Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dinner with The French Basketeer

This is by my friend Andrea, Andrea, The French Basketeer:
One inspiring woman.

Flat Footed (Almost)

Friday night dinner is usually a creative, clean-out-the-fridge affair in our house, sometimes a pantry choice or frozen meal.  By Friday we have usually eaten all the produce and fresh market goodies bought the previous weekend, so we have something light such as a grilled sandwich, soup, or Lean Cuisine from Costco.  Last night, though, I invited my friend Lorie to stop by for dinner on her drive with friends from LA to San Diego.  I had planned to make Salmon en croute or something nice, but I didn’t have time to get the salmon and forgot the fresh dill in the fridge at the office.  Arriving home late, I had one hour to make dinner, set the table, and clean house a bit.  I was definitely feeling a little flat footed; Lorie came to Beaune with us last year and surely she would expect something good to eat…well yes, and no….she’s a good friend and probably wouldn’t care if I gave her PB&J for dinner; what counts is that we have some rare quality time together.  So maybe it was me who wanted to produce a nice meal, to facilitate good conversation and unwind on a Friday evening.  I had eggs, carrots and three mangos left from last week, that was it.  Yikes, no time to go very far for salmon or burrata or other yummies.  I decided to make a quick dash to Pavillions grocery store a few blocks away, to see what I could come up with.
I like to have some little nibbly thing out for guests when they arrive.  So I bought a log of goat cheese and cut chives from the garden~
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The goat cheese got rolled in the chopped chives, set out on a nice cutting board with a pretty knife~
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Once that was done and the wine was chilling, I turned on the lights in the corn stalk arch and lined the steps with votives and pumpkins. No matter what we eat, this is festive and makes guests feel welcome.  Pavillions has aPink Pumpkin for sale this year, yes.  I bought one for $6 and it really is a pale pink, proceeds going to Breast Cancer Awareness or Susan G. Komen Foundation, I don’t remember, but it’s all good~
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I figure, if it’s dark enough, they will just focus on the pretty votives and perhaps they won’t notice my baskets and stuff sitting outside the kitchen door, right?~
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It was a balmy night, and the full moon was rising; I quickly set the table out on the patio, with Booth’s blue willow plates, French sterling, tartan napkins for fall, and of course, lots of votives and one hurricane candle~
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Passing back through the kitchen, I set the cheese and bread on the table, then gathered up the mail and papers that are usually scattered around the kitchen table; in case of guests I stack and then sandwich stray papers between two books, so hopefully no will notice, and I will be faux-organized.  Linda gave me this book last weekend at the market; it’s still sitting here waiting to be read; and now beneath it sit a week’s worth of mail~
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But just in case someone picks up Henrietta’s book on top and discovers my pile of crap and papers, throw a magazine or three on top.  Clutter….what clutter?~
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Passing through the dining room, I dimmed the chandelier and lit the painting light.  And planned to usher the guests from the kitchen through the dining room rather quickly.  The table is full of dishes and glasses and tea pots that need to be put away, as well as a few paper bags of prescriptions and things from CVS for my parents.  I wish I were perfect, but helas I am not, and at the moment I am unapologetic though slightly embarrassed that the house is not cleaner.   My Canon camera really grabs the light, and in the evening light you couldn’t see all the stuff on the table that you can see in this pic~
Then it was time to move on to the food.  My younger sister loves her crock pot and make-ahead meals.  This fall I will have to show some make-ahead stews and meals too, but I don’t own a crock pot and wanted something lighter today than stew with the warm weather we are still having.  I bought two “organic/hormone free” half chicken breasts at the grocery store.  I don’t know where I got this recipe, but I call it Lemon Chicken.  Slice the chicken breasts thinly, and put it in a bowl.  Juice a lemon and put the pulp & juice over the chicken pieces and let sit for 20+ minutes.  Stir once or twice; the chicken will take on the lemon flavor~
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In a frying pan, melt a few tablespoons of butter and a roughly equal amount of oil. I used olive oil and cooked on medium heat (olive oil generally doesn’t like to be cooked at a high temp), but any vegetable oil works fine.  Many restaurants saute fish using half oil half butter like this; it gives a nice flavor and oils like canola cook and crisp with a neutral taste that lets the delicate flavor of your fish come through.
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Cook the chicken pieces in the pan; they should not brown.  Add salt and pepper to taste when the first side is cooking.  Turn them over and cook until firm (about 5 minutes more); remove the pieces from the pan and set the pieces on paper towel to drain.  I slice a few pieces in half to confirm they are cooked but not overdone.
We had Sage Mountain carrots (boiled and tossed with a bit of butter) and wild rice that I cooked then mixed with Minute Rice.  Sorry gals, not fancy, but it tasted fine!
The guests arrived just as I was finishing the chicken and just after I had thrown away all traces that anything came from Pavillions.  I love these little hotel silver trays; their light weight makes it easy for guests to pass around the table~
We had a really lovely meal…..Lorie, my new friend Margaret and her daughter Marguerite around the table~
Lorie, lovely dear Lorie, brought Jadot wines and some white roses which I put in the kitchen.  There were lots of votives outside on the table as well~
All in all, not bad for a last-minute meal. I am going to have to stock up though on my staples like rice and try to plan ahead more.  Hopefully next time I will not be caught flat footed when it’s time to whip up a meal!

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