A Black Box Dinner

March 23, 2010

My friend Alan is a culinary school grad who has put the world of professional kitchens behind him (at least for now) and is staying at home with his cute, young son.  He and his wife started a tradition a few months ago where they would invite a couple who would bring the ingredients and he would turn them into a meal.  The catch is that these were mystery ingredients, only to be revealed when the guests arrived.  And all the ingredients must be used, but you can supplement with anything in the house.

My wife and I went to Alan’s and Erin’s house some time ago, and he expected me to bring something exotic.  Instead I brought chicken.  Sure, it was really good poulet rouge chicken, but it was still just chicken.  I also brought yellow cauliflower, Arkansas black apples, thyme, lima beans, littleneck clams, red beets, radishes and Meyer lemons.  Alan did a great job, making 3 savory dishes: (1) Roasted beets with apple, wilted beet greens, toasted walnuts and tarragon/thyme vinaigrette; (2) Littleneck clams with Spanish chorizo, fennel, pine nuts and Meyer lemon; and (3) Roasted poulet rouge, with lima beans, radish and leeks, yellow cauliflower puree and jus.

This past Saturday, Alan turned it around, and he and Erin brought the ingredients.

These included farm fresh eggs, bay scallops, blood oranges, fiddleheads, key limes, golden raisins, Israeli couscous, arugula, green garlic, radishes, rainbow chard, and a fucking duck.  No, I’ve never cooked a whole duck before.  No, I’ve never broken down a duck before.  And no, I still really haven’t done either now.  That’s what my sous chef, Alan, was for. Read the rest of this entry »