Brainstorm: Super-Ambitious Meal with Two Year Prep Time???
- Jim Leff Feb 16, 2011 07:28 AM
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.
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.
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.
Prosciutto. Ideally starting pretty soon (assuming you can set up an environment with good temp and humidity control, otherwise wait until fall)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.....
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.
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.
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..
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.
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
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
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!!
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)
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.
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
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.
plenty of time to plant and grow strawberries, tomatoes, peppers to put up in jams, jellies and chutneys.
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.