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Winter dinner for 16 #2

Ballottine's picture

Monday I cooked  phone-a-thone dinner # 2 at my church.  Another fun and doable winter menu for 16.  Dinner was served at 6pm. This time several extra people stopped by starting 7pm, they got soup, a little bit of salad and dessert, but no ribs.

First course:  Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup with Almonds from FC Annual, page 97.

I love Ris Lacoste, her recipes always work, and they are always so special, so I made this soup x 4 for my crowd without a dry run. It  was excellent.   

The interesting thing about this FC  soup is that after adding the stock you can stop almost at any stage and still have a very nice soup. ( It won't have all of the delightful complexity of the finished product, but it also won't have the calories).  In other words, soup is good without the ham hock, roux, and cream.  I know because I kept tasting it, as I was cooking.

What ever you do, do not omit almonds and chives.  I never expected to like almonds in my winter soup. (G) I followed the recipe  to the letter, with one exception: I used dry thyme, which  I added just a second before I added onions.  Also, it is important to caramelize mushrooms well without burning them.  I did not burn any, but I did not caramelize all of them equally well.  No one complained,  but I learned my lesson

This soup with a slice of bread and salad would make a very tasty satisfying meal by itself.  After I tasted the finished  soup I served very small portions, which was just right for, as Gretchen put it, " the Ann Taylor Loft crowd," but three men asked and received seconds.

I was planning to make a stuffed rack of pork, something I've never made before, for Monday's dinner, but  by the time I got to the store, racks were gone.  As I was standing in front of the meat case figuring out what to do, just like in that poem, that has been haunting me since high school: ...and then you walk in, Mark Van Doren, I heard Samchang saying: follow the Koreans!  Three Korean men were loading their cart with  Beef Chuck Short Ribbs.  And there I was, I had 11 pounds of meat, 16 people to feed and no plan or definite recipe to follow.  I don't usually operate that way.

Because of Glenys and Ris Lacoste I have been very interested in Canadian cooks, and since Ris was my first course, I decided to make Jennifer McLagan's short ribs in wine and Balsamic sauce my second course.

I bought  her book Bones for three reasons: 

1.  Canadian chef

2.  James Beard award winner and  a runner up in IACP

 3.   Sentence on page 3, Bones.. we must fight against the current fascination with fast and quick boneless food.

Right on! LOL (Please, don't take this personally, this is a refelction on my personal cooking preferences, it is not a judgement on anybody else's cooking)

Well, I am not sure I made a good choice, the jury is still out.  The meat I got was of excellent quality;  very little fat,  it was falling off the bone, none was left over, fortunately some ribs were large enough for two servings. I used my 15 year old balsamic, but I could not taste it, although I know I used enough of it. If it says Balsamic glazed, it should taste Balsamic glazed, shouldn't it?  Perhaps I did something wrong, and of course, I did not even attempt to light the wine.  (see Bones thread)

I made a  "discovery" while cooking short ribs:  I was finishing them up at the church kitchen, time was of essence, but after taking the ribs out of the Dutch oven I noticed  more fat on top of the  cooking liquid then I was willing to accept.  I put the pot with the braising liquid in an ice bath in the kitchen sink, decided I needed more ice, and while adding it  inadvertently dropped at least one or two cups of ice inside my  prescious braising liquid.  I grabbed a strainer, picked out the  ice and to my total surprise, I got out  most of the FAT, coagulated all over the ice cubes.  If some ice cubes melted,  water was boiled out while I was reducing the braising liquid, but  a lot of time was saved.  "Tip to FC," I told myself! Well, not really, this is how they defat their stocks at Bouchon.  lol.

I served short  ribs with Patricia Wells'Creamy Semolina with bay leaf and Parmesan.  This is my old favorite when I need a tasty starch, but have little time to pay attention to it

(Recipe: In a large saucepan  bring to boil  4 cups of whole milk, add 2 FRESH bay leaves, cover, remove from heat.  Wait 1 hour.

Bring milk back to simmer over moderate heat add 2 teaspoons fine sea salt and very very slowly add 1 cup of fine semolina in a thin steady stream, keep stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent the lumping.  Adjust the heat to bubbling, stir until the mass pulls away from the sides. Immediately  add  2 oz of grated  Parmigiano-Reggiano and a freshly grated nutmeg.

Bal's note: Do NOT overcook, won't be creamy. end of the rcipe)

Salad, again Mesclun and again with Jean-Georges classic vinaigrette, and again I bought two baguettes, cut one, and  there were leftovers.  I now have two baguettes in the freezer.

Dessert:  Parisian Apple Tartlet  from My Home to Yours, page 319.

I bought a case of "Parisian" puff pastry already rolled out to one half sheet size ( how am I going to use it up in the next 2 or 3 dinners without being redundant?)

I did not peel and quarter apples, I used one of those antideluvian apple peeler-corer-slicer thingies which does it all in a few second.  I used pizza cutter to cut puff pastry into squares, put half of peeled/ spired apple on top, just a tiny bit of butter inside. DID NOT ADD SUGAR and baked.  Dorie's pastries were a hit.  Will make them again.

Here is the apple peeler thingy, mine does not have suction base:



So much to cook; so little time.


So much to cook; so little time.