Follow by Email

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Cooking Life: Friends For Dinner is Like Las Vegas, Part Deaux

Read Part One: Having Friends For Dinner is Like Las Vegas

(As we left the previous episode I was listening to "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas's" Raoul Duke's immortal suggestions, while mid-way into preparations and contemplating a nap before our friends come for dinner.)

Eureka! Putting away the leftover lentils I had for lunch, I spy a bowl of fresh beets in the fridge, cooked, and ready! These are Gold. Not golden beets, but gold in terms of having something delicious to turn into another small plate. Or, is this, could this be the unknown appetizer?

Rule # 6 Don't Let Things Go Till the Last Minute

The beet red juice overflows when I add vinegar and honey, staining the wood floor and my toes. Great, now I have beet feet.

"It's okay, I don't mind, " I tell my husband, Rich. "And, alright if I use some of your hard-boiled eggs?"  He keeps a stash of our hens eggs, hard-boiled in the fridge for lunch.

"Some?" He gives me "the look" as he wipes up the red juice with a white side towel. "How many is some?"

I quickly peel and add half a dozen these into the bowl of beets and tart/sweet liquid.

"You love pickled eggs!" I swing over at him, hoping to dissolve "the look," that's getting more and more
fierce.


Rule #7: Remember Not Everyone in the House Shares Your State of Culinary Dogma*


*Culinary Dogma is a state of everything funneling towards one existence. Dinner. Or in some cases, Casse Croute- Snacks.


I peek in. The eggplants in the oven have not yet collapsed and neither have I, though I should. In order to set the table I dig into the tangle of just washed napkins, aprons, chef jackets, tablecloths and side towels from the recent Team Building on the Dining Room Table. Then.... I lay out the placemats, dishes, glasses and silverware so its all ready for the guests to set the table.

Rule # 8 Ask Your Guests to Help! No, Really. They Want To.

Unload and reload the dishwasher. Wash pots and pans. How did all that take an hour? I was having fun though. 

During theses times of folding, loading, and washing - my mind conjures and rearranges bits and pieces of the menu. The scent of sauteed garlic and onions, bay leaves, and crushed tomatoes simmers on the stove. So far I am one step ahead of time. Sweet. Maybe I can take that nap after all.


The eggplants come out of the oven. Rich turned off the vacum, but left it in the middle of the Great Room. Looking Not So Very, you guessed it, Great. Fish, he muttered. I think. Then the kitchen door closed behind him and he backed out of the driveway to scuttle on down to Carrboro's Fishmonger. Should I text him what kind, exactly? No, I was a Professional. I can handle whatever he decides. Gulp.

Rich texted me to chill bottles of Sancerre, Chablis, and Rose.
Done.

I chewed a dried fig carefully and thought over the years. Then another fig. And another.


Rule # 9 - During Pre-Event Hours Don't Eat Anything That Will Be a  Digestive Disaster, Later!


My style of entertaining had changed completely; from doing it all and being everything. As if I even could. I gave up the notion clutched in my hot little paws that because I was a professional chef I didn't have to be human. In the early days of inviting people I thought it was a given that I must put on a show.  They were coming to see cooking, real cooking with flames and drips and butter and witty repartee at the same time! When I shut the door amidst a flurry of good-byes I was exhausted and not that happy, not happy at all. Were my guests? Maybe, but the key is if I was not relaxed maybe they were not either.



Rule # 10 - Relax. Your Guests Take Their Cue From You.

Then, my style morphed into the Mom mode. I would be everyone's Mom at the table. More water, yes. Another plate of pasta? I'll toss it for you! Of course. I nurtured everyone into a stupefying trance.

But I was circling the conversation, not joining in. Hovering. And I found out I didn't want to be everyone's Mom, (I had two lovely young boys with friends of their own, who kept me quite busy!) I had other things to contribute.

These days I keep any last minute show to sauteing shrimp, pulling a pan of focaccia from the oven, going to the garden with my friends for fresh herbs, or whipping cream for the dense chocolate cake. I give them a job too; snipping chives over the salad.

Rich pushes open the door. He has tuna.
"Tuna?What kind?" I had been focusing, a sort of distant mind-willing for him to buy shrimp with the heads on.



"I know you. But this is the Not-Shrimp kind of Tuna."

He had made a bold move.

As our calico cat, Gabby, stretches out her paws from the nearby sofa, I am reminded of a Tigress, and a lazing in the sun feline ambiance creeps over me.

After my nap there will be time to empty vases at the kitchen window of their spent flowers and replace them with....I don't know yet, something. What, Dorette, think! Maybe from the garden. Tarragon's yellow flowers.

Rich tucks the tuna in the fridge and I stretch my hands towards the sofa. Just for a little.
The tiniest smidgen of a nap. Two hours to go.

And as I dreamt of Raoul Duke in Las Vegas. I heard him say You Must Remember This:


"The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride." 

Rule #11: Take a Little Breather. Stop and Smell the Tarragon of Life.


I'd like to say dinner turned out fine. Just fine. And it did. The tuna steaks got pounded and stuffed. Sent off to the Grill. They are great cold, as are the bottles of Sancerre, Chablis and Rose. But none of it matters around the table. By the time you get there, everything else falls away. But the Eleven Rules of Entertaining are worth posting. What are your rules for entertaining?

Eleven Rules of Entertaining


Rule #1 - Be Organized
Rule #2 - Shop in Advance
Rule # 3 - Know Your Limits
Rule #4 - Ask if Your Guests have Special Diets
Rule # 5 - Be Flexible and Roll With It

Rule # 6 - Don't Let Things Go Till the Last Minute
Rule #7 - Remember Not Everyone in the House Shares Your State of Culinary Dogma*


*Culinary Dogma is a state of everything funneling towards one existence. Dinner. Or in some cases, Casse Croute- Snacks.


Rule # 8 - Ask Your Guests to Help! No, Really. They Want To.
Rule # 9 - During Pre-Event Hours Don't Eat Anything That Will Be a  Digestive Disaster, Later!
Rule # 10 - Relax. Your Guests Take Their Cue From You.
Rule #11 - Take a Little Breather. Stop and Smell the Tarragon of Life.


I hung up my apron, sat down and joined our friends.

Thin Sliced Tuna rolled and stuffed with Broccoli Rabe and Garlic 
(Braciola ‘I Pisci Spata)

When I see braciola in a recipe title I automatically think “beef” but in this case the beef is Sicily’s beef, from the sea. Most of the recipes I’ve seen for this rolled and stuffed fish dish, call for swordfish.  I made the switch primarily because my husband, Rich, loves tuna. This recipe actually makes enough stuffing for 8 slices or if you prefer to have extra stuffing on your plate or to save for another dish, such as stuffed chicken breasts.

makes 4 stuffed rolls with extra stuffing  or enough for 8 stuffed rolls

4 thin slices tuna, sliced less than 1/4 “ thick
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves spring garlic, minced
4 anchovies rolled with capers, minced
1 bunch broccoli rabe, finely chopped
1/4 cup marsala
4 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
1/4 pound mild provolone, shredded
bamboo skewers or toothpicks soaked in water for 10 minutes

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and when it’s hot add the onion.  Saute until the onion begins to brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, minced anchovies, and the broccoli rabe and continue sauteeing until the rabe is bright green, add the marsala immediately and cook another minute or two. Remove from the heat and add the fresh bread crumbs, stir well, and then add the shredded cheese.  Allow to cool before rolling and stuffing the tuna.

Lay the slices on a flat surface.  Place 1/3 cup stuffing on each of the four slices. Roll up the slices so the edges meet.  Secure your fish with bamboo skewers or tooth picks or tie with cotton butchers twine. Brush or massage olive oil onto each one.  These are perfect outdoors on the grill. Try these, and let me know how you like them.

2 comments:

  1. Enjoyed this Dorette. I want to adopt this rule: the people are more important than the food. Maybe taking a breather and smelling the Tarragon would help me keep that in mind.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love your rule, Diana! And I am betting you have a whole host of herbs in your garden to help you relax and breathe in! Which is your favorite?

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...