05 January 2009

Celebrate Me Home

He who receives his friends and gives no personal attention to the meal which is being prepared for them, is not worthy of having friends.
~ Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin

Another year gone and a new one just begun. 362 days of endless possibilities. I began 2009 thinking of all I had to be thankful for in 2008. One of the most important blessings a person can have is the love of family and friends. Perhaps like most of you, some extraordinary souls who are true kindred spirits came into my life this past year. Having met, it is as if we always knew each other. And I grew closer to those friends who have been with me for many years and remained true and unchanging in their support throughout the sitcom that is my life.

Among all my friends there is a special group, though, that I felt needed special recognition. These were the brave and sacrificing souls who went above and beyond in helping me organize and execute some big events this past fall. And if there is one thing that I learned this past year, it is that nothing lasts forever and that each moment should be lived to the fullest and treasured.

So I did not want another day to go by without telling these special people how much I appreciate them. And since cooking is something I seem to have a knack for, I could not think of a better way to show them then by feeding them!

The menu for my appreciation dinner this past Sunday took some thought and the personal attention Brillat-Savarain calls for.

Second Course ~ Fresh Herb, Potato and Leek Soup

Third Course ~ Winter Greens with Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette

Fourth Course ~ Chicken Stuffed with Mushrooms and Spinach, with a side of Molasses-Glazed Baby Carrots and Orzo

Fifth Course ~ Sticky Date Bread Pudding with Amaretto Zabaglione

I love scallops. They are so simple to prepare, take no time at all and pack a culinary punch. My guests thoroughly enjoyed them along with the Calvados sauce. But it was not one of my favorites. Too much garlic perhaps? I have prepared scallops in a garlic and white wine sauce and also did not care for the taste. There are only two ways I like my scallops so far: bacon wrapped or on a bed of fresh made pesto.

The Potato and Leek Soup was also a hit, although I did not puree it as the recipe suggested. I pureed a small portion and as with the Potato-Turnip Puree fiasco in November, this one looked suspiciously like glue. So I opted to serve the soup as it was. It tasted much better and was eaten with great aplomb.

Call me what you will, but what really can one say about salad? I am a carnivore at heart and salads bore me dreadfully. What I will say is that my friend Jeannette, notorious for avoiding all things green and healthy, ate all of her salad, due in part I am sure, to the delicious vinaigrette. It was quite a hit and a recipe that goes in the "Make Again" file.

One of my kitchen motto's is to use what you have and buy when there is a sale. In the current economy, thrift is king once again (and I think will come more into its own as the year progresses) and buying expensive cuts of meat is out of the budget of an increasing number of people. I wanted to give my friends a menu worthy of their time and sacrifice, but I had also resolved to spend less this year. So I looked at the sale papers, and then searched the recipe databases. This stuffed chicken recipe was quick and easy and plated with a side of sauteed baby carrots and orzo, is came out as beautifully as a filet mignon.

Ahhh, and now we come to my favorite course. After serving my guests, La Chef finally came out of the kitchen and much to my embarrassment, to rounds of applause, shouts of "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow" and even a wave! Josef gave up his chair and I sat with my friends and took a bite of the Date Pudding. Dear reader ~ if there is one recipe you try this year, make it this one. I do not know what to say about this dish except that is better than anything else you have tried. (I made enough for Cox's army, so my discussion group tonight will get a taste of culinary heaven.)

Once again, I could not have pulled off this lovely evening without some help: Mon Aimee helped serve each course, plate by plate and from the kitchen, I heard phrases that warmed my culinary aficionado's heart: "Is this the _____ Restaurant and Cafe?" and "I feel like I am eating at a five-star restaurant!" Standing tiredly over the stove, preparing the fifth and final course, I smiled and knew that my gift of appreciation was appreciated in turn.

May the beginning of 2009 be equally as warm and inviting for you, dear reader.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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