Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Color Themed Potlucks: Black

Black Friday. This was the first of our potlucks that many were quite perplexed on which direction to go. It was the first week when the whole group had to really step out of the box and take it up a notch. The weeks prior to the lunch were filled with brainstorming discussions of what foods are even black. The top answer was blackened chicken, which didn’t even make a cameo when Black Friday finally came.

Chirara, my roomie, got obsessed with the idea for squid ink pasta or risotto. (She’s Italian, big surprise). So, being the sleuth that I am, I began the hunt for squid ink. Chiara remembered being a child, and her mom would go down to the weekly fish market and purchase whole squids in which she would harvest the ink. OK, I thought, then that’s what we’re gonna do! Our first stop was our favorite Chinese grocer. They had whole, frozen squids, but we wanted them fresh and they were already cleaned, so that didn’t work. We ended up buying fresh squids at a market that had to special order them for us, but they were quite small and apparently, when the fishing net surges around them, the ink sacs often release, so no ink there either. We were finally referred to a Spanish specialty market that sold the ink in tiny 99-cent packets. That will do just fine. Dissecting the squids proved to be very gross and highly entertaining. You have to carefully remove the tentacles from the beak and then pull out the quill and squeeze out the intestines. Pretty fuckin’ awesome. The pasta was exquisite. I would say the squid ink did not add an intense amount of flavor to the dish, but rather changed the hue dramatically. The pasta had that wonderful essence of the fresh sea, but not overbearingly fishy. 

I decided to make Moules Marinieres, or the French style mussels with white wine, tarragon, shallots, and butter served with French garlic bread. This is a dish that I have eaten in restaurants many times, but it never occurred to me to make them for myself. I could not believe how easy and delicious these were. I highly recommend for you to try it if you have a spare 20 minutes. Rodney, one of our potluck overachievers, made three huge pans of paella; one with only seafood and two with meat and seafood. Also, William, the Brazilian,introduced us to his feijoiada, a classic Brazilian meal made with black beans and an obscene amount of pork. I also found some black rice to make a black rice pudding, plus there were mini chocolate balls, chocolate mousse, oreos, black bean salad, and chocolate “salami”. This was a very cute dish that consisted of chocolate formed into a roll and sliced like salami.

Black Friday elevated our potlucks into haute cuisine unexpectedly. The bar has been raised. 

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