This past Wednesday, ICE on Location took cooking class recreational students to one of New York’s most celebrated restaurants, Union Square Café, for a very intimate demonstration and three-course lunch. The delicious seasonal menu created exclusively for the event by Executive Chef Carmen Quagliata, included an Autumn Squash & Oyster Soup, Duck Ravioli with Apple Brown Butter and Brussels Sprout Salad, Chocolate Brioche Pudding, and Pecan Pie. Following dessert, Chef Carmen led the group on a rare tour through the restaurant’s kitchens.
Chef Carmen then demonstrated to students how to prepare the first two courses from the day’s menu, right in Union Square Café’s dining room. Chef Carmen began by telling the class participants, “I started the day this morning by shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket.” Union Square Café is next door to New York’s famed farmers’ market and the restaurant is renowned for their seasonal cuisine. A squash and oyster soup may sound unusual, but the dish was a surprisingly delicious pairing, that highlighted two items from the autumn market bounty — sweet oysters and butternut squash.
Chef Carmen started by creating an oyster stock, with oysters fresh from the market that very morning. He then added the stock to a pot of sautéed mirepoix and butternut squash, letting it reduce before adding a touch of cream, and blending it to a smooth consistency. The soup was plated with a fresh oyster. For the duck ravioli, Chef Carmen made the filling by combining sweet, caramelized onions with the meat from duck confit legs and some ricotta cheese. With fresh pasta sheets, he took the filling and made large raviolis, cooking them in lightly salted water. For an unexpected finish, Chef Carmen revealed the secret to what made those raviolis so delicious. Perhaps a nod to his Italian and Polish roots, he lightly pan-seared the raviolis in a Honeycrisp apple-brown butter sauce as if they were pierogis. He completed the dish with a shaved Brussels sprout salad and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Afterwards, Chef Carmen took the time to answer questions from the students before heading back to the kitchen to prepare for the evening’s dinner service. Whether regulars of Union Square Café or visiting for the first time, the demonstration, behind-the-scenes tour and Greenmarket-rich menu made for an exceptional dining experience for all.