Yes, the theme for the evening was Underwater, hosted most graciously by Greg and Dan. We braved uncharted waters with our courses, tossed by the waves of indecision during the planning phase, but happily all went swimmingly at dinnertime – blue skies over calm seas all around.
When introducing the theme to the rest of us, Dan and Greg offered the following guidance:
Definition of underwater From Merriam-Webster.com:
1 : lying, growing, worn, performed, or operating below the surface of the water underwater plants
2 : being below the waterline of a ship
3a : having, relating to, or being a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property securing the loan is worth
3b : having, relating to, or being a stock option for which the price of the option is higher than the current market value of the stock
Huh. I wonder what a Definition 3A dish would be – mortgage soup? Poor house pastry? No surprise that we all adopted the first definition for our courses, outlined below.
- Drinks: Ilise & Ann – Cocktail: Sake To Me; Various wines including Sea Pearl, Cannonball, and other labels with water references
- Appetizer: Ellyn – Grazing platter of Underwater Delights
- Main course: Greg & Dan –Sous Vide Duck Breast with Ultra Crispy Skin; Crispy Duck Leg Confit; Sous Vide Carrots and Asparagus; Wild rice pilaf with dried cranberries, water chestnuts and lotus root
- Dessert: Kathleen & Karen – Underwater Wonderland
- After-Dinner Drink: Ellyn – The Submarine Kiss
Are you onboard for a deep dive into our Underwater dinner party? Water wings at the ready? Check.
Do you hear the sound of the sea, wild and hungry, breaking over the rocks?
No? Okay, well try this watery playlist of seaworthy songs that embrace the underwater theme from an indie pop perspective.
Hit the Play arrow and then read on for dinner details, recipes, and plenty of photos.
The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. – Jacques Yves Cousteau
I say “we” but Ilise is our house bar chef and takes the lead whenever we’re in charge of drinks. She loves to experiment, with infusions and flavored syrups. This time she tried a range of ingredients from coconut water to kaffir leaves to lemongrass in search of the perfect combo for the sake.
Ultimately that flavor profile did not work as planned so onward we went to Plan B.
Cranberries are also grown underwater in bogs and, when paired with sake and a few other delightful ingredients, we had ourselves a winner! Ladies and gentlemen, please say Hello to your new best friend, the Sake To Me.
Recipe source: Ilise Goldberg
Makes one cocktail
- 2 ounces Sake
- 1 ounce Kurant Vodka
- ½ ounce Cointreau
- 2 ounces Cranberry juice
- ¼ ounce Fresh Lime juice
- 2 dashes Orange bitters
- 3 strips of orange zest
- 3 strips of lime zest
- In a high ball or Collins glass zest two strips each of the orange and lime.
- In a cocktail shaker, mix all liquid ingredients with ice until chilled.
- Add fresh ice to the cocktail glass and pour the drink into the glass.
- Garnish with one additional strip each of orange and lime zest.
Up until oh about an hour before dinner time, Ellyn was sure she was assigned to Drinks and had worked hard to select a scrumptious cocktail. Once she discovered that, no, she was on the hook for Appetizers (and Drinks were already accounted for) she made a quick detour to Whole Foods and assembled a grazing platter of (mostly) underwater delights: shrimp, mozzarella balls, smoked trout dip, olives and pickles.
We came up for air to share a laugh in recognition that everyone makes a goof like this now and again. Good news: Ellyn’s tasty cocktail made a welcome appearance as an after-dinner drink. Hold on to your flotation device, we’ll be back with the Submarine Kiss details a bit later.
We interpreted the theme two ways: Some items were cooked under water using the sous-vide technique and the Joule sous-vide tool. We also prepared some foods that are grown or found under water (wild rice, cranberries, water chestnuts and lotus root). Since the duck’s legs and breast are below the water level when they swim around, both interpretations of “under water” apply to the sous-vide duck legs and breast.
Dishes cooked sous-vide: using Joule immersion circulator sous-vide tool
Duck Legs: Because the duck legs must cook 16 hours, we prepped this the evening before. In addition to the recipe’s recommended orange peel, fresh thyme and bay leaf, we added crushed juniper berries since they serve to counteract gaminess in wild meats. After cooking I drained and saved the juices, frenched the legs, removed the herbs and then placed the duck back in the bags and stored them in the refrigerator; later I returned the bags to the pot to gently warm up prior to the final broiling to crisp the skin before serving. I used the stripped leg skin along with the herbs and cooking juices to make a broth; I augmented this with some chicken broth to make enough for a gravy. I saved the duck fat from searing the duck breast for the roux for the gravy. After straining the broth and thickening it with the roux, we added some chopped fresh sweet cherries to make a cherry-flavored duck gravy to accompany the meal. Because the juices included the sugar-salt brining cure, the gravy can tend toward being a bit salty so taste and adjust as best you can.
Duck Breast: I used the side burner on the barbecue grill outside because searing the duck breast in a HOT skillet (I used a carbon steel skillet for searing the duck breast) creates quite a mess. Since the duck breast cooks at a lower temperature than the legs, we had to let the water cool down before cooking the duck breast sous-vide.
Carrots: We cooked these two days before and warmed them up in the sous-vide pot prior to sautéing in butter.
Asparagus: We cooked these two days before and warmed them up in the sous-vide pot prior to serving.
Foods that grow under water: Wild rice pilaf with dried cranberries, water chestnuts and lotus root
Inspired by Dan and Greg’s pool party dessert, we determined to create an underwater dessert featuring, you guessed it—blue Jello! We served it in a trifle dish and lightened the “natural” Jello blue by adding some unflavored gelatin, so that you could see the fresh fruit (grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and cherries) that composed the ocean floor and the Swedish fish swimming inside. We also stuck gummi worms (cut in half the long way) to the sides of the trifle dish to suggest seaweed/coral. Assuming that Jello would not particularly appeal, we doctored the water with Cointreau and a little brandy.
We decided that we would also highlight those items washed up from oceans onto the world’s beaches. We used a base of blondies, with the addition of brandy-soaked Craisins, and covered the base with buttery crushed graham cracker crumbs. We then littered our beach with candy-coated chocolate sea shells and rocks, Nik-L-Nips, and gelt.
“Sailors who come to Broadway for a touch of high life have invented a new drink called The Submarine Kiss. The liquid combination is a milky white above and purple below and the submarine effect is secured after drinking about three.” Talk about a deep dive!
Recipe source: Cooper Spirits International
- 1 part Crème Yvette
- Top with Silver Fizz:
- 2 parts Plymouth gin
- ¾ part fresh lemon juice
- ¾ part simple syrup
- Egg white
- Combine silver fizz ingredients in two-part shaker tin. Dry shake.
- Add ice. Shake again.
- Add Crème Yvette to the bottom of a hollow stemmed coupe or champagne flute.
- Fine strain and layer silver fizz over Crème Yvette.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came. – John F. Kennedy
Want to read about past Foodie Group dinners? You may find the recaps here.