Sunday, August 16, 2009

Guess who's coming to dinner


Baked Brie with Mushrooms and Thyme

Mixed Greens with Caramelized Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, and Goat Cheese

Poulet Saute Aux Herbes de Provence


Baguette with Butter

Reine de Saba

Le Faux Frog Chardonnay

The French dinner was a great success. Despite the fact that one guest cancelled and the other rescheduled, two other guests (2 young men invited by my 18 year old) showed up and we all had a great time. I started around 4pm with the chicken, while my 11 year old put together the salad of mixed greens, sun dried cranberries (couldn't find the figs in the store) caramelized walnuts and goat cheese. I filled my cruet with extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, gave it a shake and that was that. I was skeptical about frying the chicken in butter as the recipe called for. Surely it would just burn and be a mess. But it actually worked. I think the fat from the butter clung to the chicken so that all that what was left in the pan was clarified. Anyway, I browned two batches of chicken wings and thighs with crushed fennel seed, fresh time and basil, and left the butter and spices in the pan to become the sauce later. I made the sauce about an hour later by mashing some roasted garlic gloves into the pan of butter and herbs, pouring in half a bottle of white wine, and letting it reduce until the volume of wine was cut in half. I beat 3 egg yolks with the juice of a lemon, and slowly started adding in the wine reduction, spoon full by spoon full. When the egg yolks were more wine sauce than egg yolks, I poured it all back into the pan, added more wine, and let it cook until thick. Next I made an appetizer of brie, smothered in mushrooms that had been sauteed with red onion, garlic, and reduced with red wine. I used an assortment of button, crimoni, shitake, and portabella mushrooms. Baked it in the oven until the brie was nice and melty and served it with sliced baguette. The 'boys' (17- 21 yrs old) really loved this dish. They tore into it as soon as it was out of the oven, even though the rest of dinner was about 2 hours away. I have to agree, for something so simple it was quite delicious, reminded me of fondue only simpler. The boys ate the appetizer and then left to go on a walk. My 11 yr old and I then made the chocolate cake, and last the ratatouille. For the cake we ground almonds, whipped egg whites, melted chocolate and coffee, sifted flour, stirred together sugar, egg yolks, and almond extract, and butter, then carefully put all the ingredients together, poured into a greased and floured pan and voila. I was supposed to make a chocolate coffee frosting for it, but we didn't have as many chocolate chips as I thought, so instead I made a sauce of apricot preserves, yogurt and cinnamon, all heated gently and placed in a pool on the plate before being topped with a slice of warm cake. The ratatouille I made last, as everyone was having their salad course. I had cut the eggplant and zucchini into sticks, salted them and left them in a bowl to drain off all the excess liquid. While everyone was eating their salad, I sauteed them in olive oil with sliced green peppers, garlic, and chopped up tomato. I tossed in a sprinkling of capers and a splash of white wine. This is a delicious dish and was a wonderful accompaniment to the savory chicken. I thought it might be kind of a heavy side, but it was perfect with the chicken. The salad was actually quite sweet with the cranberries and walnuts. The balsamic vinegar added the right amount of tang and the goat cheese helped to balance it all out. This meal had all the balance of flavors to it. Of course there was plenty of french baguette and butter for every course. The wine I selected was a French Chardonnay, very light and sweet, and quite lovely with the fennel of the chicken. I also purchased a Beaujolais (couldn't help myself), but as I was the only one drinking, I only had a few sips of it. All in all I had a great time cooking this meal over about 4 hours. We actually sat down for the main course at 8 pm. Dessert was served at 9. So this was my French meal, me and 8 kids ranging in age from 2-21 (my husband was working). There was lots of fun and lively discussion (none of them knew who Julia Child was- can you believe that?), and lots of appreciation for a nice meal. They even helped clean the dishes. Perhaps there is hope for the next generation after all.

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