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Husbands birthday dinner


Chufi
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My husband always celebrates his birthday with a dinner for his friends. There are usually about 14-16 of us at the table and I do all the cooking.

It is a sit-down dinner, but not a very formal one (there have been years where I had to throw away the tablecloth afterwards, because there was no way it would ever wash clean again).

I have cooked about 13 of these dinners now and as the years passed on, my cooking got better, and I feel a sort of pressure to produce a better dinner every year.

February 19th is the next dinner and I could really use some ideas for this one!

some clues:

- we spend all evening at the table, so 4 courses is the minimum.

- not too much last minute preparation

- the week before the dinner, I have time to prepare in advance

- I like the dessert to be a real wow factor

- we try not to spend too much money.

any advice welcome!

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Hey there, Chufi. This is what I do..

1.Determine budget

2.Determine ingredients

3.Devise recipes

4.Create timetable

To make a dining experience great, the devil is in the details. Flowers, wine and fine table 'cluttery'.

I noticed that you are signing in from Netherlands. If you can give us a clue about step#2(after you factor in step#1), then we can have a fun discussion.

My husband always celebrates his birthday with a dinner for his friends. There are usually about 14-16 of us at the table and I do all the cooking.

It is a sit-down dinner, but not a very formal one (there have been years where I had to throw away the tablecloth afterwards, because there was no way it would ever wash clean again).

I have cooked about 13 of these dinners now and as the years passed on, my cooking got better, and I feel a sort of pressure to produce a better dinner every year.

February 19th is the next dinner and I could really use some ideas for this one!

some clues:

- we spend all evening at the table, so 4 courses is the minimum.

- not too much last minute preparation

- the week before the dinner, I have time to prepare in advance

- I like the dessert to be a real wow factor

- we try not to spend too much money.

any advice welcome!

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The most 'wow' dessert I've seen is the poached pear with marscapone and carmel sauce that my husband does. It's on one of the last pages of my blog. And it's all able to be done in advance.

What about doing something with a theme all the way thru? On TastingMenu there is a gorgeous online cookbook- All About Apples. Something like that would be cool.

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Okay so I have been thinking and I have a few ideas.

One thing that has to be on the menu, are blini with smoked salmon, sour cream and chives. I made hundreds of them for a wedding in december and they were devoured by the guests. I think they will make an elegant first course.

Then, I am thinking some sort of salad between the blini and the main course. Something crisp, clean flavours. No fish or meat. Cheese maybe??

Main course. For meat, I am thinking veal. I think it's about 10 years since I did veal for this dinner, so it's time for a comeback. Also I am thinking about my very special and delicious potato gratin with dried porcini and parmesan. The gratin has a very deep and strong flavor so I think the veal should not be done with any strong flavors.

I was thinking braised veal with white wine, a little tomato and tarragon maybe?

Any other ideas for veal? A kind of stew or braise that could be prepared ahead?

As another side dish: I saw Jamie Oliver roast rome butternut squash with smoked paprika on television yesterday. That looked great. And then maybe a green vegetable to go with it.

Now dessert always is the hardest to decide. Like I said I want the dessert to be the grand finale.. Something that makes the guests go WOW. Little ms Foodie those pears definitely look wow! Except I already did poached pears a couple of years ago, so can't do those.

The best dessert I ever did for this dinner was a giant Baba au rhum, served with dried fruits that were stewed in a rum syrup, and lots of whipped cream.

Right now this Zabaglione Torta

is tempting me. But I am worried it might be too creamy (after the sour cream with the blini, and the cream in the gratin).

What do you think?

When I look at this menu now, I feel there are some good things there, but as a whole it is defintely not exciting enough.

edited to add: I like the idea of a theme, the hard thing would be to choose a theme. (no apples - husband does not like apples :smile: )

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Individual molten chocolate cakes? Turtle cheesecake? The carmelized apples with cinnamon twist puff pastry I did a few weeks ago, was easy to make ahead, elegant in presentation and yet not to heavy after a large meal. Oh never mind, I just saw the "no apples" thing. Strawberries with grand marnier?

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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What is the weather?

If its still cold a steamed pudding, or even a Christmas pudding will go well, Serve flamed with rum.

If it wern't for the company I'd go with the plastic wrap, but it can be very immobilising... serve with optional fruit garnish

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wearing, nothing but plastic wrap.

are you a psychic?

when I was 18, I acted in a play wearing ... nothing but plastic wrap. REALLY.

Anyway. Now that I am 35, I feel it is a safer bet to rely on my cooking skills to make a lasting (good) impression!

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I like the individual molten cake idea!

Also for a salad what about a nice butter lettuce greens with a piece of goat cheese that is breaded and toasted up? Whenever I serve that people always feel it's very special.

Or maybe do a frisee with little quail eggs, cute and different!

It is all sounding divine Chufi! Your husband is lucky!!

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I like the individual molten cake idea!

Also for a salad what about a nice butter lettuce greens with a piece of goat cheese that is breaded and toasted up? Whenever I serve that people always feel it's very special.

Or maybe do a frisee with little quail eggs, cute and different!

It is all sounding divine Chufi! Your husband is lucky!!

Don't forget the plastic wrap!

I Will Be..................

"The Next Food Network Star!"

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I like the individual molten cake idea!

Also for a salad what about a nice butter lettuce greens with a piece of goat cheese that is breaded and toasted up? Whenever I serve that people always feel it's very special.

Or maybe do a frisee with little quail eggs, cute and different!

It is all sounding divine Chufi! Your husband is lucky!!

Don't forget the plastic wrap!

did you miss the part when she said it was dinner for 14-16 of husband's friends?

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I like the individual molten cake idea!

Also for a salad what about a nice butter lettuce greens with a piece of goat cheese that is breaded and toasted up? Whenever I serve that people always feel it's very special.

Or maybe do a frisee with little quail eggs, cute and different!

It is all sounding divine Chufi! Your husband is lucky!!

Don't forget the plastic wrap!

did you miss the part when she said it was dinner for 14-16 of husband's friends?

Oh! Then use colored wrap, red of course!

I Will Be..................

"The Next Food Network Star!"

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Upthread someone mentioned molten choc. cakes, and it made me think that I personally find individual desserts very "wow." There's often something more impressive, in my opinion, about individual cakes, tartlets, or whatever, than with one large cake/tart. Sometimes I just take recipies for sweet or savory tarts and make them tartlets, or do decorated cupcakes instead of cake... you could definitely go the miniature, individual dessert route.

Chufi, I always enjoy your postings in the dinner thread, you make impressive things for everyday meals, so whatever you decide will be delicious I'm sure. You should post pictures in this thread for us, if you have time and inclination!

:smile:

"There is no worse taste in the mouth than chocolate and cigarettes. Second would be tuna and peppermint. I've combined everything, so I know."

--Augusten Burroughs

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There's often something more impressive, in my opinion, about individual cakes, tartlets, or whatever, than with one large cake/tart. 

Now that is very interesting. I always thought that one big dessert was more impressive than individual ones. Also I like the fact that people can have the kind of portion they like: small portion, large portion, second helpings. But maybe I need to re-arrange my thinking on this! There is definitely something special about an individual portion that is made and plated just for you. Oh boy.. a whole new world of possibilities and choices is opening up...

I was thinking of rhubarb merigue pie. Now that would look nice..all these little merigue pies..

Chufi, I always enjoy your postings in the dinner thread, you make impressive things for everyday meals, so whatever you decide will be delicious I'm sure.  You should post pictures in this thread for us, if you have time and inclination!

:smile:

aww.. thank you... :biggrin: I will definitely document the countdown to this dinner as well as the dinner itself! it will make the preparations even more fun!

edited because my english is not what it should be today!

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Not sure if you have picked out a salad yet. I have a recipe for a watercress salad with some matchstick vegetables and a pecan component. The dressing has a lot of fresh herbs and pecans in it too, it is pretty wow, I use it for special occasions and if you want to make it stand out you can do it with some frissee instead of / mixed with the watercress.

Let me know if you are interested I can PM you the recipe.

Very interested to hear about final choices and see some photos/recipes! Have fun!

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Wow. That salad with the pecan dressing sounds wonderful! I happen to think shaved fennel makes an impressive salad, as well. Since citrus is in season, you could add orange or grapefruit sections, and it would probably go well with pecans as well, or even the goat cheese mentioned earlier. Another option would be a roasted beet salad.

As for dessert, I was thinking individual lemon curd tarlets sounded nice, or maybe a napolean with a sweetened marscapone filling and dried or roasted fruit that has been simmered in a wine or port sauce and topped with cinnamon whipped cream. Or, one of the best desserts I've ever had was strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar and basil, and served with white chocolate gelato in a martini glass. Which made me think of this wonderful orange/basil panacotta my husband had...

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You know if my wife were to make me a very special dinner I would want her to get meat from the Meat Shop in Austin Texas. They sell dry aged high prime and wagyu beef. It isn't cheap but oh boy is it great steak. You can't buy it online but you can call them and they will ship. The ribeyes are my favorite. If you google search you can find an article or two about this place. The meat here is much better than what I have ordered from Lobels.

Edited by jscarbor (log)
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My husband always celebrates his birthday with a dinner for his friends. There are usually about 14-16 of us at the table and I do all the cooking.

It is a sit-down dinner, but not a very formal one (there have been years where I had to throw away the tablecloth afterwards, because there was no way it would ever wash clean again).

:raz: Dessert is simple and can be made ahead and is he ultimates wow factor. Chocolate Souffles are simple, light and airy, and as easy as (ha-ha) pie. 4" Ramekins, set on a cookie sheet can be premade in the Am and will retain the peaks in fridge all day.. Pop in oven for 14 minutes, pour in some Marshmallow sauce or whipped cream, and Wow !!!

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Chufi, if you haven't settled on a dessert yet -- I like to browse through David Leite's list sometimes for ideas:

link

(Scroll down -- plus there are photos of everything which really helps in making a choice.)

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First of all, thanks to everyone for all your ideas. They helped me with the process of deciding on the menu, even if I did not actually make any of the recipes.. :smile:

Sushicat I did not make your salad after all, because the dessert was pecan-based as well.. but I think I will try the dressing some day, it sounds so interesting.

Behemoth thank you for the link, I looked at it briefly, the pics look very appetizing!

There were 12 guests and here's what the dinner ended up like:

Blini with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, salmon eggs and fake caviar:

gallery_21505_358_64056.jpg

Salad with raw fennel, Fuji apple, aged goats cheese, pistachios and a honey mustard dressing:

gallery_21505_358_10574.jpg

Veal pie. The veal was braised with butternut squash and marsala, shallots and mushrooms were cooked separately. The stew was topped with a layer of rosemary-roasted cubes of butternut squash, and then topped with a very rich, buttery, flaky pastry. I made this recipe up after looking at many different recipes for braised veal, and it was very very good! Side dishes were simple: braised peas & lettuce, and a salad of roast tomatoes and grilled peppers.

gallery_21505_358_4606.jpg

gallery_21505_358_87741.jpg

Dessert: carrot ginger pecan cake with orange cream cheese frosting, decorated with candied carrots. This is a Martha Stewart recipe and it tasted fantastic ( and looked fabulous, definitely the wow factor I wanted). It wasn't very easy to make although part of that was my own fault: the recipe was for 10- 12 and I wanted to make it for 15, so I juggled the quantities until I got confused (I know I know you should never do that :unsure: ). For the frosting I used about 5 different dairy products all mixed together to get the right consistency, but the end result was great:

gallery_21505_358_3692.jpg

gallery_21505_358_102666.jpg

I made two of those, so there was plenty!

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Dessert: carrot ginger pecan cake with orange cream cheese frosting, decorated with candied carrots. This is a Martha Stewart recipe and it tasted fantastic ( and looked fabulous, definitely the wow factor I wanted). It wasn't very easy to make although part of that was my own fault: the recipe was for 10- 12 and I wanted to make it for 15, so I juggled the quantities until I got confused (I know I know you should never do that  :unsure: ). For the frosting I used about 5 different dairy products all mixed together to get the right consistency, but the end result was great:

gallery_21505_358_3692.jpg

I made two of those, so there was plenty!

What an incredible show. Your husband is a lucky man. If I pay for the airline ticket, would you consider coming to Virginia to cook my birthday dinner :biggrin:? Beautiful, beautiful job.

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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chufi, all looks great - hope you were happy with how things turned out.  Your salad looks and sounds amazing!    And the cake looks quite beautiful.  What were the wines, I see them, but can't identify.

thanks..

we started with an organic Saumur, imported by a friend of ours who's in the (organic) wine business. And then on to Spanish red wine, Torres' Coronas.

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thanks for posting pictures of the dinner, Chufi. i'm glad it went well, it certainly looked great.

"There is no worse taste in the mouth than chocolate and cigarettes. Second would be tuna and peppermint. I've combined everything, so I know."

--Augusten Burroughs

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