Saturday, September 05, 2009

Top Chef Dexter

I admit I'm a little bit of poser, recording and watching every episode of Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. I love to visualize myself right in the thick of it all, pretending to be the sou-chef, mentally rising to every challenge. Look, everyone's got their daydreams.

Last night was my real life version of Top Chef. But first, let's go back a little. Since moving to Dexter a couple of years ago, I have made a few great girl friends, the kind of friends that you wait your whole life for. Real people who know how to laugh and love to eat and cook and, well, just love taking advantage of the fun in every day. Great people to be around. One of these great women happens to be Kelly, the wife of Chef Alex Young of Zingerman's Roadhouse. Another happens to be Charity, who is AWESOME (-props to the boss). Both seen below.

A 3:30 phone call presented me with my elimination challenge:
Host and partially prepare dinner for Chef Alex and his family, among other foodies.

I almost came unraveled at the mention of the idea. You know, if you've read this blog, that I'm a little bit obsessed with Alex and the Roadhouse. Not only because every single meal that I've had there is almost the best thing I've ever put in my mouth, but also because of the general attitude and passion for making food the honest and tasty way. Real food, local & seasonal ingredients clearly direct the menu.

But I also know that these are real people who live just on the other side of town. I was so excited and a little bit nervous, actually no, a lot nervous. My brother-in-law declared me the most nervous he has ever heard in 18 years. I wanted to be a good host, but not only that. I also wanted to be able to show Chef Alex that I wasn't a total plebeian, though I don't have any formal training.

(Alex and my youngest son)

At 4p.m. I declared that the kids HAD to watch TV (an almost unheard of call from this mom). After I got control of my bodily functions, I looked in my fridge and pantry which was full because I recently shopped at Plum market and the Ann Arbor farmer's market. I also called my husband and had him pick up about 4 lbs of the best salmon that he could find at whole foods, in addition to a few brats for the kids.

Alex then called (deep breath, self) and gave me as many options as I could want about what I'd like him to help with.

For a couple hours I prepped before he and his family arrived with the other guests. Here's what Alex and I ended up with:
  • cheese platter (mostly supplied by Alex from the restaurant-seriously people, how lucky am I?!?) accompanied with Zingerman's sourdough
  • tomato salad straight from Cornman Farms

  • A head of escarole chopped, topped with brown butter caramelized Tantre Farm onion and fennel. Alex later added pan-fried goat cheese medallions.

  • A salad of watermelon, mint, Gardenworks sunflower sprouts, and crumbled feta
  • Grilled eggplant drizzled with a caper Bagna CĂ uda
  • 10 shucked ears of corn prepared for Alex to make a corn pudding that was wonderfully light and airy, totally showcasing the sweetness of corn right now.
  • Perfectly grilled salmon with herbs

  • My piece de resistance was this recipe from gourmet, for slab bacon adobo . Yeah, grilled bacon. It was all that. Plus a few more. I've been wanting an excuse to do it for a while, and happened to have a slab bacon in my freezer from Sparrow meat market. We all picked at it as the salmon was in the final stages of grilling.
  • I had 1/4 of a bushel of fresh peaches which became a peach raspberry pie, brimming full with fresh Michigan fruit tossed with about 3/4 cup of crumbled almond paste. Honestly, we were all too full of wine and good food to even enjoy this until the next day.

Here I am, giddy at the end of the evening, caused partially by a bit too much red wine and a challenge well executed.

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