Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sumptuous Saturday

It seems I write an inordinate number of posts about people coming to my house for dinner and how much I enjoy the whole evening.

I don’t want this to be another one of those – although – that’s what took place.

Instead, I thought I’d let you in behind the scenes.

7:42 am – eMail sent to friend: “Just woke up. Going to get going. House cleaning, grocery shopping and preparing for dinner guests is on the schedule for the day.

9:20 am – It’s COOOOOLD outside of this bed. Also decided to sleep in. I think I can get some filing of bills and papers done today besides the cleaning, cooking and shopping. Woo-hoo. I’m going to be productive!

10:30 – Decided to have breakfast and read the paper before taking shower. Plenty of time to clean and cook. Might even get stack of laundry folded. Going to the store by 11:30 NO MATTER WHAT.

11:14 – I’m on a roll now. Have the stove hood light protector cleaned, dishes put away, have started tearing down the catch plates and coils of the stove top unit. Next up wiping down the cabinets, mopping the floor, laundry and shower. Decided I need to leave here at 2:30 for grocery shopping. As long as I start cooking by 3:30 I’ll be fine.

12:38 – Neighbor called. Wanted to know if I’d picked up the CSA box – and if she could borrow coffee cups for her annual “Dessert Night” which is tonight. Told her I’d jump in shower and go pick up CSA – I’d leave cups on porch if I wasn’t around. She says she’s already had her show and is getting ready to head out – so she’ll pick up the box. :\

1:00 – Mop kitchen floor, start load of laundry. Feel awkward when neighbor arrives and I’m still in pajamas – but LOOK HOW CLEAN MY FLOOR IS!!!

1:22 – How freakin’ involved can I get in getting this darn kitchen clean?? One hour and must be on my way to store. Wipe mopped floor dry and begin “quick cleaning” of baseboards and cabinetry. Place cutlery and dishes on table for later.

2:10 – OMG! Laundry running and I REALLY need to take a shower and get to store. Dust mop living room. Suddenly remember I wash ALL laundry in COLD water – and so I have no need to wait until laundry is completed before taking shower.

2:40 – Showered and dressed for the day – leave for grocery store.

3:05 – What is up with people in the store on Saturday afternoons?? COME ON!!! MOVE IT PEOPLE. I’m a busy girl and DON’T HAVE ALL DAY!!

3:22 – How long does it take to cut a chicken into quarters???

3:26 – What the hell??? How long does it take to grab a bag of coffee and bottle of wine. Get OUT OF MY WAY.

3:45 – Home! Now just get these groceries put away, prep and wash CSA veggies, finish laundry, clean bathroom, set table, prep hor d’oeuvres, make leek bread pudding, start vinegar chicken, make salad … and welcome company.

4:13 – How long does it take to clean and separate CSA box of produce???

4:27 – Start Leek Bread pudding. (also praying to God they won’t be on time)

4:36 - Stop and send friend following eMail. "Okay - stress has set in. Please confirm that I am wonderful. A great hostess and cook - and these people love me and aren't going to leave my house because I have laundry on my bed. And dinner isn't 100% done. Yet."

4:40 – Time to cut or make bait. Get table set, get appetizer ready – chicken can be made while company mingles and has cocktails.

4:48 - Return eMail: "How many people are you inviting into your bedroom???

Have you ever heard of a new fad?

It's called 'closing doors'.

It's neat.

They're not going to leave. Fears not confirmed.

5:01 - Refrain from sending eMail back.

5:05 – Table done, appetizers done (honestly, almonds in a dish – sliced apple, cheese wedge, and crackers on a plate.)

5:10 – Quick “Thank You God” as company isn’t here yet. Turn on lamps, light candles, select music, start on chicken.

5:20 – Guests arrive. Make cocktails – and explain they’ll have to watch me make main dish and salad.

5:30 – Guest volunteers to “slice and dice” while I cook chicken.

6:22 – Sit down to salad with CSA greens and wilted pine nut and balsamic vinegar dressing, vinegar chicken, leek and cheese bread pudding, roasted sweet potatoes.

7:20 – Still talking

7:45 – Clear table and serve dessert; Melody of triple chocolate cheese cake, praline cheese cake, pumpkin cheese cake supplied by the guest.

8:20 – Talk, talk, talk

8:30 – Try to dissuade guests from helping with dinner dishes; Fail miserably.

8:50 – Bid guests goodnight and wish them safe travels.

9:00 – Catch up on eMails and organize computer files.

9:20 – Start post

9:45 – Why do I get distracted so easily??

10:20 – Wrap up post

10:30 – Begin posting process

10:31 – Decide to include recipes.

Leek and Gruyere Bread Pudding

  • 3 medium leeks
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf French Bread, cut into 1 ½ –inch cubes
  • 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 ½ tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 ½ tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt & ½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter 13x9x2 inch baking dish.

Cut off and discard dark green tops of the leeks. Cut off and discard roots. Split light green and white section in half lengthwise. Slice into ¼ segments. Rinse leeks in a large bowl of water, allowing the sand and dirt to settle to the bottom. Carefully lift the leek out of the water and drain in colander.

Heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add leeks and sweat them until tender but not browned. Set aside to cool.

Combine the milk and eggs, then add bread cubes and allow to soak in milk-egg mixture. Add Gruyere, parmesan, thyme, parsley to egg-bread combo. Mix well. Stir salt and pepper into cooled leeks. Incorporate to bread/egg/cheese mixture. Transfer to the buttered baking dish – pressing down lightly to even out the top.

Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and return to oven. Bake until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Allow pudding to cool a little before serving.

Chicken with Vinegar (Gourmet 1974)

  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (8 fl oz)

Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs

Cook chicken:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning over once, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken as browned to a small (13- by 9-inch) flameproof roasting pan, arranging it in 1 layer. Once all chicken is browned, roast, uncovered, in oven 15 minutes.

Make sauce while chicken roasts:

Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet, then add garlic, shallots, carrot, thyme sprigs (2), and bay leaves and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until vegetables are browned, 3 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine, vinegar, sugar, and remaining teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 5 to 10 minutes.

Finish sauce and chicken:

Add chicken broth to sauce along with any juices from roasting pan and bring to a boil. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve onto chicken in roasting pan, pressing on and then discarding solids. Continue to roast chicken, uncovered, until just cooked through, about 15 minutes more.

Transfer chicken with tongs to an ovenproof serving dish and keep warm, uncovered, in turned-off oven.

Meanwhile, boil sauce in roasting pan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a scant cup, then remove sauce from heat and swirl in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper and pour sauce over chicken.

Our evening was definitely Bon Appetite – I hope yours was too!

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