When you have a dinner party and you have to write a blog a few days later, you might want to have a camera nearby to take photos of that gorgeous and delicious meal that you just prepared. However, I failed to do so, which means that this blog will have descriptions of a truly beautiful and delicious meal. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
A couple of friends came over for dinner and a movie last weekend. These friends have come over numerous times, so I decided to use them as my guinea pigs and try out a new recipe on them. We started out with a simple appetizer of cheese and fruit. The cheeses and breads came from a fairly new place in my neighborhood that I’ve wanted to try for a while now, Baker and Nosh on Wilson Street. They are incredible artisanal bakers and have a great array of products for noshing. And since I spotted it there, why not pick up a pint of Salted Caramel Gelato to go with dessert? Easy peasy!
Dinner began with a traditional Caesar Salad with all the fixings. I used the best of the romaine hearts and made croutons from a French baguette. I hate those tiny croutons that you find in most grocery stores, so I cut mine into fairly large cubes. I coated them in butter, olive oil, a Mediterranean sea salt blend and a touch of smoky paprika, spread them out on a baking sheet and baked to a nice crispy crunchy texture in a 425 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes. It’s easy and nobody should have to buy croutons from a grocery store.
As for the dressing, here’s the recipe I used. It’s fool-proof and full of flavor:
In a wooden salad bowl, smash 4 anchovy filets along with 2 cloves of mashed garlic and ½ a teaspoon of coarse salt, using a couple of forks until it formed a paste. Next, add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard and whisk everything together. Slowly drizzle and whisk in ½ cup extra virgin olive oil until you have a completely emulsified dressing. Add some fresh cracked pepper, lettuce and gently toss with your hands, coating all the leaves and being careful not to tear any. Place the leaves on chilled salad plates, top with your crisp croutons and shavings or gratings of a good Parmesan cheese.
It’s such a delicious salad and looked so gorgeous on this salad plate. I’m sure you can just imagine the crispy green salad, croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese on it.
Scallops & Polenta
My friends are pescatarians, so there’s no meat in this meal. I decided on seared scallops in a wild mushroom sauce and served on top of creamy polenta. I was most pleased with the sautéed wild mushrooms that included crimini, chanterelle, oyster and shitake. I sautéed the mushrooms in two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil, scallions, fresh thyme, deglazed with a Spanish sherry and reduced by half. Next, I added ½ cup of mushroom broth, again reduced by less than half the original liquid. Then I added 3 cups of fresh baby spinach leaves until those wilted, ½ cup of heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste and let the mixture thicken slightly.
I served seared sea scallops on top. The scallops were seared in butter and olive oil until they were a nice golden brown and had a nice caramelization on them. I plated the dish in a nice wide, shallow pasta bowl. I placed a couple of dollops of the creamy polenta, topped it with the creamy wild mushroom mixture and placed the sea scallops on top. I gave five scallops to each guest since they were a bit small. I topped it with some fresh cracked pepper, a drizzle of truffle oil and some grated Parmesan cheese. This was also a delicious and gorgeous dish. Can’t you tell by this beautiful empty pasta bowl?
My dessert was an Apple Tarte Tatin, and I did manage to take a photo of that. It was awesome, especially with a scoop of Salted Caramel Gelato on every slice.
So, when having a dinner party that you want to remember, recreate or just show off, keep the camera close by! Experiment with angles, lighting, close ups, black and white. Show the world what your passion for food has create and then relax and enjoy your delicious meal. I certainly learned my lesson!
By the way, the movie that night was “Before Midnight” starring Ethan Hawke and Julia Delpy. Great movie, amazing company and a truly remarkable meal.