More than a few times folks have told me that they get a bit stumped when trying to figure out what to make with the produce that is on display at the local farmers market. They ask me for helpful hints as to how to navigate the stands, advice on what to buy when, and how I come up with things to make using what I purchase. On Wednesday of this past week, a handful of guests assembled for a dinner at Jimmy’s No. 43 featuring Chef Annette Tomei where she which did just that: pulled together a 3-course dinner based upon ingredients gathered from the Union Square Greenmarket, complete with beverage pairings. We did the shopping for the meal the morning of the event, schlepped the bags of food back to the restaurant, and then got to work fixing the dishes, with me as her sous chef for the evening. Chef Tomei made several menu adjustments along the way and even tweaked plans for what we were going to make while we were at the market, having looked around at what everyone was selling that day.
The evening started out with a platter crostini of farmers cheese from Ronnybrook Farm topped with a ragout of local oyster and cremini mushrooms and topped with sautéed fiddlehead ferns. I also whipped up a batch of the Ramp Butter Popcorn I mentioned that I’d been making at the restaurant to serve as well. To go along with this, the guests were served a glass of Foggy Ridge sparkling cider. The high acidity of the cider was a great balance to the butteriness of the popcorn and the richness of the crostini.
For the second course, some of those asparagus that Chef Tomei is holding in the first photo were sliced thinly and turned into a light, crispy salad. The asparagus were trimmed and served raw, no cooking involved. They were super fresh and crunchy, needing just a drizzle of a fruity extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. On top of them are shungiku, edible micro chrysanthemum greens from Windfall Farms. To go along with the asparagus, we had made a sorrel “pesto,” giving the salad a lemony lift. To drink with it, we poured Barrier Saisoff Saison, which played well with the greenness of the vegetables as well as the citrus notes in the herb.
The centerpiece of the main course was the gorgeous, seared duck breast from the folks at Hudson Valley Duck Farm, who also supply the duck that is on the regular menu for the restaurant. To showcase this high-quality protein, Chef Tomei created a sweet-tart rhubarb gastric and then candied small cubes of the rhubarb that we had picked up at the market. Thinly-sliced cabbage and chunks of roasted parsnip, which was also still available at the market, were seasoned with a mock Chinese 5-spice mixture to lend an additional layer of flavor to the dish. A deep caramel-colored Proletariat Other Half Stillwater Collaboration Dark Amber was our choice to go along with the duck and this complex combination of tastes.
While perusing the stands at the market, we’d had a few ideas about what to fix for dessert. Apples still seem to be plentiful right now. No berries or other early summer fruit has yet to appear. Passing by Roxbury Mountain Maple‘s stand and seeing a bunch of people trying their maple cream spread and their maple cotton candy gave Chef Tomei an idea for a sweet finish to the evening. We picked up some of that same cotton candy, a bottle of maple syrup, and a block of maple sugar. At another nearby stand, we added a loaf of sourdough bread to our purchases in order to make a batch of Pain Perdue, or fancy French toast, for the final course. Aside from the appetizer course, this was probably my favorite of the parings that we did that evening. Carton Brewing Company’s “BDG” Brunch. Dinner. Grub. was the ideal match for the sweet, buttery, toffee layers in the dish and the perfect note on which to wrap up this Farmers Market Dinner.