The Gratitudinal Gathering

May 14, 2007

You know how some nights you have a bunch of friends over and throw some burgers on the grill and just pop open a nice, easy drinking wine? Totally casual, totally laid back. Yea, well Saturday night was not that night at the Huber house.

Shower hostesses and LiaBack in March, my four girlfriends threw me a stellar baby shower (that’s us at the shower on the left) and I couldn’t figure out what to get them for a thank you. Vases, candle holders, napkins — nothing felt quite right. Except for food. I wanted to feed them, and I wanted to do it up big.

So all last week I was brainstorming dishes for the big event (so fun to just let my mind run like that!) while Christopher was picking dishes from the rental company (so fun to have someone else do the wash!). I banned jeans from the evening (painful for me) and the guys even had to wear sports coats.

The result was a sort of giddy effervescence that pervaded the evening. It was like we were all playing dress-up and Christopher and I were playing restaurant and we all just had a fabulous time. My friend Honore put it well when she said that all the out-of-the-ordinary elements made it feel like a real celebration.

OK, menu (Christopher paired wines too — including a sake). I wish I’d taken photos, but hey, I was finishing and plating seven courses.

Scallop Ceviche on a Truffled Potato Chip with Truffle Caviar

Saki Marinated Prawns in Prosciutto Tuille with Black Rice Cake

Turnip Ravioli with Duck Confit and Foie Gras Peara

Radish, Feta and Date Salad with Honey-Mint Dressing

“Le Cochon en Trois Facons”
Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Thyme, Sel de Mer and
Piment d’Espelette; Housemade Fennel and Sage Sausage;
Pork Tenderloin Marinated in Rosmarino
Fennel and Onion Confit
Fava Bean Flan

Oat Almond Shortcake with Tierra Farms Strawberries, Tarragon Chantilly Cream and Aged Balsamic

Brin d’Amour, Stravecchio Lucano, Gorgonzola Picante

Now keep in mind, I make a living out of writing recipes that, for the most part, can be churned out on a Wednesday night when the kid’s in the bathtub. So putting together this menu was like doing creative cartwheels for me.

Point of the story (other than to cause some serious salivation)? Casual gatherings and quick meals pulled together on a weeknight are great. But I think there’s also a place for pulling out all the stops every once in a great while—and this was that night.


PS — let me know if you want me to post any of the recipes and I’ll try to recreate them . . .


12 Responses to “The Gratitudinal Gathering”

  1. Kris Says:

    OK…that menu is simply amazing…can you please post all the recipes? I am a little mixed on the fava bean flan however. How was that 🙂

  2. lia Says:

    The fava bean flan ended up being a last minute addition for something green (and because we’ve got lots and lots of last-of-season fava beans in the garden) and turned out really nicely. Light, airy, and distinctly spring-like (read: green) in both look and taste. I’ll bet it would also be great with asparagus or peas.

    So here’s the (approximate) recipe, adapted from the Shallot Flan in the Chez Panisse Vegetables Cookbook

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    2 cups cooked fava beans
    1/2 cup half and half
    2 eggs
    salt and pepper

    Preheat oven to 275. Butter 4 to 5 ramekins.

    Puree fava beans with half and half, eggs, salt and pepper and pour into each of the ramekins. Set ramekins in a baking dish and fill to 1 inch with hot water.

    Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, remove ramekins from dish and let cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife under hot water and slice around the edge of the ramekin to loosen the flan. Invert the ramekin onto a plate and tap and wiggle it until the flan releases.

    As for the others . . . which one’s your favorite?

  3. Kris Says:

    Oh..that is a tough one. The prawns are a must. My husband thinks procuitto should be its own food group. What is Piment d’Espelette? The pork recipe sounds amazing too. Do you ues a pork shoulder and a pork tenderloin? How fun to show appreciation with food. So much more creative than a candle. Great idea. I am also assuming the last course was cheese? Yum.

  4. lia Says:

    Exactly. Pork shoulder rubbed with a blend of thyme, sea salt and piment d’espelette (which, to answer your question, is a chile from the Basque region that has an earthy heat, that’s even a bit sweet [swear I didn’t mean to rhyme that]). Smoked paprika would probably also be wonderful. Then seal in a Dutch oven and cook at 275 for 3-1/2 hours. Voila. Done. Easy.

    The pork tenderloin we poked with a sharp knife about a million times and marinated it in a paste of rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Then grilled it to medium.

    The prawns, I have to say, I was really psyched about. I disolved about equal parts of sugar, sake and white miso paste over medium heat and let it cool, then poured it over peeled, gargantuan prawns and marinated them for 24 hours. Then drained the prawns, wound them loosely with a thin, thin slice of proscuitto (there it is!) and grilled them over a medium heat so they’d cook through and the proscuitto would crisp up without getting burnt. Then served them on top of a slice of avocado leaning against a black rice cake and drizzled it with eel sauce (mirin, sugar and soy reduced to nearly a glaze). It really is a cool dish — you should give it a try!

    Thanks for your comments Kris! Bon appetit!

  5. Anne-Liesse Says:

    Lia –

    That menu sounds wonderful ! I wish I could have been part of the celebration – well, I wish I could have been there at your baby shower to start with.

    I’d love to have the shortcake recipe – I’m such a cake lover !

    Thanks & love

  6. Anne-Liesse Says:

    Another thing, Lia – I know I’m demanding there ! – I’d love to have the wine pairing for each of those courses. I can’t drink right now, but my brain can definitely do the imagining job !….

    Thanks !

  7. lia Says:

    Since everyone around the table is involved in the US wine industry in one way or another, we decided to go around the world that night. 🙂 Here were the pairings in order of course:

    * Magnum of Veuve Clicquot
    * Kinshihai Shuso, Yukikage “Snow Shadow” Junmai Sake
    * 2006 Pretty Sally Rose from Victoria
    * 2006 Ceretto “Blange,” from the Langhe, Italy
    * 2004 Piancornello, Rosso di Montalcino
    * 1993 Querciavalle Vin Santo

    Then a choice with the dessert:
    * 2003 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Sauternes
    * 2000 Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos

    Christopher did an unbelievable job.

    As for the shortcake recipe, I’m afraid I made it up as I went along–ironically, thinking of YOUR tips on making pastry the whole time. You’re a much better baker than I am! I ‘can’ tell you, though, that I basically added oats and ground almonds to a basic shortcake dough, cutting back on a bit of the flour to compensate. I thought they were a bit dry, but everyone seemed to like them (either that or they were just being polite!). If you improve on the recipe, as I know you can, let me know!

  8. Anne-Liesse Says:

    Thanks, Lia ! I’m rather ignorant about wines, but will look into those if I get a chance.

    Did you follow MY tips on making pastry ??? When did I get a chance to give you tips ? Not any time recent anyway ;- Anyway, it does make me feel like baking for you ! I made a – nice and easy – marmelade cake – English recipe – last Saturday as my sister-in-law Catherine and my niece Manon were coming for “goûter”. Both adults and child enjoyed it, which was cool. We’re going to build an outdoor baking oven (four à pain) down in the Drôme and I’m looking forward to baking there as well.

    Talking about wines again, I think I will add a comment on your rosé entry again soon since your blog started a discussion about rosé between Gilbert and me ! He just ordered some Bandol rosé today. He should get it by next week and soon I’ll be able to drink again (even it’s little quantities !) so I’ll let you know how it tastes.

    By the way, did I tell you Gilbert and some of his friends are opening a restaurant in les Halles de Lyon – our famous indoor market, named after Paul Bocuse ? It should be a wine bar + meat restaurant – les Halles has a vast majority of seafood restaurants so that one (the name has yet to be finalized) should be a first there. Opening in September ! If any American reading this is traveling to Lyon, France, and is interested in trying out the place, I’ll post the details as soon as it’s open.

  9. lia Says:

    You crack me up! “Oh, did I tell you my husband and his friends are opening a restaurant?” NO! That’s fantastic –c ongrats to Gilbert! Yet ANOTHER excuse to visit Lyon . . .

  10. Anne-Liesse Says:

    A VERY good excuse, indeed !

  11. Kris Says:

    I tried the shrimp dish and it was amazing. Thank you for sharing. My guests were wowed too. I think betwn this blog and Somona being on the cover of Wine Spectator, Rob and I really started to miss the area. We decided to have some new neighbor friends over for dinner. After Cheeses from Sonoma, The Shrimp, Pea Panzella Salad (liked a lot and was really skeptical. Micheal Chiarello), Wine Braised Short Ribs, Blue Cheese Soft Polenta with Brocolli Rabe and Pancetta and Fruit Tart. We started the night with vodka and ended it that way too. Always a good (or bad) sign. How are the “Sonomans” feeling about the cover on WS?

  12. lia Says:

    I’m so glad you tried the prawns . . . and holy moly, what a menu! I think I might have to reciprocate and try your menu here.
    Wild about the WS cover, eh? I did a double take when I saw John and Dusky on the cover, since we were headed to their restaurant, Bovolo, that night for the Chocolate and Zucchini affair (I’ve got a posting on that too). I thought I was just seeing things. Christopher and I found the ‘in’ list a bit interesting, though. I mean, River Rock Casino under the ‘Classic Sonoma’ section? Come on. You and Rob and Jake come on out for another visit and we’ll show you ‘real’ classic Sonoma. And it won’t include a trip to the casino. 😉

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