We were, to put it mildly, totally bowled over by the “Eleven Days of Christmas” holiday gift we received from Eleven Madison Park which I described in this post.
How to use this incredible bounty? A gift this creative and playful deserved to be used in a special way. So, I came up with what I felt would be a fun way to incorporate all of the items in one meal. Yes, a tasting menu! No, not the 14-course extravaganza served at the restaurant but a version half the size — 7 courses. (Note: In the post linked above, I wrote that “we” came up with this idea. However, Michael insisted that in writing this post I revise the pronoun because it was I who thought of it while all he did was agree that it was genius.)
Obviously, most of the courses would be determined by the gift items. However, one of the things missing was a main course. I would make it. But what should it be? At EMP, guests are offered two options: Chef Humm’s signature duck or a meat that changes seasonally (in the fall, it was venison). And that choice governs the flavor of the broth currently being poured tableside at the beginning of the meal.
Since the gift included duck broth, it made sense for our main course to be duck. I suppose I could have roasted a whole duck but decided instead to prepare duck magret (aka duck breast). D’Artagnan sells them individually wrapped, and Delicious Orchards carries them, so I hustled there to get one. A one-pounder was the smallest breast they had. Too large for a tasting menu, so I cut it in half and froze one piece. That left me with an 8-ounce piece which would give us each a perfect 4-ounce portion.
Two other courses needed my input: cheese and dessert. A cheese course could easily be put together. But while we did have quite a few sweet treats from the gift, I needed to come up with a proper dessert. I actually toyed with the idea of making baked Alaska which has been the main dessert at EMP for quite a while. When I asked Michael how he felt about it, he said he’d prefer to have just some simple vanilla ice cream doused with Kahlua.
And so, the menu was set.
The cocktail program at EMP is one of the best in the city, and one of the fun things related to it is the Manhattan cocktail cart. It’s rolled tableside, diners choose a cocktail from the list, and the bartender prepares it on the spot. Although Michael is not normally a cocktail drinker, he couldn’t resist the idea of the cart. He does like bourbon, so during visits over several months, he sampled the bourbon-based cocktails.
At our dinner, Michael started with the “Seven-Drinks-a-Mixing” cocktail: Bourbon, Dolin Dry Vermouth, and Amaro. The directions that came with it said to serve it over ice with a slice of cucumber.
When we dine at EMP, since I drink very little wine, Michael always does pairings. The sommelier always chooses several wines to use with the Coravin, and those wines are poured into Zalto glasses. Recently, Michael bought a Coravin. He did not do pairings for our dinner but did use the Coravin on the bottle he chose for the meal: one of his favorites, a Côte-du-Rhône. (But, no, we do not have any Zalto glasses.)
With no freshly baked EMP rolls at hand, we made do with Pepperidge Farm French rolls. They’re actually quite tasty.
Our butter was good old Land O’Lakes accompanied by “Eleven Salts-a-Shaking”: Amagansett Sea Salt.
First Course: “Five Roasted Ducks”: Finger Lakes Duck Broth with Sherry and Thyme
EMP’s smoked sturgeon course is their homage to Jewish appetizing (think Russ & Daughters). It includes a cream cheese spread topped with caviar. For those who don’t eat caviar — like me – the substitute is finely minced cucumber.
Second Course: “Six Sturgeons Smoking”: Applewood Smoked Sturgeon;
“Ten Carrots Grinding”: Pickled Carrots with White Balsamic and Bay Leaf
Cucumber and Cream Cheese*; Everything Bagel
At the restaurant, diners are offered a choice between hot or cold foie gras preparations.
Third Course: “Nine Terrines Grazing”: Hudson Valley Foie Gras Marinated in Cognac and White Pepper. Served with toast.
Fourth Course: Seared Magret de Canard a l’Orange with Wild Rice, Onions, Mushrooms, and Pecans
Fifth Course: Cheese: Triple Crème and Maytag Blue with Pickled Onion**
At the restaurant, sweet black & white cookies and chocolate-covered pretzels are brought at the very end of the meal along with a bottle of apple brandy and grape juice for those like me who don’t drink liquor. However, the candy bar is only presented to those celebrating a birthday or anniversary. We made all three sweets part of the dessert course.
Sixth Course: Breyer’s Vanilla with Kahlua
“Two Black and Whites”: Oat, Chocolate, and Apple Cider Ganache
“Eight Pretzels Twisting”: Mast Brothers Chocolate and Sea Salt
“Four Candy Bars”: Coconut, Almond, and Chocolate
EMP no longer serves the egg cream, but when they did, it was prepared tableside as a separate course before dessert. We decided it would make a fitting end to this meal.
Seventh Course: “Three Egg Creams”: Malted Milk, Club Soda, and Vanilla
The accompanying directions specified equal parts malt mixture and whole milk, and then add club soda.
Our sincerest thanks again to our EMP family for sending us the spectacular gift that made this delicious dinner possible.
*EMP serves the caviar/cucumber with cream cheese in a caviar tin. I was able to duplicate that because many years ago, the souvenir menus were cleverly folded into those tins, and I saved them.
**The pickled onions were from EMP but not in the gift package. At one point, the picnic basket included pickled onions. When we mentioned how much we liked them, they gave us a small container of them to take home, and I fortuitously happened to still have two left.
All of the photos from this dinner can be viewed on my Flickr here.