My lovely wife and I were approached by my daughter’s school a few months ago about offering up a live auction event wherein the ‘goods’ were dinner at our house with our good friend and long time priest as the featured guest. My memory wants to remember the description as ‘Join food blogger Jeff Schilling and Fr Ed for an epic evening of food with 8 guests’
I think truth in advertising would have said ‘Join the Schillings and Fr. Ed for a meal of untested recipes cooked without a net’
The reality is somewhere in the middle.
We went into the night of the auction expecting kind hearted and generous folk to pony up a few hundred dollars to benefit the school. The bidding paused after passing into four digits and the auctioneer (in classic auctioneer form) offered both bidders the same package - which they graciously accepted. With more money on the table between the bidders than I could imagine I remarked to the auction coordinators that this was a lot of money for burgers and ripple :-)
After passing through a short lived panic over how to deliver that much ‘value’ I started making lists of possible menu ideas. The family enjoyed the trial runs on several of the dishes.
It wasn’t until 6 days before the first dinner that the main course became clear - while reminiscing with friends at the lake I shared the story of our introduction to Lomo al Trappo - salt encrusted, diaper wrapped beef tenderloin cooked in a fireplace. I haven’t made this dish for 15 or more years but knew that the wood fired beef would pair beautifully with the Smoked Cheddar scalloped potatoes with chipotle cream.
So the menu ended up like this:
- Pickled Shrimp (with crazy good shaved lemon)
- Applewood smoked bacon wrapped scallops atop a lime-cilantro sauce
- Lomo al trappo - the aforementioned filet
- Smoked Cheddar scalloped potatoes with Chipotle cream
- Grilled Asparagus with Bianco Sardo and Balsamic Fig drizzle
- Grilled Corn, Hierloom tomato and arugula salad
- Caramelized orange with rosemary on Greek Yogurt
My planning was a bit off as I was on the road until late Friday night so Saturday was spent prepping. It sounds like a lot of work/food but knocking out the prep ahead of time made for a largely stress free dinner.
Lots of crowd pleasers in there. The lemon dominated shrimp lent a fresh feel to the warm evening. Bacon wrapped scallops are always a pleaser - the use of the nicely applewood smoked bacon transitioned all of our palettes into the smoky part of the dish - the sriracha/lime/cilantro mayo sauce was a creamy pop of heat and tart that elevated this classic dish.
The asparagus was resting in salted olive oil ready for the grill next to a prep dish of shaved Bianco Sardo. The cheese is reminiscent of Pecorino but more earthy.
I held the Lomo al Trappo prep until the guests were present. Imagine a large cloth diaper covered in a half inch of salt. Using a spray bottle, the salt is thoroughly wet until it cakes. The trimmed filet is set on the leading edge and then wrapped in the salt in a jelly roll like fashion. The fire pit had a raging fire going. I hadn’t made the Lomo al Trappo in a long time, the diaper was too small so I took a muligan and laid out a set of overlapping diapers, reprepped the salt and rolled again to ensure a roughly even layer of salt encased the filet.
We went to the fire, welding gloves standing at the ready and laid it in the coals. I returned to get the scalloped potatoes covered in handfuls of smoked cheddar and in the oven. With Sam (the chef) at my side we negotiated the turn schedule on the filet - the mass of wet diaper (bad image I know) dulled the coals so with a bit of stoking the fire cranked up and the cast hardened around the beef. Two or three turns and a total of about 25 mins in the firepit and we moved on to the cast cracking.
It was not the cleanest extraction I’ve ever performed but the crowed was pleased as a beautifully cooked filet emerged. It went to the cutting board to rest while the asparagus hit the grill.
Salad was tossed with a light vinaigrette (only to discover the following day that the goat feta never made it onto the salad). Potatoes emerged with browned and melted cheese.
Jocularity ensued tableside while the dessert course was being prepped.
Orange halves with a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of chopped rosemary were cast into a hot frying pan where sugar was carmelizing. The oranges bathed in the carmelized sugar for 4 to 5 minutes. Each orange half was served atop a dollop of greek yogurt. The remaining pan sauce was drizzled atop the dish.
There have been moments in my cooking life where I’ve paused, intimidated by the job in front of me. The homemade smoked duck ravoli for 12 back in the Metrolina AIDS charity days or my first whole hog gave me pause. This event suffered from none of that. Good prep, great helpers and an appreciative crowd resulted in a relatively stress free night with only a few minor bobbles.
I’ll be working up several of these recipes in the coming weeks.
My thanks to Todd and Rita for generously supporting our school!
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