Last weekend we were invited to dinner by our friends Jeremy and Deanna. These are friends who love food and cooking as much as we do and they had a great idea to inspire the menu. Instead of conceiving the meal plan and then laboring over it before we got there, they decided to create a challenge. Without revealing what they were, earlier in the week Deanna went shopping and procured secret ingredients.
She chose some great dinner ingredients ala Top Chef, things like proteins that don't take too much time, a nice mix of veggies, good fats, and a few random things she knew had never graced her kitchen before.
While the kids played and the ladies drank wine, Ned and Jeremy set to work... planning dishes so that they used each and every ingredient provided. No excuses. None.
And honestly, it took them more time to decide what to do than it did to make it. But, they did impress.
A beautiful (and delicious) first course: cucumber "sushi" 2 ways... sardine and raita, and then quinoa with pancetta, capers, and lemon.
The main course was surf and turf, with stove top smoked lobster tail (fortunate, as we learned that Jeremy must use his stove-top smoker once a month or it will be thrown away) and flash seared lamb chops on a bed of arugula with a brilliant basil, rosemary marcona almond, and garlic pesto (some Jeremy genius right there). Sunchoke and potato puree topped with seared heart of palm (blasted heart of palm). Roasted Broccoli Raab with pancetta and garlic rounded out the plate.
The second course (which came third thanks to Ned and Jeremy's keen planning skills) was an exceptionally simple and delicious crab, aged gouda, and artichoke heart stuffed and baked portobella.
We brought Ned's short bread as our contribution... and the boys decided to serve it with a chili, fresh pineapple quick-made chutney along with blueberries and strawberries. Oh, and a whipped chocolate mascarpone, nom.
Deanna served up a heck of a challenge, with a huge variety of delicious ingredients, this time the boys delivered. Next time we host, I'm thinking marmite and wheat berries.
And let's be clear... the kitchen was a disaster. No. Really. It was bad. We're going to have to add a clean as you go rule... since those two are the tasmanian devils of homestead Iron Chef.
But all in all, we couldn't have had more fun, and we've decided that next time it's our place. Ned will enjoy staying up till 3:00am with the dishes... it's so worth it.