Bevy Late Night Supper Club: The Nutty Spaniard
Bevy hosted their inaugural Late Night Supper Club featuring Chef Jamal Lahiani and Bar Chef Christian Self. This particular menu was driven by Jamal’s food concept, and Christian created drinks to match. Here’s a recap of the food menu co-written by Chef Jamal Lahiani and the Dappervangelist (Brent Nakano), who attended the event.
For the inaugural late-night supper club I wrote a compulsory three course menu then rounded it out with a welcome bite and a sweet ending. Once it was written, I loosely settled on calling it and/or thematically dubbing it: "The Nutty Spaniard". Like my bar food/our food menu which is guided by German beer food and British pub food (whose finished product didn't wholly fall into those categories) - The Nutty Spaniard too, was not all Spanish - but rather, eclectic with balance between chosen content and resources needed for execution.
The Courses Explained
Scallops and smoked fish custard with apple and truffle
Scallops can be raw and topped or tossed with a sauce or they can be perfectly seared. In this case I oiled and seasoned them to broil, all at once, with no turning or monitoring involved. A smoked fish flan, which could be unmolded onto the plate, lended efficiency to a dish which needed to be simple and expedited. While giving taste and texture to the dish, the flan also looked like a full size scallop, in a way. Finally, I used truffle and sauerkraut style apple to homogenized this dish -- which although not Spanish, shares some German background found later in the menu.
Veal sweetbreads with polenta cake and bacon mustard
The menu was centered around veal sweetbreads (dish two) which I procured upon request by my enthusiastic regulars. The sweetbreads were poached in an aromatic and boozy half and half liquid and then pressing while cooling. This common sweetbreads’ technique is used to improve their texture. Then, to give an adequate crisp to the par-cooked meat, I coated the sweatbreads with Wondra flour and pan-fried them in olive oil and butter. While that was going on the stove top, I used the broiler as an alternative heat source to focus a crisp atop the black pepper and goat cheese studded polenta. An orange juice pickled red cabbage served as a nod to traditional sweet-and-sour German cabbage or other slaws served along schnitzels and provided acid balance. Adjacent was a green salad whose spiced and emulsified mustard vinaigrette flowed freely in concentric circles across the plate of tan, green, yellow, and magenta. Finally, bacon landed everywhere, even atop another green salad. Because the polenta, a heavier starch, was on this plate, the main dish that came next didn't need to include a heaviness to act as a finished product.
Smoked paprika lamb with nutty onion cream and sherry
Like the sweatbreads, I once again, braised the main protein (lamb). This technique isn’t without “controversy” however. I was once asked: “Why are you braising a rack of lamb!? Would you braise a filet mignon?” Well, I dunno. But in this case, a sous vide replica method produces a few user friendly and built in features including: a serving sauce, flavor penetration, portion accuracy and the elimination of overt gaminess. By cooling the gently cooked, well done meat, then completely cooling in its own already nicely flavored cooking liquid, this lamb became a craveable crowd pleaser. But ultimately, I did not serve this lamb in its own sauce. Instead I cooked another batch in it for a different dish and instead used finishing sauces and side dishes involving almonds, onions, sherry, and paprika - a spanish flavor profile. Two kinds of turnips were also used: The first, a red watermelon turnip cooked in bacon fat, brown butter, and paprika which influenced a guest to comment how it tasted like a vegetable portuguese sausage. The second was takuan, which I had on hand. This neon yellow japanese turnip preparation added crunch and color to this otherwise earthtone plate. This final savory dish, due to the inclusion of almonds and sherry, ultimately fulfilled the Spanish moniker. Likewise the “sweet farewell” of cinco leches (tres leches is so passé) with the walnut crisp with apple and cheddar represented the theme.
From the resource perspective, I am limited to what a home cook has, except with a little more refrigeration and counter space. That is, at Bevy there is a consumer grade, Sears purchased, electric range with double ovens. That’s all. To accomplish a multi-course meal, there needed to be an efficient transition between courses and occupied surface areas. The first course was assembled of cold and ready to plate items. The second course used the broiler and stove top. The third course used the oven. Each dish was also embellished by the use of bottled vinaigrettes and quick pickles to make for a more complete final product.
For the Home Cook
A few other techniques and dishes used here can be recommended to the home cook. First, that when cooking for a gathering, strategic use of the broiler can be very helpful in recreating a high heat situation usually done on the stove top.
Other useful tips are to make polenta cake, a simple to execute easy to serve comfort food. Do this by:
- Cooking 1 cup of dry polenta in 3 cups of water for about 10 minutes
- Stirring in a cup of melty cheese before pouring the porridge into an ungreased pie tin
- Top polenta with olive oil and black pepper
- Add any combination of flavors or ingredients to personalize your polenta cake.
- Broil in oven until browned.
Also a braised item on this menu was cooled overnight in it's braising liquid to promote max tenderness. colors and textures also varied from plate to plate to encourage the impression of diversity.