So far this weekend, I've made:
- sugar cookies
- four test batches of chocolate truffles
- a loaf of bread
- a pumpkin pie

I didn't really set out to bake all weekend long - it just happened. On Friday, when Liam was home sick from daycare, he asked me if we could make a pumpkin pie out of the pie pumpkin that's been sitting on our table since before Halloween. Sure, I said, and we roasted up a pumpkin and scooped the pulp out and put it in the fridge.

Looking for other things to do with my not-yet-so-sick kid home for the day, I thought about making cookies - we'd been having fun playing with cookies and cookie cutters lately. So I mixed up some dough while he was napping, and after dinner we made cookies. It was game night, and the gamers ate them up quite happily.

With another big truffle sale coming up in a week, I needed to start testing flavors, so I mixed up a small batch of each ganache on Friday night during game night, so I could use the players as guinea pigs. I'm glad I did - all of the recipes need more work - gingerbread needs more ginger, egg nog needs more vanilla and nutmeg, cranberry needs a different source of cranberry flavor, and chestnut needs a new approach entirely.

Then, before I went to bed on Friday, I decided to throw together another batch of no-knead bread, cause, well, it only takes a couple minutes.

Saturday, I baked the bread. A 33% semolina flour, and my best loaf yet, flavorwise.

Today, I tempered some chocolate to coat all the experimental truffles so I could give them away and get them out of my house. We had a white elephant swap at the common house yesterday and I picked up a bunch of things (1/2 ownership in a food dehydrator, a bunch of story tapes for Liam, some little animal toys, gingerbread house cookie cutters, the Muppet Movie, a candle holder Christmas tree for my mom, several books, a game for Liam, and a metric shitload of Mardi Gras beads for ConFusion) for which I traded truffles, so I need to deliver on my part of the bargain.

Then I was looking for something to do with my rambunctious child, so I suggested we finish up the pumpkin pie, since we were approaching "use it or lose it" timing on the pulp. So we did that, and it has just finished baking and is cooling on the counter now.

Now I must finish decorating the truffles so that I can take their pictures and make up a little flavor insert for my packages.

Fun party

Oct. 29th, 2006 08:30 pm
The cassoulet was very yummy. Not sure if it was worth the work and expense (buying duck confit rather than making it myself drove up the price considerably), but I am pleased to have made it.

Company was splendid. Ended up with 9 adults and 3 children. Elph and Jillian brought Elph's mom Charlotte and some bread and cheese. Hope brought salad greens and Elph's brother Beau-Kevin, in a very cute first-datey couply kind of way. Jay and Tracy brought their kids Seth and Kaelin, and Kaelin brought brownies he'd made. (Jay's PDA alarm went off this morning saying "make brownies for Tammy" - we hadn't arranged for them to bring dessert, the only thing we can figure is that last time Kaelin made these brownies I'd liked them so much I asked him to make me some for my birthday, and Jay put it in his PDA). And as if the brownies weren't chocolatey enough, we also passed around leftover truffles.

Cassoulet recipe definitely feeds 12 adults - I sent most everyone home with leftovers. It included 2 lbs of Great Northern beans, 2 lbs of pork belly, 1 lb of pork rind, 3 Toulouse-style sausages, 3 boar sausages, and 4 legs of duck confit. With some extra duck fat for good measure. And some onions. It's definitely one of those "greater than the sum of its parts" recipes - the beans get meltingly tender and infused with the fat, and the long slow braise makes all the various meats melt in you mouth tender.

I'm feeling a little tipsy. We started off with crudites (had to get some veggies in the meal somewhere) and cheese and bread, and I opened up a Sancerre that Ric from Zingerman's gave me. There's pretty much only one Sancerre winemaker (Hippolyte Reverdy) who gets imported into Michigan, and sadly, I don't like most of his wines. But this cuvee was really nice. (Edited to say that upon closer examination, this one is a Pascal and Nicolas Reverdy, not a Hippolyte Reverdy. So there. Apparently it was a 90-pointer from Wine Spectator and costs about $22. I'd pay that if I could ever find it - it was good.) With the cassoulet, I served a Gigondas that I picked up in a mixed case several months ago. Good match with the cassoulet - it had enough oomph to cut through the richness and the fat of the cassoulet. But I should have decanted it, as I'd meant to - it got much better later. Two glasses of wine wouldn't have been enough to make me tipsy, but Elph decided that some of his homemade vanilla limoncello was exactly what we needed to refresh our palates before dessert. It was very tasty, but now I am decidedly bleary-headed. Of course, I'm also extremely sleep deprived, so maybe it's just that. Not to mention the food coma.
My friend Ronnie in Chicago gave me a package of homemade Toulouse style sausages. "Perfect," he said "for making cassoulet." I've been wanting to try my hand at this decadent French bean and meat casserole, so I decided that cooking up a big pot of cassoulet to share with friend would be a perfect way to celebrate my birthday.

Decision made, now I just needed to source the ingredients. I stopped by Sparrow Meats yesterday and placed an order for 2 lbs of pork belly and 1 lb of pork rind, and 3 boar sausages to supplement the ones from Ronnie (boar isn't necessarily "traditional" for cassoulet, but they were his suggestion for a nice garlicky sausage). Then I stopped into Zingerman's for duck confit, but they are cooking cassoulet this week too, and didn't have any to sell me! Carlos suggested I try Morgan and York. My hopes were raised and then dashed, when he said they had 3 of the needed 4 legs of confit, but then reported that it had gone off. However, he called his supplier, and they can have me four legs tomorrow, so we are back in action.

I have been unsuccessful so far at sourcing any fancy French beans, so I'll probably end up using Great Northern or canellini.

Stay tuned for further progress reports.
I picked up some bacon from Sparrow Meats on Saturday. I asked for the "thick cut" bacon, without realizing that each slice was about a quarter to a third of an inch thick. Yikes! 8 slices came out to over a pound of bacon. Crazy stuff, man.

So combine that bacon sitting in my fridge with a good foodblog from Italy on eGullet this week, and I was inspired to make a quick pasta for dinner. You can check out my blog if you want the recipe, but it's basically: brown the bacon, saute onions, garlic and red pepper flakes, add crushed tomatoes. Cook pasta just until done, reserve some cooking water, and toss the drained pasta with the sauce and about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Cook the pasta for a little longer in the pan, until it the water is absorbed and the pasta is done. Toss with coarsely chopped arugula, and eat.

It was really, really good. Liam disagreed - too spicy for him, I think, even though I only used about 5 tiny pieces of red pepper flakes. I rinsed the sauce off his pasta, and then he was happy to eat it.
Or maybe I should blame the vermouth in the salad dressing. Or just being the mother of an early-awakening toddler. In any case, I went upstairs to put Liam to bed, and fell asleep for an hour. Oops.

[ profile] nubianamy and Tom and Baby Ivy came over and joined us for a very nice dinner - grilled steak with chorizo butter, heirloom tomato, arugula and bread salad, and gelato for dessert. The chorizo butter is a tasty mixture of butter, dry-cured chorizo, roasted red peppers, parsley, garlic and smoked sweet paprika, combined in the food processor then formed into a log and chilled. We cut it into disks and used them to top the steaks we grilled. Tasty, and all pretty and orange-red and speckled. I still have half a log in the fridge to do something else with.

For the salad, I bought five different kinds of heirloom tomatoes at the market today - red ones and yellow ones and "black" ones. They got chopped up with some scallions, and mixed with a dressing of dry vermouth, ground coriander, lemon zest, salt and olive oil. I brushed thick slices of day old Zingerman's rustic Italian bread with olive oil and grilled them, then rubbed them with a cut garlic clove. The bread and tomato mixture got tossed together with some arugula, torn basil leaves and toasted pine nuts, and c'est fini! I love bread salads - the bread soaks up all the yummy juices from the other ingredients, and it's lovely.

Looking on the wine rack for something to serve, I came across a bottle of 2000 Bordeaux that I picked up in a mixed case some time ago. Nothing says Bordeaux like a hunk of dead cow, so that's what I served. Quite the enjoyable wine, and I must admit to a slight overindulgence and some tipsiness. I had been thinking to serve something Italian, concerned that with a salad as the side dish, I'd need a somewhat acid wine to match. But the salad is actually quite nice that way from a pairing perspective - since the dressing is made with vermouth rather than vinager, the acidity in the salad comes only from the tomatoes themselves, making it quite wine friendly.

I had thought to take pictures, given a) the prettiness of the food and b) [ profile] neoliminal's request, but well, I didn't. Next time, maybe.
I cooked common meal tonight. Instead of posting a menu, I posted the following:
Are you willing to take a chance? I'm going to go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, and see what looks fresh and good, and what Sparrow Meats or Monahan's seafood have on sale that day. I'll collect up all that bounty of the season and turn it into dinner. But I can't tell you what it is before you sign up, because I don't know - you'll just have to trust me.

Now, to be honest, I had given it some thought before going to the market. I knew I wanted to use this as an excuse to make these little beef and basil hors d'ouvres from my BBQ cookbook. And I knew I was going to get some beets. And that I'd probably do potatoes, because they're easy. But I didn't know what the main dish was going to be.

Walking around the market I saw that there were still cherries for sale (different sellers have been saying "last week" for the last two weeks) so I started thinking about doing some sort of cherry sauce for meat. Went in to talk to my butcher, and when he offered me a 8.5 lb whole pork loin for $20, I was sold, even though I'd just made pork tenderloin for common meal on Thursday.

The veggie main was a complete market inspiration, though. I'd had vague thoughts about stuffed squash, and when I saw these really awesome looking flying saucer squash, that sealed the deal. But I still wasn't sure what to put in them. But then I got thinking about tomatoes and how I wasn't using any yet, and then Zingerman's was there selling fresh mozarella, and I decided to do a caprese salad thing, with the tomato and basil in the squash and the mozarella on top, heated under the broiler. These looked amazing - wish I'd taken a picture!

The final menu:
Vietnamese Grilled Beef and Basil rolls
Grilled haloumi and basil rolls (vegetarian)

Chile-mustard rubbed roast pork loin with sweet and tart cherry sauce
Caprese-stuffed flying saucer squash (vegetarian)

Dilled red potatoes

Red, White, and Blue Salad - mixed greens with roasted beets, blueberries, and goat cheese

Peach cobbler with ice cream

Everything turned out well, and people were pleased. I started at 3pm and my assistant cooks came at 4pm, and we had to work really steadily during that time, but we got it all done and served dinner on time. We even managed to do some clean-as-you-go, which is good, because somehow we used an awful lot of pots.

But between the cooking and the gardening and Liam having a very restless night last night, I am exhausted, so I'm off to bed.
That was dinner tonight. It was quite tasty, but unfortunately took longer to make and cook then I'd expected, so dinner was quite late. Must learn not to try what Eric terms "ambitious" meals on Friday nights. But we bought a fresh chicken at the Touchstone Farmer's Market on Tuesday, and I thought I really should cook it by today.

To make it, set up a grill for indirect grilling (pile the coals on either side, and put a drip pan in the middle). Soak a bunch of thyme. Butterfly a whole chicken (cut out the backbone, turn it over and press down to break the breastbone - ta-da - flat chicken!). Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Make a paste of dijon mustard, softened butter, herbs de provence, smoked sweet paprika, kosher salt and two thinly sliced green onions. Distribute this paste under the skin of the chicken, then rub any excess on the outside. Once the grill is hot, place the thyme on top of the cool part of the grill, place the chicken on top of that, and cook covered until it's done. Brush with some olive oil slightly before the end to help crisp the skin.

The compound butter under the skin kept everything nice and moist and infused with flavor. Yum.

More candy

Jul. 14th, 2006 11:53 pm
Having mostly mastered the art of basic truffle making, I've moved on to another challenge. I made my first batch of fleur de sel caramels tonight. They turned out pretty well - a little soft, but I prefer soft to hard caramel, so I erred on that side. And the room is quite warm, which doesn't help. We ate some straight up, and then I did a quick melt on some chocolate I had leftover and dipped a bunch. Should have taken the time to temper the chocolate, as the non-tempered chocolate is not setting up and had to be refrigerated, which makes the caramel quite hard.

But, oh, the taste. Lovely. Divine. Glorious. As a first attempt, I am very pleased. I will play with temperatures in the future to get a consistency that will dip better, so I can add caramels to my chocolate portfolio. And once I get the basic caramel tricks down, I can start adding flavorings to the cream and seeing what that's like.
I love this time of year. We tend to cook a lot of simple food, but it's local, fresh, simple food. Thursday we went to the Farmer's Market and picked up steak and lamb from local meat growers, and green beans, zucchini, potatoes, blueberries and cherries from local farmers. Friday night I grilled the steak and served it with steamed green beans topped with butter, and dilled potatoes, with dill from my neighbors garden. Saturday night we had an impromptu dinner party with [ profile] shadowriderhope. We grilled lamb steaks, and served them with pasta with salsa verde (parsley, capers, anchovy paste, garlic, olive oil - yum!), fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. The pasta was Martelli, and excellent imported pasta we get at Zing, and the mozarella was made at Zingerman's Creamery on Thursday. No local tomatoes - yet. I also made some zucchini and goat cheese roll-ups - 1/4 inch slices of zucchini, grilled until brown and limp, filled with a mixture of goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and fresh thyme (from the common house herb garden), topped with a little bit of parmesan reggiano, and the broiled to make it all melty. An excellent hors d'ouevres like thing. And after Liam went to bed, I made a sour cherry pie (well, I decided to cheat and use a Pillsbury roll out crust, but I pitted each and every one of the quart of cherries that went in the filling).

Mmm. Good eats.
I've already relayed yesterday morning's Village excitement. (Thanks to everyone for your comments. Liam seems none the worse for his experience, although this morning he did say to me "I cried in car." Sniff.) That all happened while we were out at the grocery store picking up food for lunch and dinner, cooking and eating being a lot of what us Village people do when we get together.

When we finally got back to SueScott's we had a mozarella/tomato/basil salad for lunch, along with assorted other bits for nibbling. Then it was kid nap time, so I brought Liam home. Jon and Sarah and Theo came over to our place while Alex and Jessie napped - Theo doesn't need a nap anymore (what a concept!) and Great Oak gave him a little more range to play. While all that was going on, we finished up the truffles we started the day before. I'd guess we made about 70, which seemed like nothing compared to my recent truffle making escapades. My attempts to roll the hazelnut in chopped nuts failed miserably - gotta figure out how that's supposed to work - I think my ganache was just too soft.

Eventually we all reconvened and there was much prepping and cooking for dinner. As usual, we had way too much food - we were just sort of picking things up randomly at the store, then tried to pull it all together into a meal.

In the afternoon we nibbled on some Little Napoleon cheese from Zingerman's and some salami, chosen because I knew they'd go well with Elysium, a sweet fortified wine from the last Zingerman's Roadhouse dinner i attended. I thought [ profile] sarahf would love it, and I was right. Woot!

On to dinner. We couldn't resist buying the fresh morels we found at the store, so then we had to figure out something to do with them. I ended up sauteing some chopped garlic shoots and the morels with butter and olive oil, tossing them with some cooked fresh pasta, and sprinkling with shaved parmesan. The texture of the pasta wasn't quite what I was aiming for, but the flavors sure were nice!
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We'd made a bunch of other assorted food without really thinking about how we'd put it all together. As somebody said "We didn't used to do "courses." But [ profile] scottij wanted to make the tomato basil sorbet from Eric's birthday scallop dinner again, and what good is a palate cleanser if there's no courses to put it between? The sorbet wasn't quite ready after the pasta, so we decided to put our veggies together and call it a "course." We had some soy-sesame marinated grilled vegetables (summer squash, zucchini, snap peas, eggplant, shiitakes) and boiled corn.
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Scott's tomato basil sorbet was as intriguing as I remembered it. It's kinda like very cold gazpacho, maybe.
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For our final course, we butterflied and stuffed a pork tenderloin with a paste of garlic and herbs from the Great Oak garden (summer savory and oregano, IIRC). We served this with beet and goat cheese salad, which seems to be shaping up as one of this summer's regular items (although sadly, Eric doesn't like beets, so that prevents us from making it even more often).
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Then we were all totally stuffed and it was time for kids to get to bed. SueScott took Alex and Jessie back to their house. Jon and Sarah stayed and washed dishes and helped clean up while Eric and I got Liam started on bedtime, then went back to Scott and Sue's. Liam's stressful day resulted in an easy bedtime, and he was asleep well before 9. We'd arranged for a neighborhood teen to come over and babysit after Liam was in bed so we could go over to join the rest of the Village for an adult evening.

So while we were waiting for him I finished up the white chocolate rose truffles I'd started making for [ profile] sarahf earlier in the day. They turned out extremely soft and can basically only be eaten straight out of the freezer (and even then they're soft!). But they made Sarah swoon and make her foodgasm face, so totally worthwhile. No pictures of those (they weren't very photogenic anyway) but here's a picture of the other truffles we made and munched on last night.
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I'm really quite pleased with all of them. Good flavors - more subtle than some of my previous attempts, and really excellent texture - the insides are so smooth and creamy as to be almost liquid. I'm getting much more comfortable working with looser ganaches now.

We ate truffles and chatted and played a game of Alhambra, then all got ourselves off to our respective houses and beds. We grownups want to stay up late cause we're altogether, but the kids aren't changing their morning wake up times, so that makes it rough. I got to bed at midnight and was up with Liam at 5:30 (as well as attending to a short middle of the night wakeup). I tried to nap for a couple hours this morning, but wasn't very good at it.
"You makin' strawberry ice cream, Daddy?"

So our young son asked this afternoon, and indeed, we are. It's been a multi staged process - making the custard, chilling the custard, macerating the strawberries, blending it all together. But finally we have reached the churning stage, and soon glorious homemade ice cream (with local Michigan strawberries) will be ours.

But can you believe that sentence my son came up with? The coolest part is that he totally picked it up from context - Eric was standing at the counter stirring custard, I was in the chair nursing Liam, and Eric and I were discussing which strawberries to use in the ice cream. Up pops Liam's head to ask the question.

On Wednesday, Eric's actual birthday, the three of us went out to Carson's American Bistro. This is a restaurant in the Mainstreet Ventures chain, and they all give you a free meal on your birthday. We're pretty ambivalent about the standard outposts, so we thought we'd give a new one a try. We're pretty ambivalent about it too. Good steak, but the fries were forgettable. My salad was an overdressed, gloppy, enormous mess. Since Eric got his meal for free, the amount we paid (about $40) seemed good for the food we got, but I would have felt majorly ripped off if we'd had to pay the full bill.

We celebrated again yesterday, hosting a dinner with friends and then having more people come over after Liam went to bed to join us for a fire on the deck. When we were planning dinner, Eric was commenting that it would be nice if people could stay for a fire after. But I reminded him that everyone we were inviting for dinner had kids, and that wasn't going to be possible. But, I said - we could invite our childless and childfree friends over after Liam went to bed. It's like two parties on the same day! So that is what we did, and it worked really well. Everybody at dinner had at least one child contributing to the noisy throng, so no one felt left out of the chaos.

And despite having 6 children (ages 3 months, 8 months, almost 3, 2.5, 2, and 8) running around, we managed to pull off our surprisingly ambitious menu. (Or maybe "because of" - they do a certain amount of self-entertaining when there are so many. If it had been just Liam and a bunch of adults, he would have been clamoring for our attention constantly. As it was I barely saw him).

More on the ambitious menu - Eric had expressed a while back that he wanted me to cook him 5 lbs of scallops for his birthday. We eventually agreed that 5 lbs was probably too many, but the goal was clear - eat a LOT of scallops (he hesitates to order scallops in restaurants, because the serving size is usually too skimpy). Then things evolved into this big dinner party idea. And although Eric had more than any of the rest of us, he still didn't get enough, so I see myself cooking up some more scallops just for the two of us next weekend. (Or maybe just for him - I've actually had my fill for a while, I think.)

My idea was that each couple would prepare a different scallop course. We ended up asking Maggi and Tom to bring dessert instead. And I added an extra non-scallop course because I had bought food for dinner on Friday night that didn't get used because Eric was late and Liam was sick. Here's what we ended up with (pictures and descriptions behind the cuts!).

Scallop Mousse in Phyllo Cups ([ profile] scottij)Read more... )
Grilled Bacon Wrapped Scallops (Jay and Tracy, WANOLJ)Read more... )
Seared Scallops with Wild Mushrooms and Fresh-picked Garden Lettuces ([ profile] tammylc, with Tracy's lettuce)Read more... )
Tomato Basil Sorbet ([ profile] scottij)Read more... )
Duck Bangers with Truffled Mash and Grilled Asparagus ([ profile] tammylc)Read more... )
Assorted Desserts ([ profile] nubianamy and Tom)Read more... )

The kids had hot dogs, mashed sweet potatoes and cheese. I wasn't sure what the best way was to organize food for the kids. We ended up feeding them as we ate our bacon wrapped scallops. They were mostly done by the time we were into the salad, but with full tummies they ran off to play (relatively) peacefully while we ate the rest of our dinner. So it worked out perfectly! Picture of a table o' boys )

We drank three bottles of wine with dinner. While you might tend to think scallops would call for white wines, our preparations on the dishes were really much more red wine friendly - bacon, mushrooms, etc. So I pulled a bunch of things out of the basement that I thought would go. Click to read about wine )

Tom and Jay stayed and helped clean up, which meant that all the dishes were done by the time Eric was finished giving Liam his bath. Perhaps the best present he could have received (Eric likes my cooking, but hates having to clean up afterwards). Thanks, guys! Liam went down to bed pretty well, given the excitement of the day. When I got back downstairs from putting him to bed, [ profile] netmouse had arrived, along with our neighbors Elph and Jillian. We nibbled and sipped on some snacks and Port that Anne had brought with her - thanks, Anne - sitting around the hot fire on the deck. It was a good night for a fire, cool enough to sit close, but not so cold that one side is freezing while the other is cooking. And no breeze, so we weren't getting smoked out. [ profile] renniekins and [ profile] thatguychuck were supposed to come, but hadn't arrived by the time I got to bed.

Fun day. I hope Eric enjoyed his 40th birthday celebration.
Although it seems like almost everyone else I know is!

It's been a good day. Got to sleep in. Got up and had a reasonably leisurely morning before the bunch of us headed out to Kerrytown. Did the urban hunter gatherer routine, picking up bread and cheese at Zingerman's, smoked salmon at Durham's Tracklements, and various meat and grocery items at Sparrow. Had lunch at the bigger better Kosmo deli.

Came home in time to meet with our new tenants for the condo! Got a signed lease and a deposit in cash. Breathing a little easier now.

Later, I took a nap. I have the plague (aka, some sort of nasty spring head cold), so I'm feeling kind of cruddy. And my voice is going to disappear pretty soon.

Tonight we're having a little gathering for [ profile] kgkofmel and [ profile] markbhall. [ profile] tlatoani and [ profile] shekkara came over earlier and we noshed on various yumminess, and made a dinner of grilled asparagus, chicken and steak. Just as they were leaving, [ profile] bardichwench and Morgan arrived, just in time for the impromptu making of chocolate-espresso souffle cakes. They were very tasty, and easily assembled from ingredients around the house - assuming you're the kind of person who tends to have 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate lying around the house. (I'm still using up extras from the great truffle making extravaganza.) [ profile] brendand and [ profile] mjwise have just arrived as I was writing this paragraph. They're all sitting outside having a fire on the deck - I'm feeling sick and antisocial, so I'm in here. Soon I should go to bed, as I'm on morning duty with Liam. Who, I should note, has been an absolute dear today. Very good about entertaining himself while adults were busy socializing and getting food ready, etc.

Tomorrow morning I'm planning to make lemon cream cheese stuffed french toast for breakfast. And blueberry syrup. I've been wanting to make this recipe for a long while, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to try it.
The blow out Great Oak Wine Club Anniversary dinner is all done. People were as pleased as I'd hoped. Everything turned out great. There were a few things I'd tweak here and there, but it was great. All the wine pairings were good, some especially so. Everybody pitched in - some people before for prep, and some people during for plating and cleaning, and people after for cleaning. Many hands make light work and it didn't take a long to clean up after we were done - we were able to take advantage of gaps between courses to run things through the dishwasher. The menu was such that almost everything could be cooked in advance, with only a little bit of a la minute required - but that meant we were able to keep 5 or 6 people busy for going on 3 hours getting ready before dinner. Plus the time Katie and I spent last night and this morning. We had 16 people attending.

The final menu, with wines, and some pictures:
Rosemary Parmesan Coins
NV Collabrigo Prosecco Spumante Brut
Really great hors d'ouevres. Easy and very tasty. Sort of like a savory cookie. We had these and the sparkling wine out for people to have as they were arriving and before they sat down.
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Mixed Greens with Zingerman’s Creamery Goat Cheese, Roasted Red and Gold Beets, and Toasted Walnuts
2004 Jardin Sauvignon Blanc, Stellensboch, South Africa
The goat cheese was more aged than I remembered. Elph, who works at Zingerman's did the actual buying, so I wasn't there to assess. I might have used something else. But it was a very good salad. The planned sherry vinaigrette fell victim to my not actually having the bottle of sherry vinager that I was sure I had, so we used a balsalmic vinaigrette instead, which was fine.
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Farfalle with Smoked Salmon and Creamy Vodka Sauce
2004 Domaine Cordier Père& Fils “Terroir de Charnay” Macon
The only "eh" course, I thought. Needed more salt, but someone else was in charge of this course and I didn't taste it until I'd sat down. It probably would have been better when it was warm. And it suffered some, I think from all the things we needed to do to deal with the vegetarians and gluten free eaters. Boring plate - I had planned on making a chive oil to drizzle on the plate to jazz things up a bit, but didn't have time.
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Blood Orange - Rosemary Sorbet
Presentation leaves a bit to be desired (I was busy with the next course, and the person doing the plating wasn't very concerned about looks), but it was very good. The blood oranges were totally anemic though. The duck course that followed was the course that required the most last minute preparation, so I added the sorbet to fill in the long gap.
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Seared Duck Breast with Dried Cherry Sauce, Lentils and Swiss Chard
Lentils, Butternut Squash and Shiitake Mushrooms with Dried Cherry Sauce
2004 Domain Robert Chevillon Bourgogne Passetoutgrain
I'd written down a great to-do list, but the one thing I'd forgotten to write down was "score skin on duck breasts" so I forgot. Luckily, I'd put them into cold pans, so I realized it right away and was able to pull them out. Then none of the knives I had handy were sharp enough to cut the skin... ugh. This was definitely the most hectic course. Sear the duck, rest the duck, carve the duck, saute the chard, heat up the sauce, get everything plated. The vegetarian offering was totally different too, so that was a whole other set of things to do at the same time (although I delegated that to someone else). I only have a picture of the veggie option, since my camera was being obstinate. Jillian was also taking pictures, so I hope to get one from her of the duck.
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Five Spice Braised Short Ribs (or Portabellas), Parsnip-Turnip Puree, Snow Peas
2000 J.L. Chave “Offerus” Saint-Joseph
I braised the short ribs this morning, and strained and reduced the braising liquid into an intense sauce this afternoon. The portion size was waaay to big on this one - I was expecting the short ribs to cook down more, and these ones didn't. Everything got eaten, but people were definitely feeling full, so I sent them all out for a walk while we prepped the cheese course.
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Tasting of blue cheeses
NV Alvear Carlos VII Amontillado
The cheeses were Cashel Blue from Ireland, Stilton from England, Roquefort from France, and Gorgonzola from Italy. We served a variety of sides along with - some pears, some port glazed walnuts, a hearty nut and seed bread, and a little dollop of port reduction. The port glazed walnuts are amazing! And they played especially well with the excellent wine.
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Lemon Sabayon Tart with Pine Nut Crust and Honeyed Mascarpone Cream
2002 Peller Estates Riesling Icewine
A yummy and easy recipe from the French Laundry Cookbook. And a *great* wine pairing.
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Gianduja Gelato Filled Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce
Warres Otima 10 year Tawny Porto
Wow, this was the ever evolving course. We'd originally planned dark chocolate filled profiteroles, caramel sauce and Banyuls as the wine. But I couldn't get any Banyuls. So at the last minute I changed the gelato to Gianduja, as I thought I'd serve a Vin Santo instead. But then I couldn't get that! So we ended up with a tawny port. The caramel sauce didn't turn out - I think the recipe was messed up. So Katie brought over a jar of Sanders bittersweet chocolate sauce and we used that instead. And in the end, I think it turned out for the best - it was a really nice match for the wine.
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Lessons learned - I was overambitious and took too much on myself instead of delegating. I basically planned and executed the whole meal. I had plenty of people assisting, but I was definitely in charge. Yeah, I'm a control freak, why do you ask? In the moment that was fine, but there were definitely a couple times this week where I was dreading the dinner or in "can't wait until it's over" mode instead of looking forward to it.

Too much food. Primarily the short rib course - one bone each would have been plenty, instead of the two we had. Which would have saved a bunch of money, actually.

Speaking of money... When we were planning the dinner, I told people it would be $20. But as things evolved, the price kept rising, and it ended up at about$25/person. Not a huge deal, but it stressed me out because I know that some of our people are really price-sensitive. The price wasn't at all unreasonable - wouldn't you pay $25 for that meal? And in any case, no one had any issues with the increased cost (at least none that they mentioned.)

I know there are people who want recipes, etc, but those will have to wait for another day. Liam will be up in 7 hours, and I'm on morning duty.
Saturday is my wine club anniversary dinner. Should be fun, although right now I'm finding it unreasonably stressful. I'm taking it all too seriously, I think, and need to loosen up.

Did some advance prep tonight:

  • Dough for rosemary-parmesan coins (which needed to chill for at least 4 hours)

  • Made the port glazed walnuts to serve with the cheese course (and a port syrup that goes with)

  • Made the rosemary-blood orange sorbet palate cleanser (My blood oranges were anemic and it ended up barely grapefruit juice colored, though. I resisted adding a couple drops of red food coloring. Tastes good, though - should be a nice intermezzo.)

  • Made a dry rub and coated the short ribs. (I love living in cohousing - upon discovering that I didn't have as much five-spice powder as I thought, I wandered over to the common house. There I found only old sad five spice powder, but the well stocked spice cabinet had all the whole spices I needed to make my own! Much better.)

Katie, my pastry chef, was working on the tart crust and profiteroles tonight, and maybe the caramel sauce too. Tomorrow morning I'll cook the short ribs, and make one more shopping trip to pick up salmon and (hopefully) morels for the vegetarian pasta. Tomorrow afternoon will be lots of chopping and prepping, as well as cooking up a number of things in advance that will just be reheated for plating. Whee! Must remember to take pictures.

But now, I need to stop my little LJ break and go clean the kitchen before I go to bed.
Anyone who has come to Great Oak for common meal will be familiar with our nightly ritual. One of the children clangs on a glass and shouts out an (often unintelligible) "Thanks to the cooks!" and everyone claps. A minute later, another child will clang on a glass and shout "Thanks to the cleaners!" and everyone claps.

Tonight was a little different. I made chocolate cake for dessert. It's a super easy chocolate cake recipe, but it looks *really* impressive, thanks to a chocolate ganache poured over the top that gives it that shiny smooth finish. As soon as I put it out, a line queued up. And once most people had served themselves, somebody clanged on a glass and shouted "Thanks for dessert!" First time I've ever heard or had *that* happen. Nice egoboo.

Dinner was tasty. I made the same jambalaya I've made a bunch of times before, and it's always a hit. Tonight's was especially good, because the store I shopped at had some really nice andouille sausage. I really like this meal because not only is it tasty, it's fast, easy and cheap to boot! I just wish there was some way to make the vegetarian version taste anywhere near as good as the meat eater version (well, adding chicken and sausage fat would work, but then it wouldn't be vegetarian anymore...) But I guess the veggies don't know what they're missing.

Oh, and note to self - given that this is a cheap meal, I should probably make extra - we never have leftovers, and people are usually scrounging around for seconds. When calculating how much to make, I should think of the base recipe as serving 4-5, not 6.
I've really been having a fun few days, indulging in a cooking and baking binge.

[ profile] scottij, [ profile] sueij, Alex and Jessie all came over for dinner last night. To start, we had one of our "house" salads - spring mix with lemon vinaigrette, topped with dried cherries, toasted pinenutes and fried halloumi cheese. Yum. Scott had brought over a half full leftover bottle of Anjou, so we drank that while we were cooking and with the salad. For our main course, we had roasted chicken thighs, marinated in grainy mustard and balsalmic vinegar, then basted a lot when they were cooking in order to get a nice crispy "burnished" skin. We had those with sweet potatoes, parsnips and shallots, which all get roasted right in the same pan, so pick up some of the chickeny flavor. Over the top of it all you sprinkle a mixture of crumbled bacon and coarsely chopped parsley, which totally made the dish. (You're actually supposed to mix some of it in with the veggies, but Sue is a non-bacon eater, so we just used it as a condiment.) We opened a bottle of Cote de Rhone to drink with the chicken, and the bacon really helped to tie in some of the smoky notes we found in the wine.

I liked the chicken a lot. I think it would have been even better with a longer marinating time (we only had time for the minimum one hour marinade). I'm actually thinking about making them for common meal sometime. It's a pretty easy recipe, and because it's chicken thighs, it's very cost effective. I'd do some different side dishes, probably, because of the vegetarian and oven space factors. And the same article in the magazine had a couple of variations that sounded good as well, so I may try one of those.

For dessert, Liam and I made a quick chocolate cake earlier in the day. The recipe book called it "Fastest Fudge Cake" and it was pretty darn fast to put together. And we were able to make the cake just from ingredients we had on hand, which was nice. When I went out later to get the ingredients for dinner, I picked up some chocolate and cream to make a ganache to pour over the cake. We had a slight ganache incident - I had assumed that the bars I had were 4 oz each, when in fact they were only 3 oz each. Of course, I didn't realize this until I'd poured the hot cream onto the chopped chocolate and started stirring! Doh. I scooped out some of cream that wasn't yet very incorporated with the chocolate, and added a bit more chocolate that I had in the cupboard, and hoped for the best. It was really pretty liquidy when I poured it over the cake (I should have let it cool a bit more first, I think), and I was worried that it wouldn't firm up because the ratio was off. But it actually did just fine. We ate a slice each with ice cream, and raspberries and/or strawberries. I saved two slices for Eric and I to have today, then I took the rest of the cake over to [ profile] rmeidaking's Stilyagi party, where it lasted about 20 minutes, I think. Note to self - I didn't really like the Sharfenberger chocolate I used. Neither the cocoa powder nor the semi-sweet bar had very good flavor, I thought. And the bars are expensive - I could have gone to Zing and gotten Michel Cluizel for the same price.

Liam loved the raspberries - he finished everything that was left in the package and asked for more when they were gone.


Mar. 16th, 2006 10:53 pm
I'm up too late because I decided to bake a cake for tomorrow's cohousing potluck. I've been looking at a lot of cookbooks and recipes online lately because I'm planning a big anniversary dinner for my wine club, so that's had me itching to cook. I made a stir fried noodle dish for dinner tonight (no common meal), and then I started in on the Brown Butter Almond Cake. I think it's going to be absolutely fabulous, at least judging from the raw batter I tasted, the smell from the oven, and the tiny bit of cooked cake that stuck to the side of the pan.

Can't wait until the potluck, so I can try it for real.
Last night's menu: Eggs Masala, Chana Dal, Cucumber-Mint Raita, Rice, Peas.

I only had 40 people sign up (28 adults, 12 kids), a pretty small meal for me. Don't know if the menu scared them off, or if everyone was just otherwise occupied. In any case, they sure missed out, because it was a very tasty meal, if I do say so myself. And having only 40 people meant we had a lot fewer hardboiled eggs to peel.

In fact, the eggs were the source of the only problem with the meal - I didn't adequately separate the plain eggs I was holding back for the kids from the rest of the eggs, so when my assistant cooks were halving the eggs and putting them on plates to be topped with sauce, they cut those up too. And I didn't notice until they were all topped with curry sauce! Doh! We told the parents to just scrape off the mild sauce, but I'm sure that wasn't acceptable for at least some of the kids. Oh well, just meant there were more curried eggs for the rest of us.
Meal Making Details )


Dec. 27th, 2005 12:08 pm
I love having stock in the freezer! Since my stomach is still a little edgy, I'm having a cup of plain turkey broth for lunch, and it tastes sooo good. Last night, I made a simple soup with turkey stock, some carrots and some noodles. We don't have a chest freezer, and the stock has been taking up a lot of space in our refrigerator's freezer compartment, but when I can have an instant lunch that tastes like this, I'm much less likely to begrudge it the space. (And much more likely to consider buying a small chest freezer so I don't have to...)



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