Having friends over to dinner is in my top three of favorite things. I get so much joy out of cooking for people and lately out of sharing this cooking project experience with them. Monday night Cory was to come over. Cory has been a friend for a few years now but I haven’t cooked just for him. He’s no stranger to great food and so I pulled him away from his usual spot at the Riegar to come over for some home cooking.
So far, every meal I’ve made has been delicious, some have been great, none have been terrible. I’m pretty confident in the kitchen (track record helps) but for some reason tonight I was nervous. I was attempting a dish out of Jean George Vongerichten’s cookbook and while it was simple enough to get through, the flavors were a bit foreign to me. I was looking for something stunning and this dish was it so I felt good about it.
Midway through, I realized the broth was terrible. No salvaging it. It required me to mix rosemary and thyme with four cups water, blend, strain and simmer. It just tasted like weak tea. No amount of adding other ingredients was going to make it better. It was 6:30 and he was to be over any minute. I tossed it out and rifled through the fridge to see what else I could do. Miso! I could make the miso broth I made on New Year’s Eve! Perfect! As I got the ingredients together and was scurrying around the kitchen, I inadvertently tossed several chopped green onions into the pan. Everyone that knows what that means, grimace along with me. For those of you that don’t, it means the entire broth was then overpowered by wilty onions. It was ruined. It was 7:00 and I had no time to do anything else. I seared the pre-roasted potatoes in a pan, added the smoked paprika and chopped parsley and there was our side. I lightly pan seared the Red Snapper, skin side down for about 6 minutes. Flipped and cooked the other side, for 3-4 minutes. Not as beautiful as I had hoped for but the taste was there.
The snapper was wonderful and I did keep to the original recipe by making three slits in the skin and stuffing them with fresh dill, marjoram leaves and diced serrano chile. Warning: Do not touch your lips while handling serrano chile. It was bad. I was running around the house trying to figure out how to stop the BURNING raging on my chapped lips. Four hacks later, we found that rubbing sugar on my lips worked best. At least I didn’t stupidly touch my eyes. Yikes.
Throughout the chaos, no photos of the final dish were taken. Probably my biggest fail of the night because the fish was beautiful despite it not swimming in a broth of any sort. At least I had my Parmesan Tuiles from Food & Wine that I did photograph and that I highly recommend making. They are impressive little things that were super simple to make.
6 tbsp Grated Parm
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for pressing
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups finely diced Heirloom Tomatoes (or whatever kind you like)
1 tbsp snipped Chives
2 tsp EVOO
Mix the parm, flour, butter and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix until a dough forms. This part was a smidgen tricky. Make sure the butter is soft and add a teaspoon of water if you need to bind it better – mine was not working on it’s own. Roll into a log and slice pieces off and then press onto parchment paper. Salt again lightly and put in the oven for 7 minutes. The cheese will bubble and might look a little scary but it’s living it’s life. Take out carefully and set to cool. Chop the tomatoes, marinate in olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss in the chives and set aside. Do not add to the crisp until you are ready to serve as the crisp could get a bit soggy in the middle if you plate too early. These were delicious and now that I know parmesan crisps are this easy to make, I’m in trouble.
As you can see, we had a great time. Wine, laughs and a lot of talk about food and coffee – Cory’s speciality. Hosting a dinner party, even a small casual one, can be stressful if you let it (or if you burn your lips with chile pepper) but this process is teaching me to roll with the punches and it has definitely taught me how to improvise if things go south which is the greatest lesson of all.
This week we had not just this dinner party but Zuni Chicken too! Back to back nights and I crushed it. Did I get anything else done? Not really, but I got in some great friend time doing what I love most and sometimes that’s just what the heart needs.
Ciao for now!