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Brainstorm: Super-Ambitious Meal with Two Year Prep Time???

My friend Dave loves fiendishly complex and ambitious cooking projects. So for his 50th birthday (in January 2013), he wants to start prep work NOW. Can anyone think of a meal so elaborate it'd require two years of preparation?

A few conditions:

1. Lots of drinkables require this amount of time. But please limit this to food.

2. The result must make for crowd pleasing (a discerning, open-minded crowd, however), delicious eating....not just a geeky curiosity.

3. Yes, there's enough time to grow ingredients, but that wouldn't lead to a particularly splashy effect. A corn muffin from home-grown corn, sugar, eggs, flour, and butter would, after all, still be a corn muffin.

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  1. A corn muffin may be a corn muffin - but can Dave grow his own poultry for this meal?

    1. He could make his own cheese plate. A cheddar or parmesan style hard cheese could be started pretty soon, a blue maybe somewhere in the middle, and something soft like ricotta could be done a few days before.

      Also an air-dried ham would take a good few months.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gembellina

        Or prociutto, I've always been interested in the lamb prociutto that Mario Batali talked about on one of his shows. Something his father came up with and sell wildly at his deli in Seattle - this and all their cured meats. I've wondered just how hard that would be to make, it sure sounds good.

        1. Charcuterie is definitely one option. I ike the cheese recommendation. Pickles. Aged beef as the big day approaches. I'd also think about ways to use those drinkables in the meal. Like, steep brandy for four months with berries, then use to make a brandy sauce for the aged beef. A rum cake that needs to sit for three months.

          4 Replies
          1. re: katecm

            aged beef is a good one, or game hung til it's nice and high! even better if he goes out hunting himself...

            1. re: gembellina

              Gwaaaaaah. TWO-YEAR aged beef? Not sure......too gamy for my whitebread palate......
              Charcuterie, cheese, kraut....fruitcake...(?)
              Time enough to raise a few poultry.....

              1. re: mamachef

                No one said it had to age for two years. It's just one time-consuming part. Likewise, when people mentioned stocks or breads, they didn't mean for the stock to simmer or the bread to rise for two years.

                1. re: mamachef

                  ha no not the whole two years! god that would be vile, and also rotten, most likely.

            2. Prosciutto. Ideally starting pretty soon (assuming you can set up an environment with good temp and humidity control, otherwise wait until fall)

              1. I highly recommend Heston Blumenthal's book, "The Fat Duck Cookbook" with some of the most complex, time-consuming recipes out there. Either that or Escoffier. If he is into science I also recommend sous vide experimentation.

                In addition to growing his own poultry I suggest growing herbs and veg (if space permits, of course). He can also do preserved lemons and homemade vanilla.

                Love the idea of cheeses and charcuterie (I am working on both myself). Homemade chorizo is also fun to make and incredibly delicious to eat.

                1. If I had two years, I'd start growing artichokes. Begin seeds next month for summer growing season, establish perennials, even better harvest the year after. However, the fact that the big day is in January does introduce complications...


                  1. Since it's a birthday, I assume there will be a cake. Maybe a Caribbean black rum cake, that's often served for weddings? It takes about a year to let it sit to develop the flavors.

                    1. Please keep us informed on this venture/adventure/party!
                      If charcuterie is on the menu don't forget mustards that mellow.
                      Seems like you sort of have to decide some things right away, because they must start very soon--like the cheese suggestion. But the rest of it, 2 years to decide on a menu? I'd be hopeless, changing my mind weekly!

                      1. kimchi, thousand year old eggs, home made fish sauce.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                          I was thinking the same thing. Get some anchovies, salt and spices and bury them (inside of a tightly closed clay pot) in the ground.

                          Also, think about things like Haggis and Blood Sausage. Just getting the parts needed for the Haggis could take many weeks (Sheep's stomach?). Same deal with procuring fresh blood from a pig.

                          Lastly, you could make a real Duck Confit that is allowed to sit in a cool area for many months.

                          Kefir from real Kefir grains. Use raw milk and make it over and over again so that the grains keep growing and getting better in flavor and fermentation.

                          Make real preserved lemons that are allowed to ferment for many months.

                          1. re: DougRisk

                            I love all of these ideas, but I think DougRisk is brushing up against something here...
                            How about a cassoulet? Perfect for the winter and if you make everything from scratch (curing hams & sausages, confit of duck, canning the tomatoes, drying the beans, making a really rich stock) some of those steps are multi month projects on their own.
                            2 years...wow... never planned further then 6 months!

                            1. re: lunchbox

                              Drying the beans is a great idea!

                        2. Aloha Jim..
                          You could do a 'dinner in the sky' with Dave and your close friends..maybe somwhere warm and exotic.


                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            Wow, Beach Chick, given that Dave's actually a weekend pilot, this might be amazingly appropros. Thank you!

                            And thanks to everyone else, too! Dave's reading along.

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              Hmm...but maybe not. There's a scale issue...they set up for eight hours, accommodating hundreds of diners in a given session. It would surely be completely prohibitive for just one group for one meal.

                              Unless we crowdsource this and have tons of Chowhounds sign up to divide the expense. Hmmm.....

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                $289 per person in Las Vegas 'coming soon'...what a deal!

                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                  If chowhounds converge in Vegas, it's gonna be for Lotus of Siam, not some high-altitude shtick....

                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                    Love Lotus of Siam...
                                    $289 pp seems like a reasonable price to me for great food, top chefs and hoisted up in the air overlooking the strip in Vegas.
                                    You know your friend Dave best..have fun whatever you decide!

                              2. re: Jim Leff

                                It would be one hell of a way to celebrate Dave's 50th birthday..
                                Curious how many Chowhounds would be interested...depending on location, I would be up for it!

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  Dave is SO not playing fair, but as it is what it is. I suspect a specially raised porker, with some cheese to begin to flavor, with about NO details given out...you have clout, this is time to use it.

                                  I also think making sure an 11 ton pink flamingo place as a newspaper holder on his door stop is well on order.

                              3. Charcuterie and cheese have already been mentioned as have chickens, but in that amount of time, you're looking generally at things which require aging *after* you source the original ingredients, or stuff that's generally difficult to source and would require the lead time to import.

                                Outside of chickens, that's adequate time to say, fatten a dairy cow for some nice beef, or raise other livestock.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: wattacetti

                                  Thanks, but, per my OP, he'd rather invest time in preparation rather than growing/cultivating ingredients.

                                  He's not looking to become a farmer/chef hybrid. He just wants to go overboard on the chef part. :)

                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                    Why doesn't he make his own utensils from flint and prep up Neanderthal style? Should take him about a year to master the flint splitting techniques and several months to kill sufficient game to serve the party.

                                2. All of my ideas are asian, but that's what I know...

                                  Master sauce for red cooked chicken. Basically a braising sauce that is reserved and reused for your next batch of red cooked meat. The master sauce becomes more intense in flavor with each use.

                                  A good ramen stock can take several days and delivers huge on flavor. Your friend could also try to make the noodles from scratch.

                                  Speaking of noodles, perhaps you friend could try to master hand-pulled noodles? He could use them in Jajangmyun which is a korean-chinese dish that utilizes a fermented black bean paste.

                                  Speaking of fermented pastes, what about making your own miso or gochujang?

                                  Korean oxtail soup always tastes better after several days of stewing.

                                  And I can't remember if this was mentioned already, but the 1000 year old egg is a pretty ambitious endeavor. Never eaten one, so I can't attest to the payout on that one..

                                  1. My suggestion makes use of the full two years or more.

                                    1. Grow acorns & flax.
                                    2. Buy a bunch of pigs and fatten 'em up with home grown acorns as feed. Then make your own cured pork.
                                    3. Buy a sheep and a cow and make aged cheese. Feed them the flax seeds you grew.
                                    4. About a year before your party inseminate your sheep and cow.
                                    5. In addition to mother's milk, feed the calf and lamb acorns, flax, and the cured pork and cheese you made (But save some for yourselves too).
                                    5. Get milk from mothers. Make butter, ice cream, yogurt, etc.
                                    6. Cook and eat all of the above.

                                    p.s. Please invite me if you do this, I would love to know how a human who was fed all of the above will taste.

                                    1. Research Babette's Feast, a movie from about 20+ years ago. I think it's Danish, the movie, anyway it is literally a huge project & feast. I did this in a French restaurant as a cooking class, but you could certainly start researching and locating ingredients far ahead in advance. The menu was this:

                                      Portage a la Tortue
                                      Turtle Soup
                                      Sandeman Rare Amontillado Sherry

                                      Blini Demidoff au Caviar Russe
                                      Blini Demidoff with Russian Caviar
                                      Champagne Veuve Clicquot Brut

                                      Caille en Sarcphage avec Sauce Perigourdine
                                      Quail stuffed with Foie Gras Baked in Puff Pastry Nest with Truffles
                                      Clos Vougeot

                                      Les Fromages Varies

                                      Baba au Rhum et Fruits Confits
                                      Baba with Rum and Candied Fruits
                                      Hine Triomphe Cognac

                                      Les Fruits Frais

                                      Trust me, it was super labor intensive, and definitely crowd pleasing. If you want the actual vintages of the wines, I may be able to get those for you also. Good luck, and sounds like a lot of fun. Report back to let us know what you & Dave have decided!!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Phurstluv

                                        I love this menu, and I'd love to be a dinner guest! Heck it would take me two years to save for it, let alone make it! Drat the day I first had great caviar!

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          I know, chef, it was wonderful! I know, and this was about twenty years ago, so I can only imagine what it would cost today!

                                          1. re: Phurstluv

                                            Sounds fabulous.......
                                            Cost-effectiveness, though, might be better achieved by just munching on a coupla c-notes.
                                            Not that cost-effectiveness was ever the issue, here....

                                            1. re: mamachef

                                              Definitely not an issue if you're preparing this menu!!

                                      2. how about making things like infused oils, vinegars, etc.

                                        if he wants a bread, the sooner he starts a starter culture the better the bread will be! of course theres the already mentioned kimchi, fish sauce, etc. could also make pickles, marinated veg, preserved lemon, aged cheese and beef, alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, spirits, whatever)

                                        1. Looking at a lot of these ideas, he's going to end up w/ a lot of pickled, smoked, brined, infused foods--time consuming in terms of rest time but not always that elaborate. I'd be more interested in learning to master the technique to make an elaborate dinner. The dinner itself doesn't have to take two years to make. I'd pick a menu out of something like the French Laundry cookbook and then learn to prepare it perfectly.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: chowser

                                            This post has been bouncing around in my head since I first posted, and the more I think about it, the more I agree with Chowser's point-

                                            Practice makes perfect- there are some wonderful recipes out there all about technique- osso buco comes to mind- that you can make well on the first go- usually after hours and hours of recipe comparisons, going to a dozen grocery stores, making a disaster of the kitchen, crossing your fingers and then enjoying the meal! the next time, it only takes a few stops at the stores, a little less fuss in the kitchen, and then even better results!

                                            Maybe nailing the perfect Beef Bourignon or Duck a l'orange... maybe setting a Chinese imperial feast... maybe rolling out a dim sum extravaganza... time consuming yes, but better cumulatively then a one-shot deal...

                                            food for thought, indeed

                                            1. re: lunchbox

                                              Nailing dim sum, especially the intricate dishes would be an awesome accomplishment and a great meal. It could take at least that much time to get it.

                                          2. A variation on the pickling suggestions - nukazuke.

                                            The rice bran pickling medium becomes more complex as it ages, to the extent that batches used to be passed from generation to generation. The pickles themselves don't require much time. The more mature the medium, the better the pickle.

                                            1. plenty of time to plant and grow strawberries, tomatoes, peppers to put up in jams, jellies and chutneys.

                                              1. One thing I am looking to do this year to have ready for holiday gifts is cultivating mushrooms. i am kind of limited to deck space so having different mushrooms means cultivating them in separate batches.I also need to take dehydrating time into consideration. Even if you have space it will take up a few months, especially if you need a lot of mushrooms.