Just before the EVP dinners started, someone else threw a Vincentennial. Check out the article from last year.
Thank you for a deeefrightful evening!
Love Chris’ blog—so fun to taste the source for his inspiration!
Eating Vincent Price has been a non advertising, members only, word of mouth kind of thing so far and I have no plans to change it.
I will be using Mail Chimp to announce tickets, so please use the link below to join the news letter. I encourage you to invite your friends, family, ex-lovers, various circus freaks, that one tranny from Edinburgh with the hair, your 8th grade science teacher, your mom, your fake mom, or even your arch enemy.
All the cool kids are doing it.
“Lovely Evening—such a fun concept.
—rosemary in blintzes!
—gumbo yummy/spicy/not overly “riced”
I won’t pretend like there’s not a little sniffle behind the clack of keys as I type this: Monday night’s dinner at Clandestino was my last under the immediate mentoring of Chef Efrain Cuevas, Chef Lauren Parton, and the rest of the Clandestino staff.
Normally, I would shed a tear at the dinner but I was too busy glad handing and exhibiting the suave, debonair traits of an experienced, indefatigable, attention whore.
I really hadn’t thought about that until after this dinner was over and I was “cleaning” and “working” in the kitchen and my feet hurt so bad I just wanted to cut them off and I was bitching about something or other and one of my teen bosses carefully explained to me that I hadn’t actually worked as much as I thought I had that day. I had, in fact, been seriously enjoying myself and yakking away and keeping my fat fingers as far away from the pot handles as possible. As I stood there absorbing this lesson, Chef Parton chimed in, explaining, in her perfunctory way, that I was an “attention whore”.
They’re right. I am an attention whore. I love attention. Love. It.
The thing is, this project, as cool as it is, falls squarely in the realm of wish fulfillment and ego pimping. I’m no different from any other couch sous watching Top Chef thinking, shit, man, I could do that. I’m just lucky someone liked my idea and put up with me for six months.
It’s actual hens in actual clay. Here’s what you do. You clean the hen. You rub it with paprika and a little salt. You fill it with wild rice and pancetta. You wrap it in parchment. You wrap it in clay and make sure the clay is perfectly sealed.
Here’s the reality of it. You have to portion the terra cotta carefully so all the birds have the same clay and cook at the same speed. You have to beat the living crap out of the clay with a big fat rolling pin until you can roll it out into a giant tortilla. Then you lay the birds face down, the parchment seal running up their back, which you’re staring at, then you fold the clay up around them and smooth it all together so it’s a big fat vaguely avian football.
Then you cook them at about 400 for an hour.
Then you serve them on a bed of fresh thyme and mint.
Then your guests bust them open with their butter knife, slice through the parchment, and a little cloud of delicious bird flavored steam wafts up into their beaming, amazed faces.
You have to shave the asparagus into ribbons, then submerge them in cold water until they curl. Make that vinaigrette with capers, dill pickles, dijon, salt, sugar, parsely, onion, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Mix it all up together. Serve it. Watch people swoon.
It’s an apple crumble bread pudding kind of thing. You bake granny smiths down to mash, stir in some zest, some cinnamon, some sugar. You fry up some bread crumbs in butter. You get some rhubarb jelly. You make some whip cream. In the cake pans: crumbs, rhubarb, apple, crumbs, rhubarb, apple, crumbs; bake it at 150 degrees until one of your chefs realizes you’re an idiot.
Kitchen Bitch: “This cake just doesn’t seem to be browning.”
Parton: “What temperature is the oven at?”
Kitchen Bitch: “I am moon.”
What’s the first and foremost rule of cooking? Turn on the fire. We’d made a clay stamp of birds for the hens and baked it at 150 degrees. I never thought about the temperature and ASSUMED Chef had left the oven exactly as I required it because I am moon.
Here’s the critical lesson of timing. The clock doesn’t wait for you. As Don Henley taught us, time keeps on slipping away. By the time we’d discovered the oven was cold enough to make cheese, we were already 40 minutes behind. There is no catching up. You can’t make things cook faster. You will be tempted to crank your oven up to 500 and pray.
So I stalled. I admitted it all to the delight of the staff. I told a story. I wished my friend, Sgt. David Haynes, a happy 70th birthday. I still had 35 minutes left. So I just said: talk amongst yourselves, and went to the kitchen to work on my cake.
The birds came out. Everyone was suitably impressed. I pulled my cakes, inverted them over the plates, and . . . nothing. I had forgotten to butter the sides. So I had to pry my cake from it’s aluminum pan, carefully, which didn’t matter because it collapsed into a . . . not a pile, exactly but a . . . a slump. It was an Ablekage slump. Well, it tasted great and what can you do except pour the glaze and
So, gladhanding takes up a lot of time. While I was out in the dining room toting the book table to table and ruminating and expounded, my food was not being cooked. By me. Fortunately, Parton and Marielly knew exactly what I was doing wrong, cooked everything for me (including the genius idea to glaze the carrots with champagne–droolicious). Then they hid them from me and waited until I needed them, then asked me, three nanoseconds before I thought about it: hey Chris, where’s your glaze? Where’s your whipped cream? What are you going to do?
I am going into cardiac arrest is what I’m going to do.
But, like always, Parton and Marielly, or the Merciless Evil Queens of Utter Terror, as their friends call them, basically pulled these two rabbits out of a hat and the food was on track. I ladled the glaze over the cake, inhaling the delicious perfume of drunken rhubarb, then attempted to quenelle the cream but I don’t know how to quenelle cream. My slumps looked like they’d been murdered in a powdered wig. Parton came over, stared in mute horror, and DID NOT BUST MY BALLS at all, which is the very worst. It means the result was so bad you couldn’t even make a wry crack about it. You just had to smile and hope everyone survived.
Of course, here’s the truth in Kitchens: the table doesn’t know. To them, this dessert is supposed to look like a dead English barrister muppet. Hell, it tasted awesome. No one complained.
After it was all over, some guests lingered, some shook my hand, some gave me great big bear hugs, and one person exhibited the kind of gracious aplomb you rarely see when service at a dinner goes south, as mine did, during the toast.
Manny Martinez, you sir are a mensch. So is your delightful arm candy, Sara. When I poured the champagne for the toast, I was missing a bottle. I opened the fridge and ganked what I thought was a bottle of champagne. It was not a bottle of champagne. It was an award winning rare Riesling with a champagne cork. I didn’t even read the label. I poured it and kept going. Thought it was one of mine.
When Martinez came asking about his wine which we had been chilling in the fridge, I realized what I’d done, apologized, and begged him not to hit me. To my surprise, he thought it was funny. He thought it was hilarious. He didn’t pitch a fit. He didn’t complain. He wouldn’t even accept repayment. Total gentleman. I’m raising a glass to you, Mr. Martinez: you are the man.
And so here we are at the end of another verbose post, sad that it’s over—but it’s not over. This was my last dinner with Clandestino. Hell, you think an attention whore like me is going to quit this gig? I’m looking for the perfect place. I’m working on it. Stay tuned. The dinners will continue.
“This is an excellent cold vegetable to use instead of a salad. It is also an interesting way to serve leftover asparagus, than which there is nothing limper and sadder looking when you open your refrigerator door. The vinaigrette sauce perks it right up, and does well by cold boiled artichokes and salads, too.”
This will be one of our vegetables Monday night. We may not be serving it cold from the fridge, but we will be serving it with this vinaigrette sauce.
In the book, many recipes call for canned ingredients, but here is an exception. Though Mr. Price insists you cook Asparagus Milanese then chill it especially for this dish, the jury is still out on that.
dry mustard (optional)
We’ll be throwing another dinner, Monday, March 26th. This will be a graduation banquet, as it will be my final dinner with the good people of Clandestino Dining, and under the tutelage of Chef Efrain Cuevas. The dinners will continue. I’m looking at venues on the North West Side, where I live. There’s a beautiful old clubhouse in the woods that it completely under used. Beams. Stone. Fireplace. Hopefully, it will work. If not, we eat in my yard.
In the meantime, you may enjoy these teases of dishes from the upcoming dinner.
First, our starter comes from Sobrin de Botin, feeding bullfighters of Madrid since 1725, arguably the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the known world (though Tour d’Argent, in Paris, thinks otherwise). The Tortilla con Escabeche.
We first served this starter back in July, for the Spanish dinner. It was a hit and people have been asking for its return. Normally, we wouldn’t repeat, but this dinner marks a new beginning and eggs are the perfect symbol.
I am told by Chef de Cuisine, Lauren Parton, that this is an easy dish. My attempts to recreate it make me think she’s messing with me. Where Parton had delivered what I took as a vegetarian faux gras, I plated what appeared to be the naked, convulsing corpse of Sponge Bob Square Pants.
I will try again, on March 26. In the meantime, I beseech thee to Google Spanish Tortilla con Escabeche and marvel how NONE of them are anything like the magnificent huevosity we obtained in July.
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