I recently had the opportunity to be the invited guest of the president of the New Jersey chapter of Les Marmitons, an international social cooking club for male epicureans that has been in existence in North America for 32 years.
The October 12th dinner, which was held at the Don Bosco Knights of Columbus Hall in Port Reading, was a Beer-themed event in the spirit of Ocktoberfest, but with an Italian twist. The chef who prepared the menu for the evening was the young and energetic Dan Richer, proprietor of Arturo’s Osteria in Maplewood. Dan is something of a beer fanatic and was the perfect choice to select the dishes for the Marmitons to prepare.
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The carte for the evening.
Efrain Raices, club President, with Eric Eisenbud, President Emeritus. While most of the Les Marmitons members do not have any formal culinary training or aren’t professional chefs, all of them are very serious cooks.
Eric shows off his huge Craftsman box filled with kitchen knives and other culinary equipment. He comes prepared, even with a mini-blowtorch, which came in handy later.
Service that evening was for 25 people. During monthly meetings, The regular members draw lots to see which team is to prepare which dish. Here is one of the members peeling butternut squash for the salad course.
Eric can’t help but goof off.
Squash was peeled and cut into rings and discs prior to roasting.
Eric paints the squash with olive oil.
Roasted squash dressed with balsamic vinegar dressing.
Goat cheese and parsley which would be used for the fonduta, the creamy/cheesy element of the salad course.
Chef Richer plating.
Plated salad course, paired with a white ale from France.
The main course was braised duck legs which were cooked in beer, stock and aromatic vegetables for several hours. This was started in advance of the evening event, late in the afteroon.
Gnocchi was prepared using ricotta cheese mixed with flour and lemon zest, and was piped out and cut into small pillows and dusted with flour and boiled in water for approximately 3 minutes. The cooked pasta was then tossed with chopped Prosciutto di Parma ham in melted butter and seasoned with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The idea was to have a rich pasta dish that would pair with amber Japanese beer, analogous to eating Kasespatzele during Ocktoberfest.
Plated Gnocchi second course.
Bowl of Japanese shiitake mushrooms, which were finely chopped, sauteed in clarified butter and cooked with the duck braising liquid and barley to make a “risotto” to pair with the duck.
Barley Risotto preparation.
Finished barley risotto.
Plated main course, which was paired with a porter.
Cracking eggs for the Zabaglione/Sabayon. This was more of a very rich and thick custardy version than the type cooked with Marsala wine that is used as a sauce for fresh fruit or served in a parfait.
Creamy Gorgonzola Cheese and Shaved dark chocolate for the dessert course.
The finished custard was poured over a portion of the gorgonzola cheese in individual ramekins.
Finished dessert, which was dusted with dark chocolate shavings and then finished off with Eric’s blowtorch to give it a creme brulee-like crust. This incredibly rich dessert was paired with an Imperial Stout.
I was utterly blown away by the dedication and seriousness that the New Jersey chapter of Les Marmitons brought to their cooking, and I hope to attend more of their events in the near future. I’m also looking forward to checking out Chef Richer’s cooking at his Maplewood restaurant, as he sounds like a very serious pizzaiolo in addition to his mastery of pasta and Italian cuisine.
If you’re interested in attending a New Jersey Les Marmitons event or joining as a regular member, contact the club’s president Efrain Raices at firstname.lastname@example.org