For his own birthday this year, Bradd decided that he wanted to cook a five-course meal for the immediate family. After weeks of discussing and planning the meal with his dad (another cuisinaire), they settled on a menu and invited Bradd's mom, sister, sister's bf, my parents, my brother, and me over for a home-cooked meal. With top quality ingredients in hand from DiBruno Bros and Reading Terminal Market, Chef Bradd and Sous Chef Lou set out to deliver an opportunity to not only enjoy great food, but great company, too. What ensued was a true masterpiece.
Next up was Sous Chef Lou's choice - a Fennel and Fresh Fruit Salad. I always thought fennel looked little green sticks but apparently it doesn't have to. The salad was made up of oranges and cranberries, plus onions (they uses vidalia onions so it was less oniony and more sweet) and fennel somewhere, although you couldn't really see it. Additional cranberry-flavored dressing was available for even more taste. Everyone really enjoyed the salad. It was different - you forget that salad doesn't just have to be about lettuce and veggies and dressing. This version focused on fruit was a fresh and summery alternative.
Mozzarella in Carozza, followed - Bradd's favorite, he claimed. It was like a grilled cheese with buffalo mozzarella (from Di Bruno's), but the bread (plain white from DiBruno Bros) was soaked in egg batter before being grilled just right. They garnished it with a few blueberries, another nice touch for dinner on a steamy summer Sunday.
As the Italian restaurants would call it, the Primi course came next as Sweet Potato Gnocchi. I'm a big fan of gnocchi and of sweet potatoes, but had never had them combined into one food item. This one was a recipe from Marc Vetri, chef and owner of Philadelphia's Vetri and Osteria. I've also had Bradd's homemade gnocchi a couple times, and this round was one of his best. The texture was just right, and the sweet potato base gave them a unique flavor from typical gnocchi. The sauce was a very light mix of butter and sage. It could have been a little more potent, but the sweet potatoes delivered enough flavor on their own to make it my favorite part of the meal.
Finally, as his main dish, Chef Bradd served Pecorino Crusted Lamb. Sous chef Lou also added some grilled vegetables on the side. Wow. A several stop process that combined grilling, then topping, then baking the lamb chops in small racks lead to total perfection. How Bradd and Lou managed to get them all done and ready to serve at once, using one normal house kitchen, I'll never know. I like lamb but am normally not enthralled by it. But top it with crusty baked pecorino, and add a little sauce with mint (because Bradd's grandmother says you can't have lamb without mint) and it was heavenly.
What did everyone thing of the meal? Why did he do all this? You'll have to watch and find out (after enjoying a quick off-key round of Happy Birthday).
More on Michael Pollan and his book, In Defense of Food.
Thanks for coming to Chez DelMuto!!