This week’s post is a continuation of last week’s New Year’s Eve Tasting Menu at the Firefly Grill. So if you missed that, make sure you pop over and check it out. Also Kristie and Chef Niall are giving away a New Year’s Eve dinner for 2. If you’d like a chance to win that email your funniest holiday dinner mishap story to Maryelaine@ffgrill.com The top favorites will be posted on their FaceBook page and everyone will get a chance to vote for the winner! So while you’re thinking about that, join Chef Niall and me in the kitchen as he’s prepping for this New Year’s Eve Menu…
All the pictures in this post are from yesterday as Chef Niall worked on the intensive process of making duck consommé. It’s a complex and painstaking procedure that yields a deeply rich delicate perfectly clear soup that is simply sublime.
In the kitchen…
As you enter Firefly Grill’s kitchen, immediately to the right is an enormous temperature controlled vat where they make vast quantities of stock. At that moment it was steaming with a dark caramel brown duck stock that was waiting to be transformed into the Duck Consommé.
Niall lead me past that and over to another piece of equipment that looked like a Cuisine Art mix master on steroids. He lifted the ginormous bowl filled with what he explained was the “raft” for the duck stock. A raft is essential for transforming a stock into a consommé.
Mada: What exactly is a raft and how does it work?
Chef Niall: A raft is a mixture of raw egg whites, ground chicken protein, herbs, spices like coriander & white pepper, and aromatic vegetables. In this one you can see we’ve got carrots, celery and lemon grass. We pour this onto the stock, it spreads out and floats on top.
Then as we increase the temperature, all the impurities bind and adhere to the raft. The stock also slowly breaks through and gently bubbles over the raft and the raft acts as a sieve and that also takes any impurities.
So while it’s making the liquid underneath incredibly clear, it’s also adding a ton of flavor.
I love consommé. It always makes me think old world Titantic classic. I am a huge fan of consommé. It’s so underrated. When it’s done right it is rich, beautifully clear and golden. If it’s done properly everyone’s lips are glistening with it and it settles on the palette. I’m not into recreating the wheel as I am creating it right.
Chef Niall’s Favorite Course
Since last week’s post went out, I’ve been popping in and out of the Firefly kitchen snapping shots and chatting with Niall about all the plans and preparations going into the New Year’s Eve Menu. I couldn’t help asking him what his favorite course was. I was sure it was going to be dessert. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Mada: What is your favorite course to create?
Chef Niall: Actually my favorite course is the Amusé Bouche. As I was thinking over this year’s menu, I was thinking back to my roots and I love cooking Asian food and I used to do a lot of it. Curries in particular. It seems like this year’s menu is really angling towards that, but then we’re still a few weeks out and it could all totally change.
The menu has been finalized since we had this conversation. There is one curry on the menu. The Thai Coconut Red Curry is 1 of 2 soup options for the 1st course.
Mada: Ok, wait a minute… Amusé Bouche??? What is that? And why is that your favorite?
Chef Niall: An Amuse Bouche is a French culinary term that literally means to delight the mouth. It’s a welcoming. It’s a chance for the chef to create 1 bite for their guest that sets the stage for the entire evening. It’s a gift or a sharing. That’s where I’m really trying to represent the last year, but I’ve got to do it so that it’s all in one bite. So not only does it set the stage for the evening, but it’s a reflection of the whole year… in one bite.
Mada: Could you give me an example of one of your favorite Amusé Bouche?
Chef Niall: Sure, last year we did truffle duck egg and hackleback caviar with brioche crouton and smoked salmon. It was all one bite. We had just got this connection for smoked salmon that was cured in maple syrup that was aged in bourbon barrels.
And the year before that I did a savory cauliflower panna cotta that was semi set and this was interesting because right before service we set it in (white porcelain) tasting spoons, then added a leaf of fried sage. There was some crunch to it and we had warm maple syrup that was cut with bourbon. We hit it with that right at the end with that and it would slide right under the panna cotta because of the heat it would separate it from the spoon. So you would have this little floating island on this vessel and you’d just pick it up and (slurp). It was almost like eating a vegetarian oyster. It was the weirdest thing, but it was delicious! The reason we did that was because in April that’s what we did for BaconFest up in Chicago and we got 1st Runner Up for all of BaconFest. (It was a huge hit!)
What’s on Firefly’s New Year’s Eve Menu 2018?
One of the threads that seem to weaving throughout this evening’s tasting menu is duck. Chef Niall is using the duck consommé in the Amusé Bouche and it is going to be absolutely blissful. An 18 hour sous vide duck breast makes an appearance for the 5th course and in the 7th course a crispy confit duck leg that’s been bathing in a sous vide for 8 hours is an option. All the options to choose from in the 7th course look amazing. It’s the only kind of difficult choice I look forward too! Drop a comment below on which one looks the best to you.
On a side note, Kristie and Niall had a few friends (Jerry and I included) over for dinner several weeks ago and Niall made chicken consommé that was to die for! Jerry and I still talk about the depth of flavor of the soup and how we wish we could have somehow gotten our hands on gallons of it. Luckily it is one of the options for the 1st course on New Year’s Eve!
Nancy M. Daniel
Very nice! Incredibly fascinating….. I had no idea that consummate was so difficult to make! Thank you for an invaluable process! It was really wonderful reading your article.