Well what to do when Mardi is away? No one to cook, nothing to eat, Cleo and Neil waste away… HARDLY. To prove that cooking can still continue without Mardi (Editor’s note – I never said that…), an impromptu dinner gathering was planned.
Last weekend was the final exam for my Old World Wines course at George Brown. So just after the exam, decided to invite a few of my fellow wine snobs aficionados over to celebrate. With two vegetarians amongst the four of us, Mardi (and in fact anyone who knows me) would be wryly chuckling at the thought of me preparing a menu for vegetarians. (Editor’s note – indeed!).
Sparkling of course was there to greet everyone, befitting the course. Though while méthode Champenoise, it was in fact a Canadian bubble – Cuvée Catherine. I’d forgotten this in the cellar (Editor’s note – how convenient!), so it was needing to be drunk. Still lovely, the yeast had softened slightly and the citrus nose was not as strong as I recall. For those who haven’t tried this, it’s a wonderful sparkling from Ontario that provides great value for those wanting a traditional sparkler outside of Champagne.
We started with White bean soup with truffle oil, brought by Adrienne. Being the contrarian (Editor’s note – not sure what you mean here, this is not a word according to spellcheck!) that I am, I mischievously made my truffle oil a sad face. The white beans were nicely pureed, but still with enough of the skin texture to make the soup not feel like pabulum. I’m all for rustic soups – so Adrienne’s totally hit the spot for me.
Jenn brought a silky Pouilly Fuissé, which was a perfect match for this starter. A treat, as it was one of her collection brought over from one of her trips to the region in France. She was afraid it may have “gone”, being too old — but not at all. The three of us had fun doing a bit of a “what wine is this…” guess, befitting our course (Editor’s note – see now this is why I don’t attend these dinners even when I am in town…). We did rather well, in fact – we picked the slight butteriness of Chardonnay, but with more mineral accents. So Jenn gave us full marks for getting this white Bourgogne!
Being a busy work Friday, and cooking on my own, I went for a fairly “easy” menu. So out comes my (in)famous Provençal roast chicken – with lemon, herbs and heaps of butter. Yes, the sinfully glorious butter hiding under the skin trick. (Editor’s note – I could eat this every night of they year and still not get sick of it!)
That was accompanied by roast fingerling potatoes with olive oil, sea salt and fresh thyme. (Cooked in a separate roaster, of course.)
Next was Bucatini a’lazio, a favourite new pasta. This was done with a herb & spice collection brought back from Italy. So it’s cheating, I suppose – simply simmer and reduce in water, then add a few tablespoons of olive oil, dash over the pasta while still hot.
Last up was Middle eastern Brown rice pilaf, with coriander and apricots. The toasted chopped hazelnuts didn’t make it — by this time we were enjoying too much wine, and I lost track of the frypan for just about 20 seconds too long… A very simple dish, really – in keeping with my going-solo-many-dishes-at-once theme. Brown the onions in (yet again) lots of butter, toast up the rice for a couple of minutes until the edges are clear, then add the coriander and other desert spices, salt and pepper to taste, and four cups of organic vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.
At this stage the roast chicken came out to rest — Cleo was VERY interested in this, as you can see. She knows chicken, and she knows the carving knife — so was awaiting her portion. (The guests howled as of course, she did get her dish. Editor says “Just as well!”) Alas, at this stage it was serving madness – so no pic of the finished bird (Editor’s note – see if I had been there that would not have been a problem..). Which, if I say so myself, was gorgeously golden brown and smelling divine.
Here’s a final plate: YES, please don’t comment on how starch-heavy the night is, with an absence of greens. Was caught late working so did not make it out (Editor’s note – TONS of veggies in the fridge, my friend…).
More good wine was introduced…we stayed in Bourgogne and had a lovely Côtes de Beaune.
My running late WOULD have meant sparse picking for dessert: but Stephen came to the rescue and brought his own HOMEMADE chocolates. They were divine! Centres included caramel with salt, ouzo and dark chocolate ganache, and an intriguing one that was a tree resin. Think eucalyptus – but not as strong. They were a wonderful way to end the evening (Editor’s note – I suppose I will excuse the sloppy plating here on account of all the wine you seem to have consumed). We paired those with this sticky: Buller Fine Old Tokay.
We ended the night in the early hours of Saturday with small snifters of Filfar, from Cyprus. All in all, a great evening with good food and wine. Cleo was an active part of the party, saying goodbye to guests in the hall… (Editor’s note – she was glad to see everyone leave, she’s not getting any younger and these late nights catch up with her. Oh wait, no that’s her dad!)
Thanks Neil and “wine group” for a great post. Wish I could have been there to make sure you all ate your veggies!