Once again, the Dinearound landed in Lynn for an evening at the Blue Ox. The demonstation dinners presented here by Chef Matt O’Neill have become a favored destination for us. Since this was the last such dinner of the season, we signed on early. The format for the dinners is basically the same: Chef O’Neill says a few words about the entree he will demonstrate, discusses ingredients with which some diners may not be familiar and suggests beverage pairings for the courses. Then, it’s down to work. Entrees at the Blue Ox have multiple components. Chef O’Neill proceeds to break down the dish so that preparation is easily managed, advising which components can be made in advance and which should be made à la minute, so that completing the dish is not overwhelming for the home cook. Throughout, he dispenses culinary wisdom and opinion, such as why purchasing wine vinegars such as Champagne and Chardonnay are worth the money – they last forever. I particularly liked his opinion that expensive knives and cookware won’t necessarily improve one’s cooking – save your money. As the demo progresses, the first course arrives – except for the chef, the room becomes quiet. After the potato salad and bacon-leek vinaigrette are made, the crab takes center stage. Chef explains that soft-shelled crab should be purchased live and then demonstrates how to kill and clean one. In prepping the crab for sauteeing, he departs from the traditional anglaise of flour, eggs and crumbs and adds sour cream to the eggs. The crab quickly cooks and is immediately drained on absorbent paper. He mounds the potato salad on the plate, placing the crab atop, garnishing with pea tendrils dressed with a bit of truffle vinaigrette and finishing with the bacon-leek vinaigrette. Of couse, everyone applauds. It’s time for the main course.
(Watermelon and feta salad has become a near summer classic. This version was expertly executed – wonderful contrasts between the grilled sweet and crisp watermelon, the creamy salty cheese and briny olives, highlighted by the lightly pickled onion.)
(The crab was fresh and succulent, the coating crispy and well flavored. The potato salad – baby Yukons, English peas, favas, corn – was outstanding – particularly the dressing, the Blue Ox “secret sauce” – Hellman’s mayo, the juice from grilled lemons and fresh thyme. The pea tendrils added a clean fresh taste. The finishing touch of the bacon-leek vinaigrette perfectly seasoned and enlivened the dish.)
The dessert was wonderful – and having a classical pastry certainly provided a great ending to the meal. Crisp flaky pastry layered with excellent pastry cream and perfectly whipped cream and strawberries.
Blue Ox provides a great opportunity to explore the culinary landscape north of Boston. On the North Shore this summer for sun and fun? Stop in for a cocktail – the cocktail and beer menus have just been updated and revamped to reflect the contemporary craft vibe – but more importantly, stay to dine.
The Blue Ox 191 Oxford St. Lynn MA