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Friday
Feb042011

Magically Mind Blowing Tuna Bolognese at Esca

My husband and I went to Esca last week. Located in the theater district, on 43rd and 9th avenue, Esca is one of many classy NYC restaurants owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (others include Babbo, Del Posto, Lupa , Casa Mono and Otto, to name a few)

The chef of Esca, David Pasternack, is a well known seafood fanatic and avid fisherman. And it's a good thing this guy knows his stuff, because the menu at Esca is 99% seafood. In fact, I think there is only one non-fish option. So if you're the type of person who goes to a seafood restaurant and orders the rack of lamb, don't bother coming to Esca. You come to here to eat fish, fish, fish and only fish.

The service and vibe of this restaurant is just a tad pretentious. They're very serious in here-- serious about their wine, intensely serious about their fish. The place, in general, seems to lack a sense of humor. We were a little uncomfortable at first, but half way into our 5 course tasting menu with wine pairing, all we were thinking about was how great the food was.

There was a deliciously fresh Crudo of Hamachi with olive tapenade, juicy seared scallops with a tangy and refreshing salad of arugula, grapefruit and blood orange and delicate Weakfish with a stew of tiny Beluga Lentils and lip smacking balsamic glazed Cippoline onions. Each dish was fantastic. But the real highlight was the pasta course: Spaghetti with Tuna Bolognese.

I don't know if David Pasternack has a signature dish, but if he does, it's gotta be this one. When you taste the Tuna Bolognese, you feel you are tasting a totally unique recipe that has been perfected and mastered. There is nothing I would change about this wonderfully warm, fragrant sauce laced with the heady flavors of fresh herbs, a trace of sweetness and a faint hint of cinnamon. It is creamy and delectable, each bite more satisfying then the next.

And what is so baffling is how MEATY the sauce is. Never in a million years would you suspect that this was not a classic meat Bolognese. Pasternack should be given an award, not just for creating such an awesome recipe, but for being such a talented magician. This man has figured out how to turn fish into meat. Surely this must be one of the great culinary achievements of all time!

When I got home, I immediately opened up my copy of the Esca cookbook to see if this mystical recipe was in there. It was. Along with this quote from Pasternack: "I love a classic Bolognese sauce. But in a creative moment, I figured...I might as well see what a Bolognese sauce would taste like made with tuna instead of meat. It succeeded so well that a lot of people can't tell the difference."

So true. And the recipe was pretty surprising. It turns out there actually was some meat in there--a hefty dose of pancetta. But that was cool with me...every magician has his secrets. What I really couldn't believe was that there was also Mackerel in the dish--what I consider to be the world's fishiest fish. The fact that this man had managed to transform Mackerel into a mellow meat sauce elevated him to Genius Chef status in my mind. 

I called for an emergency dinner party the following night so I could try and reproduce Pasternack's culinary magic trick. It was a success, tasting almost exactly like the version we had at Esca. And I didn't tell anyone my secret until all of the plates were clean... 

Click here to check out the fabulous recipe for Tuna Bolognese

 

Thursday
Jan062011

A New Years Eve Feast 

What: New Years Eve Dinner

Where: My NYC Apartment

Glorious Croquembouche: A tower of Pastry cream-filled Puffs with Caramel

Last year for New Years Eve, I served an extravagant, 4 course classic French dinner, with a menu based on recipes from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." It was a decadent and delicious meal, with a whole lot of butter, cream and foie gras. A great way to start the New Year.

This New Years Eve I decided to carry on the tradition. I turned, once again, to Julia Child, for inspiration. I created another sinful, artery-clogging menu:

Starter: Chicken Consomme with Beef Dumplings

First Course: Coquilles St. Jacques (Scallops and Mushrooms in a white-wine cream sauce)

Main Course: Goose two ways: Roast and Stuffed with Foie Gras and Prunes and Braised and Stuffed with Chestnut Foie Gras Stuffing, with Buttered Potatoes and Butter Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Dessert: Croquembouche (A tower of cream puffs held together by caramel)

The meal was wonderful. We began with a delicate and powerfully flavored Chicken Consomme. Then on to the Coquilles St. Jacques with tender disks of poached scallop and thinly sliced mushrooms, bathed in a thick cream sauce and gratined with aged swiss cheese. The main course, a Goose duo of both Roast and Braised Geese was rich and gamey with foie gras stuffing studded with chestnuts, and sweet port-soaked prunes filled with yet more foie gras and sauteed shallots. Dessert, a tower of Pastry cream-filled Profiteroles topped with caramel, was a gorgeous way to end the meal. 

I hope 2011 is filled with many more Delicious meals and experiences. Happy New Year!

Gorgeous Goose getting ready to be stuffed and roasted

Coquilles St Jacques assembled and ready for the broiler

Mouthwatering cooked goose fresh out of the oven

 Delicious plate of goose, potatoes and buttery brussels sprouts

Chicken Consomme with Beef Dumpling
Our Friends, Mickey and Erin designed this menu for the dinner. Amazing.