Monday, May 10, 2010

What Wes and Eric Had For Dinner

The boss comes to dinner -- circa 2010. How to master the art of looking prepared yet causal Have everything ready without seeming like you made an effort at all. How to, in short, be the perfect hostess -- more June Cleaver than Lucy Riccardo. Start with cheese.
At the risk of alerting the authorities I'll point out a delicious Alpine style saucisson sec a French friend carried lovingly (and illegally I might add) in his suitcase for us. Wild boar with just a hint of spice and a healthy (as in heavy not good for you ;-)) dose of tasty fat. "This is the real thing," he assured, "Not what you get in a supermarket."
I pared that treat with a selection of cheeses, A slightly peppery sheep's milk Manchego from Spain, Petit Basque -- also sheep (not such great planning there I guess) but smoother and nuttier, always a great paring with saucisson, Humboldt Fog, a soft goat cheese with a center line of ash from Northern California, and Pt Reyes blue a cow's milk treat from Marin County, CA. Alongside this selection I offered a few loaves of homemade bread (Stecca from Jim Lahey's killer cookbook, My Bread), and piping hot gourgères -- the French bits of magic that turn flour, water, butter and eggs into airy puffs just begging to be filled with a thin slice of saucisson and cheese (they made killer hors d'oeuvre mini BLTs!) or popped in your mouth warm from the oven.
Now onto dinner -- served family style.
I tried to come up with sides that could be made in advance and tucked away to serve at room temperature leaving just one or two things to finish while guests are watching . . . you know -- just to prove you really made it all. A killer plan for easy hostessing.
The farmer's market is full of irresistible spring veggies so I shopped and then decided on our dishes. What could be simpler than quickly blanched asparagus served room temperature with hazelnut dressing and finely chopped eggs -- from our "girls" of course
This delicious tangle combines arugula, parsley and grilled apricots (I did that earlier in the day and had them waiting to toss the salad) with a rosemary vinaigrette and serves the crisp veggies on a bed of thinly sliced prosciutto. Salty, sweet, crunchy all at once and all I had to do was toss it together before bringing the salad to the table.
Here is the super simple, prepped in advance, star of the dinner show -- a salt-crusted sirloin (Chateaubriand cut -- extra thick), impressive, easy, and can be prepped an hour before roasting -- gave me just enough time to get the kitchen cleared up before guests arrived.
To assemble I coated the steak with pepper and seared it on all sides in a pan with hot olive oil. I let the meat cool for about 15 minutes while I made up a paste of kosher salt and water (might have been better to use egg whites). When the steak had cooled down I fully covered the meat with the salt paste -- I used about 4 cups of salt but I probably could have gotten away with less. After 25 minutes at 425 degrees and 30 minutes resting time (before cracking the crust) the grass fed steak, which can be tough or even dry, was perfectly cooked and tender.
That's our friend Eric cracking the crust before serving.
And the beauty on the plate, thinly sliced and served with a delicate butter lettuce pesto.
I just had to show off our home-grown potatoes with another make ahead dish. Crisp tender green beans, and steamed potato wedges tossed together (while still warm for maximum flavor) in olive oil with plentiful chopped herbs (thyme, chives, parsley and mint).
Dessert went by so quickly I barely got a picture. This is all that's left of a blood orange crostada I made with the fruit from our front yard tree and had waiting in the freezer for just such an occasion. We served the ruby colored tart with vanilla gelato and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce. Another make ahead success.

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