Three Cheeses: An (English) Lavender Cheddar, Explorateur (a french brie) and one not at all memorable. . .
Central Market Rosemary Bread. . . .
Coq Au Vin. . .
Green beans, sauteed in butter with a few shallots. .
Lemon Mascarpone Cream Tart with Figs and a Cornmeal Rosemary Crust and Red Currant Glaze. . .
So, our book club meets about once every six weeks and I host about once a year. I hosted last week, and when I host I like to roll it all out. I prefer to cook something that hints on the theme of the book we read. . . we read "Perfume" and it took place in 18th century France. Having never been to France, I had to guess - wish I had some real exposure - but all I have got comes from le cookbook.
I didn't have much time or effort to put into the cheeses - I went on suggestions from a girl in the cheese department at Central Market. . She did just fine. The lavender cheddar was great for the theme. . the Explorateur was a big hit - that was about a third of a pound of cheese and there were no leftovers - and the third cheese was not special, really, and had the most leftover. . . The bread - aaaahhhh - I love artisan bread, and this is the CM Rosemary Bread that is served at Jeffrey's here in town. . . The rosemary isn't overwhelming but certainly dominant - and what I love particularly about it is the little dash of kosher salt that is sprinkled on top, but generally to one side. I like to eat the entire piece of bread saving that small chunk for last. The green beans were only because I needed something that I could call a vegetable. . . and they were great. I steamed them in the microwave as my guests arrived and tossed them in a little butter. . .
I had never made Coq Au Vin before. . . This was to be what was served at our wedding reception, however, looking back, I am now most certain that this was not the dry and boring creepy plum colored chicken breast we were served about three and a half years ago. I now apologize to all of our wedding guests. First, true coq au vin is to be made with an entire bottle of red from the Burgundy region of France. . . It should also be stated that true coq au vin is a peasant dish that is made with a mature rooster. Having nary a rooster, I used chicken thighs - they are generally tastier, cheaper, and fattier, resulting in a much better tasting chicken dish. This is not a peasant dish in the US, where the cheapest bottle of burgundy did set me back $14.99. . . and it seriously pains me to empty an entire bottle of wine into anything but a decanter.
One must marinate the chicken for 24 hours in the wine plus chopped onion and carrot and a bunch of whole black peppercorns. . . In the end, you cook and you strain and you braise and you saute, and you make a roux and you set things aside and there is butter and there are mushrooms and there is bacon. Seriously. time consuming. deliciousness. I would most certainly make it again for a dinner party or a nice family occasion, but it is not a weeknight kind of deal. Everyone commented that it was good, and Steven (did I ever mention that I have a husband?) loved it. The biggest compliment came from a book club member who I consider to be a fun and wonderful person but a picky eater - she went back for seconds.
Finally, I received the tart idea from a friend, and the recipe appeared in Gourmet or Bon Appetit several years ago. It was fabulous. I have to admit that I generally do not like to make recipes where every single component of the recipe appears in its name or title: Lemon Mascarpone Cream Tart with Figs and Cornmeal Rosemary Crust and Red Currant Glaze. That is way too much information. . . but an explicitly descriptive idea of what you will end up with. This was actually a great recipe - the crust was easier than your basic tart crust and came together nicely. The hardest part of the whole deal was finding a jar of red currant jam.
Anyway, it was all a big hit and I feel more educated for making this dinner. Only in the last twenty four hours has our house quit smelling like bacon, and that did get old.