It all started with squid ink pasta.
Alex brought it up in our menu meeting and we started riffing from there.
Below is our multi-course, Italian inspired menu served on June 18th, 2015. Thanks to everyone who attended the dinner; we had a blast hanging out and cooking for you.
Arguably the best part of the Stella Underground dinners is our mingling period with snacks. Usually lasting about 30 minutes, our snack session gives everyone the opportunity to open their wine, pour a few glasses, and relax a bit before dinner starts.
On this night we featured about 10 different forms of cured Italian meets including prosciutto, coppa, mortadella, salumi, etc.
We also put out an assortment of cured olives, wood fire ciabatta made with our sourdough starter, freshly baked herb foccacia, and pickled peppadew peppers.
Simple, classic, delicious.
When we first developed this menu, I actually wanted to use Ostrich fan fillet for this dish. Ostrich meat is incredibly lean, with a rich, dark red color. It becomes extremely tough when cooked, but its amazing raw.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to obtain Ostrich meat in time for this dinner, so I went the classic route with a beef tenderloin. The tenderloin was partially frozen to firm up the meat before thinly slicing and pounding flat.
The carpaccio was then dressed with a generous amount of cold pressed olive, arugula, fried capers, minced shallot, preserved lemon rind, fleur de sel, and dotted with a mustard emulsion.
Second course was my favorite of the night.
So many dishes this time of year are bright and colorful, but I wanted to go the opposite direction, making the presentation almost monochromatic. This dish was a play on contrasting black and white colors, while exploring various layers of umami and texture.
For the fresh pasta I used 45 ounces of bread flour, 25 ounces eggs, and 10 ounces squid ink. Expressed in the baker's percentage, my final formula for the squid ink pasta was:
100% Bread Flour
55.5% Whole Eggs
22.2% Squid Ink
When making fresh pasta, I rarely go 100% bread flour, but for this dish, I needed the sturdy chew that only a high protein flour could achieve.
For plating, the pasta was placed on top of a squid-ink and black garlic emulsion. The cooked pasta was dressed with black garlic oil and joined on the plate with black trumpet mushrooms glazed in Barolo wine and butter.
For contrasting color and texture, the pasta was garnished with shaved pecorino, pine nuts, and a roll of guanciale (cured pork cheek).
These petite lamb ranks were first charred in the wood fire oven which we had at about 850°F/455°C. Once they were a rich brown, flirting with black, they were rubbed with tomato paste and charred once more.
The shanks were then submerged in a Barolo wine marinade made by simply simmering the wine with diced mirepoix and minced garlic; much like you would make a vegetable stock, but using wine instead of water.
After the shanks marinated for 2 days, they were braised in equal amounts Barolo marinade and roasted chicken stock for 8 hours at 225°F/107°C. The braising liquid was then strained and reduced to a glaze using the exact same method as demonstrated in our braised beef short rib video.
The accompanying polenta was made using our basic method, but instead of water, we used a porcini mushroom broth.
The lamb shank was garnished with house marinated artichoke hearts, slow roasted garlic, and fresh oregano from the Stella garden.
This dessert was another exercise in focused simplicity.
After the robustly flavored lamb shank and porcini polenta served in the previous course, the last thing we wanted to do was bash our guests over the head with a heavy, rich dessert.
The lemon custard was made on the stove top to ensure an even consistency, and poured into "false baked" tart shells to set. The tart was then topped with a pistachio gelato deriving it's flavor from both extract and chopped nuts. The dessert was finished with a drizzle of pistachio oil, a sprinkle of maldon sea salt, and few fresh violas from the garden.
If you would like to attend an upcoming Stella Culinary dinner or cooking class, you can register at shop.stellaculinary.com.