On Saturday, February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day, I agreed to make my sister, Riva, her family, her kids, and my sweet Valentine a nice dinner at her house. She wanted something special for dinner… For a while, she’s been wanting to try out Lucques’ short ribs. Since I thought making Lucques’ short ribs would take all day, I told her I’d make anything she wanted besides those. She seemed bummed, then after some thought told me she wanted chicken wellington. Keeping it simple, I agreed…even though I knew she wanted something memorable and sophisticated. I wasn’t excited about making a chicken wellington, whatever that is. I cringed thinking about it….a creamy chicken in pastry that’s usually served at hotels (weddings)… yuck.
So after my conversation with Riva, I thought about how I could pull off a short rib dinner. I grew distracted by a catering event that night. We (Lucques Catering) catered a really sweet, snazzy yet down to earth wedding in Downtown LA, where we served about 4 types of hors d’oeuvres, short ribs, a kubota squash gratin, potato puree (mashed potatoes), and delicious warm greens…and, oh yeah, there was an open bar. Since the venue had an open kitchen, guests watched us prepare the food. We, in turn, were able to watch the guests partake. The joy on the guests’ faces as they took a bite made me feel really good. After taking a bite, I could see sheer joy and love on their faces. They appreciated the food and the genius behind it. I even had some guests come up to me and ask how we got the meat to be so tender…
Sure, the ambiance..the gorgeous decor, the cool music, and the neat people made the guests’ time fun, but I’m sure the food made the wedding an even more emotional experience… After throwing many dinner parties in my adulthood, I always wanted to touch people in such a way. The open-kitchen experience inspired me to make similar food for our special Valentine dinner. I didn’t want to wrap a chicken salad of sorts in a puff pastry. Instead, I called Riva the next morning and told her I’d bring Lucques to her home… and so I did.
We invited Riva’s in-law, Mrs. Takahashi and her friend Bobby, since I had been promising to cook for her. After Mrs. T agreed to come over, I went to a Korean market and purchased the same cut of short ribs we use at Lucques (Koreans have great taste in meats and I knew they’d have the same cut at their markets as we did at the restaurants. Luckily, they did and we scored on price and freshness!). I then spent another hour purchasing other ingredients at a nearby grocery store. Peyman did his best to help me find everything on my list and we got out of the market . So there I was at 2pm with all these special ingredients… and I applied whatever cooking techniques I learned at Lucques… As Peyman patiently waited and played with my nephews and chatted with mi familia, I cooked away…. I cooked the way I learned and observed at Lucques… At 7pm, dinner was served. Here was my menu for the evening…
Hors d’oeuvres: Pita chips topped with chickpea puree, cumin/citrius seasoned beets, and salsa verde with feta cheese.
Main Course: Lucques short ribs
Sides: Very nice rich and creamy potato puree, Sauteed Beets Greens and Broccolini tossed with shallots, garlic, and arbol chili, a very delicious squash gratin with poblano peppers and queso fresco.
Dessert: Chocolate Pot de Creme topped with Whipped Cream
Drinks: a variety of a nice rich Darioush Shiraz, Crown Royale and water…
Riva, Peyman, Scott, Mrs. T, Bobby, and the twins have very discriminating taste, so I listened carefully to them as they dove into the first course to the very last course. I was a little surprised to hear that Mrs. T liked the starter (usually I’m complimenting her on her food and wasn’t sure how she’d react to the menu). When everyone else started the main course, I was really happy to hear everyone’s feedback. It was very positive. Mrs. T, Bobby, Scott, Riva, and Peyman ate everything but the 3 bones of the short ribs and even ate more, went back for more potato puree and squash gratin. Peyman said it was good… very rich and also mentioned that my cooking is improving… that meant a lot. Riva said it was very comforting and good…that it felt like they were at a restaurant. Mrs. T said “I didn’t care how you plated the food… it could have looked ugly on the plate..what matters most is the taste and it was Really good”… The twins even ate a lot, pulling the meat off the short ribs as if they were pulling off a strand of tender string cheese. I was really happy. That really warmed my heart. My colleagues at Lucques taught me well.
The only thing I’d do different is to prepare my dinner a day or two ahead. I could have spent more time with my loved ones if I had purchased the ingredients days in advance. I could have even braised the short ribs 2 days prior… that’s what took up most of the time, of course. There’s always a next time…
My hands were full the whole night, so I didn’t take pictures. Riva took some so once I get a hold of some Valentine’s Day pictures, but in not the best light, posted below.
If you’re not in the LA area and can’t make it out to Lucques, AOC, or the Tavern, check out Suzanne Goin’s book, “Sunday night suppers at Lucques” where she shares a lot of her recipes. If you can find the ingredients and follow directions, you can enjoy a very special supper. I recommend her restaurants or her cookbook, or Alice Waters’ cookbooks. Enjoy! Till next time, Bon Appetite!
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