Pom Wonderful Pan-Seared Duck (for two)
We were free on Sunday and while I got the traditional first-of-the-holiday-season batch of homemade Chex Mix going in the oven, Chris measured out our flour and broke our eggs and set the KitchenAid to work on kneading the pasta dough. When we had a ball of pasta, we let it sit for 15 minutes to rest and then divided it into six small portions. We cranked each portion through the first setting six times, then through the remaining settings once each. We were left with long, wide strips of pasta that were rippling at the edges, just right for lasagna. We let these dry for 15 minutes then cut them to fit our baking dish.
In the meantime, I made a quick tomato sauce by sauteeing two cloves of garlic, one medium-sized chopped onion, a tablespoon of tomato paste and Italian seasoning. When the onions were soft and browning, I added a large can of crushed tomatoes and some salt and pepper. I let this simmer while Chris opened a bottle of Valpolicella and proceeded to add about a cup to the sauce. The sauce became a deep red color and was much tastier and less tomato-sweet after the addition of the red wine. As the sauce simmered, I made the ricotta filling by mixing one container of ricotta cheese, one cup of shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup of grated grana (similar to parmesan) and one egg. For seasoning this mixture, I added a dash of nutmeg, a few shakes of dried parsley and of course, plenty of salt and pepper. Finally, I browned a pound of ground beef, making sure all of it crumbled without overcooking it.
Once we had cut the pasta, we placed it in boiling water until it began to float (about 2 minutes) and began to assemble the lasagna. Each layer consisted of pasta on the bottom with a thin cover of sauce, then a sprinkling of beef and several dollops of the cheese mixture. We repeated this until we ran out of ingredients and then did a smattering of mozzarella on the very top. We baked our lasagna for a half hour at 350 until we could see it bubbling.
The lasagna stayed together nicely; it was very easy to cut a piece and not have it fall apart into a mushy mess. It had great flavor and the ingredients were evenly spaced throughout each bite. The top layer of pasta got crunchy, and I attribute this to the fact that we did not cover the dish when we baked it, which I guess we should do next time. We had enough to give my friend J a big piece for lunch and have some again the next night for dinner. All in all, a success, and I look forward to my next homemade pasta adventure - ravioli!
Everything was delicious - the soup was tasty and warming; the salads were cold, crisp and fresh; the prime rib was thickly cut, tender, and roasted to a nice medium rare; the vegetables were a mixed sauteed medley and the baked potato, well, it was a baked potato. Sour cream for that and a zippy horseradish sauce for the steak came on the side.
That alone was plenty of food, but we were starving when we got there and had started off with a few appetizers, the standout of which was the "Baked Brie Crostini," toasted slices of Italian bread topped with a raspberry jam, brie cheese and spiced nuts. The plate was drizzled with a balsamic glaze that did wonders for the brie. All I can say is yum. Gorged on food, we still managed to split a unique dessert between three of us - a cream puff covered in chocolate sauce with bananas foster and vanilla ice cream. Again...yum. Dad enjoyed his favorite standby of vanilla ice cream.
I guess my point here is this: Don't be put off by the Delaney's reputation. If you want fine dining, you can have it there, but there's also the trendy, casual fare and specials of The Mick. Obviously, the apps and desserts put us out of "fantastically cheap" range. But $17.95 for the prime rib dinner, with its generous size and high quality, is worth the drive, especially in these econoMICK times.
We wanted to be relatively close to home, so that we could get home early enough to watch history in the making, so we chose Max Fish in nearby Glastonbury. Max Fish is set up a bit differently than other Max restaurants, with a dining room, a very large bar area, and a raw bar. In addition to the dinner menu, the bars serve what they call "Shark Bites," which are smaller, lighter and/or less expensive dishes. Rather than wait in the ever-increasing line we sat at the raw bar where we could order off either menu.
Jason was our server and he was very busy. Apparently another server is usually there to assist him, but tonight he was alone, serving 10 bar guests and shucking oysters and clams for the entire restaurant. Although he never stopped moving, Jason was attentive, funny and friendly. He made conversation and suggestions with ease, and we would definitely go back to sit at his bar again.
Chris loves oysters, and asked Jason which of the five available kinds he preferred. Without hesitation, he praised Wellfleets as the "sweetest" and told us how he had recently had gone there to participate in a shucking contest - doing well but being humbled by the more-practiced home team. Chris enjoyed the nice balance of sweetness and brininess these Massachusetts oysters offered.
For his entree, Chris ordered the Char-grilled Mahi Mahi. This seemingly small, but in reality, perfectly sized dish consisted of a 4-ounce piece of fish lightly seasoned, perfectly grilled, and served over green beans and rice in a butter sauce that had a nice toasty flavor with hints of lemon and mustard. The fish was flaky and tender, and the accompaniments were enhancing rather than overpowering. Chris ate every bite and pronounced it "delicious."
I'm not a huge fan of raw oysters, but I did partake in one of Chris' half-dozen. I added plenty of cocktail sauce and lemon, and did find it to be quite tasty, although I still wasn't crazy about the texture. When I was ready to order dinner, I asked super-shucker Jason what he thought of my getting the shrimp and scallop pot pie and he enthusiastically approved. The four or so large shrimp and several small bay scallops were served in a savory cream sauce with chopped herbs, caramelized shallots, diced carrots, and green peas. A perfectly browned, flaky puff pastry crust topped off this masterpiece of a pot pie. I can see myself going back for this entree often, especially as the days grow colder. It was comfort food at its finest.