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Husbands birthday dinner


Chufi
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Klary, how impressive!

Brava, brava!

I agree--the ravioli are especially beautiful, as is the cake.

It is also wonderful to see the unexpected note of appreciation from one of your dinner guests.

What I would like to know is if you've changed your mind about cooking fish now that you've had such a success. Am I correct in assuming there was no need for the stand-by chicken?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Dear Chufi:

I have been following your odyessy since January and the results look wonderful. You tec guys-why can't we have smell-a-thread?

SO, what's planned for next year?

From the shore of the Rio Grande,

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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What I would like to know is if you've changed your mind about cooking fish now that you've had such a success.  Am I correct in assuming there was no need for the stand-by chicken?

It's true that the numerous chats I had with my fishmonger (I think I went there at least 4 times to talk things over with him..), made me more confident about fish. I went back to the fishmonger after the party and thanked him for helping me, and told him it was a big success. I'm thinking that one of the ways to be able to cook fish the right way, is to have a good relationship with a fish dealer you can trust. So I'm working on that..

I did cook 1 pan of butter braised chicken, as there was 1 guest who never touches fish. And my stepdaughter who likes salmon, but thought this was a bit too adventurous for her, had chicken as well.

Everybody else ate the fish :smile:

SO, what's planned for next year?

ha, you'll just have to wait and see! I'm worrying about my own birthday now first (in 2 months)

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Why worry about your birthday in May?

Let your husband take you out to dinner in whatever region we are visiting down in the Italian forum's cooking thread :smile:

(I do hope you'll be inspired to prepare something with seafood for this month's thread on Friuli Venezia Giulia.)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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  • 2 months later...

What a fantastic meal!! I've been lobbying for the smell version upgrade of eG for years!

Everything looked just lovely....I'm impressed that you took all the pictures. That adds a bit to the stress level, doesn't it?

Deep fried olives....very impressive! I'm a fan of the anchovy stuffed ones as well, but that's one dish that seems really 'fiddly'.

Your ravioli look just beautiful, all 160 of them.

And....this is May...so Happy Birthday to you, whenever you celebrate!!

Brava Klary! :wub::rolleyes:

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  • 8 months later...

Bump! :smile:

It's hard to believe, but a year has passed since I cooked dinner for ... how many guests? 24, if I recall correctly.

Another birthday is coming up. The dinner will be end of February. There won't be 24 guests, more likely, about 14-16. An easier number for dinnerconversation, and for the cook!

I have had some thoughts already. I really liked the Italian pace of the dinner last year and was thinking of doing the same thing. Antipasti (to be decided), a pasta course (maybe a homemade lasagna), then a simple meatcourse with some side dishes. And a spectacular dessert! I already have a couple of ideas for that - Franci gave me the link to a pistachio ricotta/chocolate cake that looks amazing.

Food has to be simple, prepare-ahead friendly (I'm doing all the work on my own) and while the budget is not tight, we usually don't go for fancy or expensive ingredients. If possible, I'd like to be able to enjoy the evening as well.

I'll update on my plans, and all ideas/thoughts are very welcome!

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I trust Franci and that dessert does sound spectacular.

I'd suggest courses that evoke your husband's personal tastes, special memories, people--things he really cares about.

A more practical suggestion should the number remain managable only: cappelletti in brodo. I don't recall photographs by you of tortellini or other small stuffed pasta served as a soup course before. I really was taken by the Modenese filling of veal, Prosciutto di Parma, pork loin and cheese that I made for Christmas, and the traditional broth combining beef and turkey or capon is quite nice. Given small size of the pasta, it's not too filling, but seems very elegant and festive.

Then after individual bowls are cleared, all the other dishes can be presented in a more casual fashion, together, on the table. I don't know if you recently made your beloved Sicilian swordfish dish again. If not, smaller versions would be a perfect thing for guests to reach for along with arancini. Hmmm...nothing like Sicily on a grey winter's day. Blood oranges wrapped in bright, crinkly papers.... :wub:

Revision.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I'm doing a Georgian feast tomorrow, although only a lunch. It's extremely make-ahead friendly, killingly delicious, and really healthy into the bargain. Plus, most people haven't had Georgian food. I'll post a little write up with pictures tomorrow and you can see if it appeals to you.

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So what do you all think of lasagna? I think that spinach lasagna with real ragu would be spectacular.. but what to serve before and/or after.. It does appeal to me though because it can be made ahead (and it's cheap :raz: )

And yes, I'm also still thinking aout the Sicilian swordfish pie. But I guess that if we have that, we won't have any pasta..

Anyway, I could use some ideas for antipasti.

Abra, I'm very interested in your Georgian feast. Please report!

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maybe even a few different lasagnas so people can try more than one?

I love Gnocco Fritto with some nice salumi and a few chunks of parm

recipe

what about wolfert's pork and beans- remember in my Italy report I called it pork cooked like tuna and you said there is a recipe in Slow Med?? I think that would be beautiful!! you could do a pasta for primi- tort in broth or similar.

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Here's the Georgian feast. Honest, Klary, you couldn't go wrong with this food. I can't imagine anyone not liking it, it looks beautiful, it's very inexpensive to prepare, and you can make most of it ahead.

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So what do you all think of lasagna? I think that spinach lasagna with real ragu would be spectacular.. but what to serve before and/or after.. It does appeal to me though because it can be made ahead (and it's cheap  :raz: )

Your photograph of spinach lasagna looked spectacular and who doesn't love lasagna? It's a special dish, impressive when utterly homemade, nurishing and comforting in cold weather. Perfect.

The only hard thing is planning a menu around lasagna as a main course. Keep in mind that it and the cake would be very filling. I'd be tempted to skip a cheese course and make sure there's something very light to mediate between lasagna and cake.

Perhaps go traditional and have a salad course afterwards and borrow equipment if need be to make a sorbet.

A big tangle of stewed mushrooms complement lasagna--if not on the table at the same time, perhaps in a tart beforehand. I also think carmelized (not vinegary) cipollini are nice with lasagna. Cubed winter squash on bed of roasted raddichio and endive...

I don't know what's seasonal in the Netherlands in February, but if Fuyu persimmons remain (they're all gone here), they'd be good in a salad or with prosciutto. Go casual with everything on the table prior to presenting the main course with lots of options that dont' involve much prep such as the prosciutto, blood oranges w cured black olives & mint, shaved fennel salad...

You could also do a soup course if not too fussy. Roasted eggplant soup or something light, but with root vegetables such as fennel and celeriac or roasted parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes...

ETA: Look for Hathor's photograph of a roasted pear salad. Dinner thread, methinks.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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  • 3 weeks later...

When we're doing an Italianate menu with a filling main course we tend to steal light antipasto ideas from this great bar that we used to live down the street from in Siena. Since that place doesn't have a cookbook out yet, these are all Batali recipes:

Cipolline in Agrodolce

Another Cipolline Variation

Carciofi Fritti

Carciofi Sott'olio

Carciofata

Polpette di Tonno e Ricotta

And for next year's main course...Braciolona

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I like the idea of the cipollini. Would be great with a platter of prosciutto and salami.

Now, where to find tiny onions..

The menu so far.

First course: several appetizers, on the table, served in what is I believe in te US called 'family style' "help yourself" :smile:

crostini with pea/mintpuree

crostini with chicken/blackolive spread (Marcella recipe)

parsnip fritters

platters of cured meats, possibly with something vinegary on the side like the cipollini markemorse mentioned.

miniature versions of the Sicilian swordfish impanata. Possibly. Or I'll have to think of something else 'fishy'.

2 lasagna's. 1 Bolognese or some other ragu (over in the Italy forum I've been getting some wonderful suggestions), 1 more vegetable-based one.

a huge leafy green salad

does this course need something else? I know you're not really supposed to serve something else with lasagne, but it just seems kind of sparse to have nothing else on the plate. Pontormo suggested mushrooms. Some sort of roasted vegetable dish?

dessert:

orange/honey/pistachiocake

almond cake with a drizzle of dark chocolate ganache, served with raspberries and white chocolate custard.

I won't claim this is an authentically Italian dinner but I'm pretty happy with it so far, especially because I think I'll be able to do lots of work ahead.

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How about adding a caponata to the appetizer assortment? And maybe a little cheese course?

What I always want on the plate with pasta is bitter greens of some sort. Actually, I have to say that want bitter greens on just about every plate. Maybe that Sicilian preparation with currants and pine nuts?

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2 lasagna's. 1 Bolognese or some other ragu (over in the Italy forum I've been getting some wonderful suggestions), 1 more vegetable-based one.

a huge leafy green salad

does this course need something else? I know you're not really supposed to serve something else with lasagne, but it just seems kind of sparse to have nothing else on the plate. Pontormo suggested mushrooms. Some sort of roasted vegetable dish?

If you're serving salad at the same time as the lasagne*, you don't need anything else. I've used cipollini (simply parboiled and roasted with olive oil until golden brown and glazed, without an interferring sweet & sour taste) as an accompaniment/garnish for stuffed polenta with ragu before.

Great menu, as always. :smile:

I think I'd skip the swordfish for this meal since the fish doesn't complement the rest of the meal and the pastry would be heavy with the main course and crucial birthday cake. Save it for another birthday where you serve a tureens of soup brimming with seafood.

*On the same plate? Don't tell Franci! :wink:

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dinner report!

The menu changed a bit. The guestlist was up to 17, and all of a sudden the idea of rolling and drying and hanging and cooking and laying out on towels and assembling lasagna for 17, made me panic. Then I remembered the dinner last year, which was great and wonderful and impressive, but also more work than I ever again want to do for a dinner, and I remembered the nervous breakdown I had last year a couple of hours before the guests arrived when there was still So Much To Do, and I thought: haven't I learned anything? Keep it simple! The guests really won't care! okay maybe the eGulleters will scold me for planning lasagna and then not making it :biggrin: , but, I will ust have to risk it!

So. The Baroque Ragu from The Splendid Table (as suggested by Pontormo) became baked penne instead of lasagna. And I made another pasta dish, Shaya's eggplant and ricotta sauce. Appetizers remained roughly the same. I added roasted balasamic onions to the main course. Abra's suggestion of bitter greens led me to the braised escarole & white beans from Molly Stevens' All about braising. It was a wondeful dinner. I made some of the appetizers on Thursdaynight, baked 2 cakes Fridaynight, and cooked all day Saturday but at a leisurely pace, with my favorite music, and was completely relaxed. There was a ton of food with lots of leftovers - most guests went home with a little container of pasta and a piece of cake!

Pictures!

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Assembling the penne. This ragu is amazing - spiced with cloves and cinnamon, with lots of meat (chicken, chickenlivers, sausage, beef, pancetta). Here it's already mixed with the bechamel.

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Poached fresh tuna, marinated with capers olive oil and anchovies. Fantastic. Like eating the very best canned tuna imaginable. This is a recipe from Marcella Hazan's Marcella's Kitchen.

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Ham, mozzarella, roasted fennel

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Green pea frittata

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This is from Marcella Says: chicken breast pate with black olives. Flavored with lemon zest and nutmeg. While it has a great flavor, the texture of the pureed chicken breast is a bit weird. I added a lot of butter to make it creamy and spreadable. Still, it was a big hit.

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Celeriac fritters. The parsnips looked so sad at the market, so I made the fritters with celeriac instead. Really good.

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On the table.

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Baked penne

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pasta with eggplant and ricotta, not a good pic but at least it's an 'action shot'

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Balsamic roast onions

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Braised escarole and beans. This was the hit of the evening. Everyone oh'd and ah'd over this! Really delicious, fragrant with lemon juice, garlic and chili, the sweet beans and slightly bitter greens.

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I really love that long table with everybody around it, talking and eating. (actually half the table is a door, which we take off the hinges once a year to make this set up! :biggrin: )

Dessert:

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Orange semolina cake with honey syrup, mascarpone and pistachios

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chocolate cherry cake (from Nigella Lawson's How to be a domestic goddess, wonderful, it has a whole jar of cherry preserves mixed into the batter)

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Another Nigella recipe, marzipan cake

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Served with raspberries and white chocolate brandy sauce

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The next morning: breakfast :biggrin:

Thank you everybody for thinking with me and inspiring me. See you next year on this thread!

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Incredible as usual, Chufi!!! The escarole and beans are something I need to look into - they look fantastic. You are inspiring me to do host a dinner for my husband's big 5-0 this year. I don't think I can manage that many guests, though. Maybe more like 10. Did you always have so many, or have you 'worked your way up'?

Thanks for inviting us. :rolleyes:

Stop Family Violence

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Incredible as usual, Chufi!!! The escarole and beans are something I need to look into - they look fantastic. You are inspiring me to do host a dinner for my husband's big 5-0 this year. I don't think I can manage that many guests, though. Maybe more like 10. Did you always have so many, or have you 'worked your way up'?

Thanks for inviting us. :rolleyes:

Thanks Dana! When I first met my husband, 13 years ago, there used to be about 12, and then as my friends became his friends, the guestlist expanded.. and then as it sometimes happens, over the years, people came and went.. the 'core' group is still the same as it has been for 20 years though, which is great, these dinners are a real tradition.

My husband always insists on having a dinner, where guests actually sit down to eat, instead of a party. This does limit the number of people you can accomodate though.. 25 was definitely too much :laugh: and even 17 is stretching it!

You should start a thread about your birthday dinner for your husband, so we can cheer you on!

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Chufi, I wanted to "quote" my favourite from your dinner pictures and compliment you on it and drool over it, but it turned out impossible. I simply cannot choose between al those stunning and mouthwatering dishes... What a lucky man your husband is, and how lucky we are, to get invited over and sneak in a peak at your wonderful gatherings. Thanks!

(oh... that tuna... that braised escarole and beans... that incredible collection of cakes...)

(edited to wipe some drooling residu off the screen)

Edited by amapola (log)
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Just gorgeous! That pea frittata is a jewel, and the celeriac fritters, escarole, poached tuna, and of course those beautiful cakes, really make me wish we'd been there. I think you were very wise not to do the lasagne. Happy birthday to himself!

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