Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Twas the night before Thanksgiving....

Back in the day, Thanksgiving Eve was one of the biggest party nights of the year.  All of us twenty-somethings arrived back at our parent's house, just in time for the festivities the next day.  Leaving all the big meal preparation to more responsible family members, we met our old crew at a favorite bar.  It was an easy celebration - reconnecting with friends, having too much to drink and sleeping in the next morning only to wake up to an amazing meal.

29 years ago tonight was a very special Thanksgiving Eve. I wasn't at my parent's house, but John's.  We had been dating since August - long distance. He was working in the burbs and I was three quarters of the way through my last semester at Purdue.

When we left the house that evening, the console television was set to MTV and the song One Thing Leads to Another by The Fixx was playing.  I remember it because it was the first song video I had ever seen - back when MTV had the little guy planting the flag on the moon and they actually played music videos. 

We met up with friends at Butch McGuires. The evening progressed just as you would think it would. We consumed lots of beer and greasy food.

When we returned to the house, we greeted John's mom, who was watching TV, and went down to John's lair (the basement).   It was there, on the sleeper sofa, that he presented me with a solitaire diamond ring and asked me to marry him.

Obviously, I said yes.

We went back upstairs to give Dorathy the good news, and she was very happy about it.  She suggested that we celebrate the occasion by having a slice of pie. 

I should remember what kind of pie it was, because I saw it twice - one time going down and another coming back up.

Booze, bad bar food, the excitement of getting engaged and dessert were more than my stomach could handle in a 5 hour time frame. 

He married me, regardless of my sensitive stomach.  At the wedding, a lot of those same friends we met that Thanksgiving Eve were making bets that we wouldn't last.  We hadn't even known each other a year when we got married, so I guess that's fair.  But a lot of them are divorced and we're still plugging along. 

When it comes to choosing your significant other, if your gut tells you it's right - it's right. 

Even if it makes you puke. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Doing it the French Way - The Follow Up

Last week, I posted the menu with recipe links for our Dinner Club feast featuring French cuisine.  It was probably the most fattening meal I've ever had.  I think 80% of it consisted of some combination of butter, cream and eggs.  But my taste buds loved it, despite the ongoing protest from my arteries and thighs.

So to review...

French Onion Marmalade - Confit D'Oignon
This was really good on bread.  I love the sweetness that is released when onions are caramelized.  It was nice that the recipe recommended making it a few days ahead - that it mellows after sitting in the fridge for a while.  I think it would be really good served with pork.  Note to self:  buy chops for later this week.

Chicken Liver Pate with Pistachios
I didn't even see it in the recipe comments, but it suggested stuffing the pate in Cognac poached prunes.  Dave and Barb are always up to the task and brought stuffed and unstuffed.  Dave said the prune step was a general pain in the behind.  From what remained on both plates, I'd say half of the guests would agree that stuffing was not worth it.  I was bi-pate.  I liked it both ways.  I don't eat pate often, but I'm keeping this recipe for when my other foodie friends come to town.  Perfect noshing material.

Cream of Artichoke Soup - Creme D'Artichauts
And speaking of pains in the rear, I don't know if Don will ever ask for a challenging recipe ever again.  This was a very time consuming dish and had enough steps to put it over the is-this-really-worth-it top.  But for those of us who didn't have the daunting task of its preparation, it was wonderful. Smooth and creamy with a nice, rich flavor...  mmmmm... Someone else can make this for me any day.

Zucchini-Tomato Verrines
This can be classified as an appetizer or a salad, but I called it a salad. I really couldn't find a vegetable dish that rang my French bell, and with 2 kinds of cheeses, eggs and prosciutto, this  matched the fat and cholesterol content of the rest of the menu.  We wouldn't want sneak anything healthy in there now, would we?  And what's not to love about a tiny, multi-textured salad, layered in a glass?  I thought that would be cute.  It was cute - and very tasty.  If you ever have to make something for one of those bite-sized dishes parties (you know, where you serve food already on the spoons and such?) this would be perfect. 

Cheese Souffle
I told John and Marla to bring all the ingredients for the souffle so we could assemble and bake it just before we sat down to dinner. Since none of us had ever attempted a souffle before, our actions hinged on every word of the recipe - which told us to melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a "paste."  When we added the cream to it and everything turned into a gooey, curdled mess, we knew we had done something wrong.  When attempt number two was successful, we decided recipe author's definition of "paste" was a little different than ours.  We looked for something short of wall Spackle, when they wanted Elmer's.  It took a little longer to bake because we doubled the recipe.  The outside edges were done to perfection, so we scooped out what we could and let the rest bake a little longer.  We weren't treated to the beauty of a perfectly crusted, un-fallen souffle at the table, but wow.  It was delish.  I'll be making this again.

Beef Bourguignon - Beef Burgundy
This was really yummy, but I screwed up and made it late Saturday afternoon.  Had I been thinking properly, I would have made this the day before.  Like the onion marmalade, it would have been even yummier after resting for a day.  Oh well.  It was still really good.  This will replace my old beef burgundy recipe, but I'm still going to leave out the pearl onions.  I couldn't find them in the produce department, and I refuse to dump a jar of them in with all of the fresh veggies and choice sirloin. 

VanillaCrème Brulee
Going into it, I thought creme brulee would be hard to make.  It sounded simple enough, but I kept thinking there was something sinister lurking... sort of like the "paste" in the souffle.  But it was actually pretty easy.  My mistake, once again, is that I didn't make it ahead of time. They barely had time to chill before it was batter up time at the table.  But they were wonderful.  Without a torch, the broiler worked well - the glaze on top cracked perfectly.  If I make this again, I'll cut down on the sugar.  It was a tad too sweet for my taste.

The recipe that was omitted from the original post was the casserole that we made for the next morning. Eggs Benedict Casserole
John added 2 extra eggs and we used one package of good ol' Knorr hollandaise sauce.  This is a keeper.

I would say the evening was a success. Great food, along with the resurrection of the old dart board, a beautiful night to sit out by the fire, and borrowing a pinball machine from a dealer friend of ours - an AC/DC pinball machine no less - helped tremendously.

Yes, nothing says oo-la-la like French cuisine and eardrum rattling bings, bells and Highway to Hell.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bobby and Me

Have you ever forgotten about something for years decades, only to have something bring the memory crashing back in glorious Kodachrome color?  That happened to me this week when my niece texted me this:

Albums that you could cut out of the back of a cereal box.  Pure marketing genius.  Especially when your mother wouldn't let you cut up the box until you finished the cereal.  (How many bowls can you eat in one sitting?)  If you click on the link below, you will see some of the cereal box records that I played at full volume and danced to (i.e.made a fool of myself, watching my reflection in our large living room windows) prior to my double digit years.

I'm positive I owned the Archies album.  I had a Jackson 5 album, but not the one pictured here.  I owned the Sugar Bears one too, but who were they trying to kid with that one?  They weren't a real group! Even though I was a huge fan of their music, the Bobby Sherman and Monkeys records eluded me.  They must have been on the back of boxes containing healthier cereal.  I could have cared less about the Sugar Bears, but I was all about the sickeningly sweet stuff inside the box.

And now 4 decades later, thanks to my niece's keen consignment store shopping skills and the instinct to know when to notify me of her discoveries, I will finally own a cereal box Bobby Sherman record. 

Now only if we still had a record player.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Doing it the French way

My niece reminds me that I have a blog and that I should post something every now and then.  Truth be told, without the daily drama of having the kids around, John and I can be pretty boring.  And since the pugs sleep 22 1/2 hours a day, they don't provide much to write about either.

This coming weekend will be exciting - at least for us.  It's Dinner Club weekend and we are hosting.  With everyone driving 3 hours to get to us, that means a sleepover.  With nobody having to drive home that night, things might usually will get out of hand.

We decided to go with French food this time around.  I'm not typically a fan, but for dinner club, why not try some new things?  As I was searching for recipes, I discovered that quite a few clubs like ours have blogs of their own where they post the recipes.

Because I can't seem to find the time to write one blog, two might be out of the question.  I'll have to put it to a vote this weekend.  In the mean time, this is our menu for this weekend.  Make your own meal and we can skype you in.  The more the merrier!

Hors d'oeuvers  -
Various cheeses
French Onion Marmalade - Confit D'Oignon
Chicken Liver Pate with Pistashios

Soup -
Cream of Artichoke Soup - Creme D'Artichauts

Salad -
Zucchini-Tomato Verrines

Main Course -
Cheese Souffle
Beef Bourguignon - Beef Burgundy

VanillaCrème Brulee