Monday, February 5, 2007

The Great Bistro Feast of '07

For the past 4 years we have donated a "French bistro feast for 4" to the auction at The Child's old school. Except that by special arrangment, it is purchased every year by the same group of people and there are more than 4 of them. They bring the wine, we do the rest.

We have always had a great time at this event (and it looks like we'll do it again because this year Sandy procured it before the end of the first course) but this year seemed like the most fun yet. I don't even know what it was in particular but we just laughed all night long and it was beyond enjoyable.

Plus, and I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but dang! This year I surprised even myself with the general tastiness of the meal. Seriously, if I'd had this meal in a restaurant I would be telling everyone to get themselves post-haste to Chez Whatever. It was that good.

Apertif was, as always, green olives that have been sprinkled with orange zest and gently warmed. Goes great with champagne.

Orange Olives16 oz. good quality green olives (I like this with pimento stuffed olives but whatever you like)1 orange Drain the olives and place on serving platter. Zest the entire orange over the olives, holding it low to the plate so the orange oil sprays onto the olives (I don't know that this really makes a difference but I like thinking it does) Place platter in microwave for 30 seconds and serve.

For the first course, I baked a little loaf of honey-wheat-walnut bread. This was toasted and served with a rough country pate, which I absolutely did not make myself because Trader Joe's has an excellent one, a little smidge of Dijon mustard and cornichon.

The entree was a beef daube that was so superfantastic I want to make it every week. First came a mix of tomatoes, onions, garlic, capers, anchovy paste & chopped cornichon.

This was then layered in a big pot with thin slices of chuck roast and topped with a bouquet garni. It cooked on low all afternoon and voila! a pot of sheer ambrosia.

We served it with a gratin of potatoes, parsley and cream plus a little dollop of a carrot-yellow pepper puree (mostly just for color but it was really tasty).

Here's the progress of the gratin: first a buttered dish and a bay leaf.

Then potatoes, each layer sprinkled with chopped parsley and salt. Pour cream over it all, top with dollops of butter and another bay leaf. Bake.

Couldn't be easier. It comes out so rich and silky and surprisingly full of flavor. And not a smidge of cheese anywhere. (Not that cheese is ever a bad thing).

The hostessing became so engrossing that I sometimes forgot to photograph the food, if you can believe that. So you'll have to take it on faith that the entree was followed by a delicious salad of arugula, pancetta, Kalamata olives and large shavings of Parmesan, tossed in a lemon/olive oil dressing. Very refreshing and tasty. Then there was a cheese course with more of the walnut bread and table water crackers. 3 cheeses: manchengo, chevre with warm honey and a blissfully good Stilton with cranberries.

For dessert, I made crepes which were rolled around vanilla ice cream and frozen. They were served with raspberries and a hot fudge-rum sauce.

This leaning tower of ramekins gives you an idea of the state of the kitchen afterwards.

But we didn't care because this is what it looked like in the other room:

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