“The dinner hour is a sacred, happy time when everyone should be together and relaxed.” So said master chef Julia Child, who loved nothing more than combining good food and friends around a table.
At its core, a successful dinner party requires only two elements: excellent food and people who enjoy being together. A third element would surely help: dishes prepared by Bruin chefs. Here, four Los Angeles–area gastronomic masters create dishes for the ultimate Bruin dinner party — and generously share their recipes so you can host your own.
We start, as all great dinner parties should, with a tantalizing cocktail. Enter John Stanley M.B.A. ’09, owner of Stanley’s Wet Goods in Culver City. “Dinner parties are the time to put more thought into a cocktail, to craft it as a prelude for what’s to come. It’s the warm-up act for the main event,” he says. “And sometimes, as we all know, the warm-up act can steal the show.”
Stanley’s Y-ume Cocktail, created exclusively for UCLA Magazine, leans heavily into spirits from Japan, with a sake-based foundation of a plum liqueur and a Bermutto (vermouth). “Each of these drinks showcases stunningly elegant and delicate profiles — the plum liqueur with a focused and pure-fruited tone, and the Bermutto with layered, herbaceous notes,” he says. But the cocktail also gets an L.A. twist — from locally sourced gin infused with wild-harvested native sagebrush and bay laurel, which Stanley says “provide some oomph to the drink.”
1 ounce Ventura Spirits “Wilder Gin”
1 1/2 ounces Oka Kura “Japanese Bermutto” by Tsutsumi
1 ounce Raifuku “Ume-Shu” plum liqueur
1/4 ounce strained lemon juice
1 bar spoon simple syrup
2 dashes Sirene “Fiori d’Arancio” bitters
Chill coupes in the freezer while assembling the drink. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for at least 30 seconds. Strain into chilled coupes. Garnish each cocktail with an edible flower or a thinly sliced wedge of plum.
THE MAIN DISH
Bryant Ng ’00, the chef and partner behind the Southeast Asian brasserie Cassia in Santa Monica, crafts dishes he calls a “cross-pollination of Chinese, Singaporean and Vietnamese cuisines.” His grilled lamb dish was inspired by the gyro plate he had from a Halal Guys cart in New York back in 2004 and never forgot. It’s the Cassia entree he most often takes home for his own dinner.
“The lamb breast is rubbed with Red Boat anchovy salt and some spices like cumin and Sichuan peppercorns for that numbing spicy heat,” he says. “It’s cooked over a bed of onions until the lamb falls apart. We serve it with jasmine rice mixed with Sichuan chile oil, the onions from the cooking of the lamb, our version of the Halal Guys’ ‘white’ sauce and Cassia’s sambal for some extra heat. We add cilantro for a fresh herb contrast to the rich dish and serve it with a wedge of lemon for acidity to help balance the richness.”
A molecular, cellular and developmental biology graduate who worked briefly in the biotech industry, Ng finds himself calling upon his UCLA science education in the kitchen. “A recipe is almost like a lab class,” he says. “When I create a dish, it sort of free-flows. But when I need to train other people to make it, that’s where what I learned in lab class helps.”
GRILLED LAMB BREAST
Lamb breast, charred on grill. (pork belly can be substituted for the lamb)
Onions (from bottom of roasting pan)
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
Jasmine rice (cooked, standard method)
Chili oil (store-bought, such as Lee Kum Kee)
Sesame sauce (recipe below), served on the side
Lemon wedge, served on the side
2 tablespoons Red Boat anchovy salt (or substitute Old Bay Seasoning or Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chile powder
3 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorn, ground
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together. (This makes double the amount needed for the recipe and can hold for 6–8 months. You can also use the rub as an all-purpose seasoning on meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, French fries and more.)
3 1/4 cup Best Foods mayonnaise (or homemade)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom, ground
1 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 tablespoon tahini sesame paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
For Cooking the Lamb
1 (approx. 4–5 pounds) lamb breast (scored in a crisscross fashion)
2 white or yellow onions, sliced 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons seasoning rub (above)
1 tablespoon canola oil
Rub lamb generously with seasoning rub. Leave overnight to marinate.
To cook, preheat oven to 250 F.
Season cut onions with 1 tablespoon canola oil and 2 tablespoons seasoning rub.
In a pan large enough to fit the lamb (or pork belly), place the sliced onions on the bottom. Add the meat on top of the bed of onions. Cover with foil. Roast at 250 F until very soft (approximately 2.5 hours). It’s the same temperature and time if you substitute pork belly. Cool, then cut into appropriate portion sizes. Wrap it in foil and put it in a 300 F oven for 15 minutes.
Reheat on a grill at high heat, giving the lamb a nice char on both sides. Because the lamb is thin, this will take approximately 5 minutes on each side. A thicker pork belly will take about 7–8 minutes on each side.
To serve, place cooked jasmine rice on a platter or each plate and drizzle with chile oil. Place cooked onions (from the bottom of the cooking pan) over the rice, then place the grilled lamb on top and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve the sesame sauce and lemon wedges on the side.
For our side dishes, we turned to David Kuo ’01, chef/owner of the Little Fatty Taiwanese soul food restaurant in the Mar Vista section of L.A. A first-generation Angeleno, Kuo, who also helms Fatty Mart and Accomplice Bar, grew up loving his mother’s and grandmother’s home-style Taiwanese cooking. After graduating from UCLA in political science, he worked in property management but felt frustrated working in an office job. So he left to attend Le Cordon Bleu. He then trained with Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, among other culinary lights, and in 2014 he opened a rotisserie restaurant, Status Kuo. Two years later, he reconceived it into Little Fatty, now the flagship of his three establishments.
For our Bruin dinner party, Kuo whipped up two of his favorites: garlic noodles, and Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage and pickled goji berries. He chose these specifically because he knew they “would pair well with a spiced lamb dish.” Sweet and sour Brussels sprouts “help cool the heat of the spices, and the sour will cut through the richness” of the lamb; the garlic noodles “are addictive with the garlic, parmesan and oyster sauce. These two dishes are going to be great with Bryant’s lamb.”
1 cup butter
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons green onion whites
1 1/2 cup noodles
1 1/2 cup dried scallop oyster sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 teaspoon gluten-free soy sauce
1 cup roasted garlic
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon black pepper
To make the sauce, place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk well and set aside. Heat butter in pan. Add garlic and saute over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add green onion whites. Saute for 2 minutes. Add sauce and noodles, and toss to coat. Serve on plate, garnished with green onions and parmesan.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH CHINESE SAUSAGE AND PICKLED GOJI BERRIES
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half
1/2 cup Chinese sausage cut into 1/2-inch coins
2 1/4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup oil of your choice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 green onions, white and green parts separated
1/2 cup goji berries, pickled (recipe below)
Cut Brussels sprouts in half and place in a bowl. Place sausage coins in separate bowl. In a saute pan on medium heat, add oil and sprouts. Cook on medium low heat for 7 minutes, browning the outside and making sure the inside is fully cooked. Add sausage, garlic, ginger and onion. Cook for 3 minutes. Increase heat to high, add pickled berries and cook for 2 minutes.
Plate the dish and garnish with green onions.
Pickled Goji Berries
Place berries in a bowl.
Combine sugar, water and vinegar in a pot, heat to boiling and stir.
Turn off heat and pour liquid onto berries. Let cool before using (can be done ahead of time.)
When it comes to dessert, legendary L.A. culinary giant Evan Kleiman ’71, M.A. ’80 is the perfect choice: Among her many talents, she’s a pie expert. A native Angeleno who’s been dubbed the “fairy godmother” of the L.A. food scene, Kleiman studied Italian literature and film at UCLA, which broadened her understanding of the marriage between food and culture. In 1984, she opened Angeli Caffe, focused on rustic Italian cuisine. Today, Kleiman is best known as the amicable host of KCRW radio’s Good Food, where she’s conducted more than 6,000 interviews since 1998 and runs the show’s annual pie fest and contest, held on the UCLA campus. (This year’s event, on Royce Quad, attracted 10,000 pie lovers.) Here, Kleiman shares a seasonal favorite, peach galette. “I love this because it’s a bit faster to put together than a double-crust pie, but making it in a pie pan gives it more structure than if it were made on a sheet pan,” she says. “And who doesn’t love that luscious flavor of summer peaches, combined with a buttery crust?”
Before you make the galette, of course you first need to make the dough. Find Evan’s recipe here (Or, if you must, cheat and buy prepared crust. We won’t judge.)
For the Filling:
7 ripe peaches (or 8 nectarines), not super soft
1/4 cup sugar or to taste
1/2 cup brown sugar or to taste
1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher salt
A squeeze of lemon juice, if needed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Bring water to a rolling boil in a saucepan. Have a bowl full of ice water ready. Put the peaches in the boiling water one at a time so the boil doesn’t stop. Count to 10. Lift the boiled peach out of the water with a slotted spoon or tongs and put it in the iced water. Continue until all the peaches are done. Slip the skins off the peaches, then cut them into wedges about 3/4 inches thick. Slice the wedges into a bowl. Add the sugars as needed and the salt. If the peaches taste flat, add a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste again and adjust the seasoning. (In this case, your seasoning is the sugar, salt and lemon.) Once the peaches suit your taste, add the flour and mix.
To Assemble the Galette:
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Use a 9-inch regular pie plate (do not use a ceramic or deep-dish pie dish). Roll out the dough according to the dough directions, allowing plenty of extra to fold over. Drape the dough into the pie pan, easing it into the bottom without stretching it. Give the filling a stir and pour it on top of the dough. Fold the edges over the filling, pleating where needed. The “fold” can nearly cover the filling or just be a small border; it’s your choice.
Place the galette on an oven rack set on the lowest rung. Cook until the crust is deep golden-brown and the filling is bubbling and thick, approximately 40 minutes. Let cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream if you like.
Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Fall 2023 issue.