firstly, happy New Year all, I hope 2011 brings everyone great times. This year we had a quiet dinner at home with friends on New Year's Eve, a departure from our party in Buenos Aires last year, but it was quite nice. It also gave me an opportunity to try my hand at a dish Tom Colicchio taught us a month or so ago.

"Wait, Colicchio taught you?" you ask? If you were paying attention, I hinted at it in a much earlier post, but back in 2009 we attended City Harvest's gala event, Bid Against Hunger, and at the live auction we won a package that included a cocktail party with Eben Klemm, a tray from Caviarteria, and a private cooking lesson from Chef Colicchio.
(We got a really great deal, it was the first auction item and it seemed that people were not fully paying attention and the gavel nearly fell with it going for a song, but the wife noticed and jumped in and scooped it up at a slightly higher but still surprisingly low price. It was not one of the later items you may have read about that went for crazy prices. I almost felt bad about our steal.) In any case, it is a great event with a mind numbing number of great bites of food from top restaurants, plenty of wine and cocktails, and fun auction items, all for a great cause; I highly recommend checking it out this year if you are into such things.  We hit the 2010 event as well.
When we ended up scheduling the lesson with Chef Colicchio, I was not sure what to expect, but the experience turned out to be much better than I had even hoped. Colicchio was extremely generous, both with his time and the food, and was thoroughly gregarious for the entire afternoon he spent with us.
We showed up at Craft's private dining room with little idea how the day would work. but that turned out to be because the plan was to walk down a coupe blocks to the Union Square green market and see what looked good and and what we liked and go from there.

Those Crosnes were destined to accompany the peak season Nantucket Bay scallops the Chef retrieved from Craft's walk in.  I had tasted an excellent Sturgeon dish with speck, beets, and horseradish prepared by him at both the first night of his Tom:Tuesday Dinners and at an Autumn 'Farm-Maker' Dinner I attended, and I asked if it might be possible to do something along those lines, thus the beets.  Mostly we just got what looked good and he figured out what to do with it once we got back to the kitchen.

We also got a tour of the downstairs kitchen and walk-ins when we went down to pick out the proteins.  This is when we grabbed the wrapped sturgeon, the bay scallops, and a thick pork chop.

Ok, on to the Agnolotti from the post's subject.  We also got some parsnips from Union Square, which would be the base of the filling for the pasta.  Colicchio peeled, roughly chopped, and boiled the parsnips until tender before mashing, seasoning, and mounting the puree with Crème Fraîche.  Meanwhile, he made fresh pasta and a simple accompaniment of rendered bacon with kale and leeks from the market.

As you can see, he drafted Craft's chef de cuisine James Tracy to lend a hand finishing the pasta, here's the play by play:
I need to study that sequence some more before I again make these, as you'll see in a moment, mine are not nearly as pretty.  Nor did I have a white truffle laying around to finish the dish:
Ok, let's see how I did.  I didn't remember the proportions for the pasta, so I used Batali's basic recipe but threw in an extra yolk and a pinch of salt for kicks.
So far so good.
Those don't look so bad.  (Although the other half still covered were rejects because they had parsnip blowing out one side or another.)  Oh yeah, I also added a splash of pasta water and some butter to the kale to bring it together before plating.
And finally my finished dish:
I used the same sprinkle of thyme and Parmigiano-Reggiano, but had to settle for a drizzle of truffle oil.  Shhh, I know it's sacrilegious, but what's a guy to do?  I have to say, it was a big hit and I was very happy, even if my little dudes were lacking in structural integrity and suffered some blowouts while cooking. 

I suppose this post is getting a bit long in the tooth, so I'll finish up with some quick hits covering the rest of our lesson with Colicchio.
He made us some pristine Nantucket Bay Scallops  that were perfectly in season, just quickly seared of with some leeks and Cosnes.  Even the wife, who normal dislikes scallops, enjoyed these. I normally love scallops, so I really dug this dish.  Colicchio offered more truffles for these but we passed, feeling we didn't want to take advantage of his generosity.  These very sweet and just slightly briny morsels were plenty delicious on their own.
Next was the sturgeon I requested, pan roasted over simmered diced beets hit with some grated horseradish.  There may have been more to the beet component but I can't find my notes on my mess of a desk right this minute.  But rest assured, it was as delicious as I remembered; I really enjoy the meaty texture of the fish.  Now I need to figure out where I can buy some good sturgeon in the city.
The final course was the pork chop, served with quickly sauteed Brussels Sprout leaves and a honey and vinegar roasted (Sweet Dumpling?) Pumpkin.  (I prepared some Butternut Squash for thanksgiving in the same manner.)
It was a great afternoon.  Not only did we eat great food, we learned about cooking picking up some great tips, all the while with lively conversation.  One thing the chef mentioned that intrigued me was that he has been working hard on a documentary that could prove to be controversial because it calls for getting rid of agricultural subsidies due to both the waste of money but more importantly how they distort the markets and lead to pretty awful unintended consequences.  Ok, when I say intrigued me, I really mean that I am in total agreement with Colicchio on the issue and when the topic came up I set upon a little rant against them.  In any case, look for it sometime this year.

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