This Saturday evening we are planning a big dinner. We are having P's boss and his new wife and P's boss's cousin and his wife over. P works with them both and they are also good friends so this dinner is well overdue and it is has to be more elaborate than just the eye fillet on the barbecue. This one means effort, in my present recovering mode I feel tired thinking about just how much effort already. To get through one of these efforts means loads of stamina. We already know what dessert is, they are souffle fans - so its pear and almond chocolate souffle. This means I have to keep my alcohol consumption in check. I am going to heed what recently happened to my sister in law.
She like me is an experienced player in the elaborate dinner stakes and she recently succumbed to the elaborate dessert disaster after too much fine wine fiasco. And it was a souffle which was her undoing as well. I think she forgot to put the sugar in, so it was a tasteless disaster. Her mistake was that she didn't do what I usually do for the souffle preparation I have all the ingredients pre-measured in bowls so I know prior to it entering the oven whether something is actually missing. Fingers crossed I haven't jinxed myself prior to it happening. We will have some delicious "Lick" icecream on hand just in case though.
The menu for such a dinner usually takes a week of planning and P who is coordinating this one with my help of course I usually chip in to say things like
"Yes hand made ravioli filled with crab meat would be lovely indeed but making pasta and rolling it out would take several hours of afternoon preparation"
So entree has turned into a Duck salad - we will get some ducks from china town and use a Philip Johnson recipe for the salad. The salad itself has lovely flavours, vietnamese mint, mint, coriander, toasted cashews, sesame seeds. Even though we don't cook this dish, merely assemble it, it is a compromise I am now prepared to make given we have two children and full-time work and 6 people to prepare a three course meal including canapes for this weekend.
The main is a little more problematic - I think that lamb cutlets on the potato cakes and broad beans with a beurre blanc (Mirrabella Food), looks lovely and we should have an easy time cooking the cutlets to each person's desire. However, P just this morning starting thinking about a veal fillet with a cepe sauce. He is willing to compromise on the mushroom sauce if it will please his guests more despite his aversion to mushrooms- that's lovely I think.
I told him the only issue I have with that is where to source the veal fillet. I may have to call a butcher today.
As I chose this photograph I began thinking of the people I have spoken with by email as well as friends who have partners who have very different culinary tastes from each other.
I am very lucky that P and I only diverge on a couple of things, mushrooms being one and beetroot being another, and mussells. He prefers meat as a fillet while I prefer to have bones we can though reach a solution whereby the meal can contain both.
But when your partner simply cannot eat seafood whether it be due to allergies or cultural reasons or just a matter of taste, I really would find that most difficult. I think on occassion I would just have to cook that something that I am used to just so I could recognise myself. It's the way I approached pregnancy too, while I didn't really feel like drinking alcohol and wouldn't have drank much even if I could, I felt that I had to have the occassional glass just so I remembered what it was like to do the things that I know are a part of being me.
I think that would have to be how I feel about eating mussells for instance, while P is not particularly fond of them, some weekends I make up a batch of mussells just for me and he can have something else like a crab omelette.
The Tuna salad is one of the things P and I really enjoy together. The salad is not exactly nicoise as I don't use the baby potatoes, I do however use some blanched green beans, olives, tomatoes, asparagus, eggs, and red onion and green leaves.
The tuna is dealt with very simply. I use my black grill heat it up on high and brush the tuna steaks and leave them cook on one side for a few mintues and then turn. As you can see they are still quite pink in the middle.
The dressing I use is based on the caesar dressing (no mustard) with lots of lemon juice and finely chopped capers added for good measure. If you wanted to go to less trouble though you could also use a bought mayonnaise and add the capers and thin it out with some extra lemon juice.
This salad was accompanied by a chilled white wine and some fantastically chewy ciabatta.
Last Sunday we served a massive Caesar salad. It has become quite a common place salad and on occasion we like to whip one up to remind everyone served that not everyone can make a GREAT Caesar salad - we like to think ours is pretty good.
Another reason we decided to make Caesar salad is that P and I went to a friend's birtday dinner at a surburban Italian restaurant and ordered a $14 yes $14 Caesar salad and it was just such a pathetic excuse for a Caesar salad we were so bitterly disappointed we had to make one to restore our faith in this classic.
I recall my first introduction to Caesar salads about 23(?) or so years ago. My brother's ex-wife a Canadian came to stay with us and she wanted to make a Caesar Salad. She was so disappointed that the only lettuce we could find was an iceberg lettuce and we only used the darkest outside leaves we could find.
Boy does that take me back, only one type of lettuce what a laugh:)))))
I have this thing when it comes to certain classic dishes to want to find the quintessential recipe and have recalled various things I have read over time about how best to make salads including Caesar salads.
When I make a Caesar salad I combine and sort and take from the various hints those that I prefer for practicability and form what I consider would produce the best recipe. This one is mine:
(Will serve approximately 6 adults)
Some hints and how to:
Make the dressing in a bowl (wooden preferably)
Rub a cut clove of garlic around the bowl before making the dressing.
1 x. medium cos lettuce Wash, break up the cos lettuce leaves into bite sized pieces, then spin till dry in a salad spinner.
(Always spin and dry salad leaves as salad dressing disperses best over dry lettuce)
2 pieces of Bacon - dice and fry (leave aside on absorbent paper)
1/4 loaf of Turkish bread - cut into bite sized pieces and sauteed in some olive oil till slightly browned all over (leave aside on absorbent paper)
1/2 cup Italian parmesan finely grated (at least Grana but Reggiano is best if you can afford to)
Dressing 1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic crushed and diced
Dijon mustard ( 1 tablespoon)
sea salt to taste
1/2 lemon squeezed
cracked pepper (freshly ground as much as you like)
1 egg coddled (in a dish in the microwave 10 seconds at a time till egg white just starts to colour)
3 anchovies finely diced (optional)
splash of Worcestershire sauce
Add mustard, garlic, lemon juice, coddled egg, anchovies, pinch of sea salt in the bottom of the salad bowl. Begin whisking the ingredients and slowly pouring in the olive oil until well combined. Add Parmesan, Worcester, anchovies and cracked pepper.
I prefer to use less salad dressing rather than more - so I may remove some maybe 1.3 of the dressing from the bowl first.
(Never dress salad till the last possible moment before serving - dressing wilted leaves being in my books a crime against humanity. Equally incomprehensible to me, never overdress a salad).
Then I add the lettuce leaves and about 2/3's of the bacon and Turkish bread and Parmesan and begin to toss. When all the leaves are nice and glossy and the dressing appears evenly dispersed (adding dressing if necessary) I would sprinkle the remaining bacon, Turkish bread and Parmesan over the top just prior to serving.
*Not so egotistical to think this is the penultimate recipe or anything I can always improve If there is anyone else who makes this salad, I would love to hear what they consider makes a good Caesar Salad.