I was pretty sure when chef Nick Di Bona invited me into his home kitchen to watch him play around with some potential menu items, I was going to be entertained and really well fed. It was a revelation for me that this chef cooks just like the rest of us — one ingredient at time. There were no mandolines, Vitamixs, Robot Coupes, or Jade ranges. Nick cooked homestyle using Farberware pots and pans (eeks! on an electric cooktop to boot), a Ninja blender, and a multifunction chef’s knife used consistently for all his slicing and dicing tasks (even for butchering a duck).
I have to tell you right up front that this culinary afternoon was simply inspiring. It made me feel empowered that it was absolutely possible to go home to my own kitchen and cook like a chef to create something wonderful.
Being used to ordering ginormous-sized quantities from purveyors, Nick admittedly had some sticker shock paying retail prices at the checkout line. Wait until you see what he created from his shopping excursion.
Nick walks the straight and narrow down the culinary path, following the golden rule of working clean and organized and treating each item with care. Before the dry-aged Porterhouse steak met the grill, he gave it a rub of dried herbs, garlic, and olive oil (chef tip: add a bit of olive oil to the cutting board when chopping dried herbs so they don’t jump around). The finished steak was plated with roasted potatoes, trumpet mushrooms, and zucchini and sauced with a red wine and artichoke reduction; but I thought this picture (sans the accompaniments) was worth more than a thousand bites.
Fun fact: This Fred Flintstone steak is essentially a T-bone on steroids (a NY strip steak on the right and a filet mignon on the left with the bone in between) and is designated a Porterhouse when the filet is at least 1.25 inches thick.
A whole duck was effortlessly broken down (saving the legs for a future confit and the bones for stock). Nick scored some #hashtags in the skin of the boneless duck breast, careful not to cut into the flesh, so that the fat would render out and the skin would become crispy and flavorful. This was effortlessly accomplished using a dry pan, with low heat, and continually pouring off the fat. When the finished breast was paired with a cherry gastrique, a combination of sautéed onions, garlic, cherries, vinegar, honey, and olive oil all buzzed up in the Ninja, it was a dish made in duck heaven.
Nick’s house has not only been the testing ground for menu items, but has also become the showcase for samples of dishes, glasses, and silverware.
I loved that the kitchen refrigerator, once reserved for kindergarten finger-paintings and high score tests, now proudly displays the design drawings of Madison Kitchen.
In the time I spent with Nick that afternoon, it was easy for me to see that not only was he totally in his element in the kitchen, but his passion was apparent in each dish. With Madison Kitchen’s revised opening date of July 26th, it won’t be long before everyone will have the opportunity to get to know chef Nick Di Bona, one dish at a time.