Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shut Up and Eat!

Yesterday was my day off so I had invited a friend over for dinner and, inevitably, sleep over. I say inevitably because when there's that much food (I prepared a five-course meal) you know that wine will be flowing so you better have a bed available for your guest(s).

My challenge was to make as much in advance as I could so I can spend time with my friend, yet have the food hot, instead of lukewarm or, worse, cold. Also, I couldn't cook until the very last minute because I would have to get ready and also pick my guest up at the train station. SO you see, I had to plan my day carefully and not waste a moment which is why, after shopping for food and liquor I stopped at Starbucks -- you didn't think I'd skip Starbucks today, did you? -- and spent an hour chatting with a friend.

I returned home at 2 pm which, by my calculations, left me with three hours to do everything, including clean-up. Since I was to use about 20 various pots, pans, the ricer, baking trays, three cutting boards and different knives the cleanup could take a while.

So at 2 pm (is this boring for you?!?) I set the oven to 425F and while waiting for it to heat I started prepping. I cut one head of cauliflower into 1-2 inch pieces for roasting, tossed it with olive oil, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of thyme. (This was the beginning of the Roasted Cauliflower Bisque). Onto a baking tray went the cauliflower. I also got out two eggplants and set them on a cookie sheet lined with foil for easy cleanup. Oven pre-heated, I stuck both the cauliflower and eggplant into oven -- it would take 20 minutes for the cauliflower to roast (and longer for the eggplant to bake). As the cauliflower was roasting I chopped the leeks for the bisque and cooked over medium heat until soft. I added the stock and simmered for 10 minutes, by which time the cauliflower was ready to come out of the oven and be added to the simmering stock.
As the eggplant still needs time I proceeded to scoop out the flesh of three perfect, unblemished, hot-house tomatoes. Sorry, I didn't take step by step photos... I had no time to play around with the camera too! I did, however, take photo of the finished product. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Eggplants are now ready. I peeled them and set them in a strainer to get rid of the juices and also cool them at the same time.

The soup is now ready to come off the heat and be pureed, so I do that. I return the bisque to the pot and that's that, one dish down. I would later reheat, add cream and lemon juice to finish it off, and serve it topped with chives.
Eggplant is still too warm so I move onto peeling and quartering some Yukon Golds, get them in water and have them ready. I would not start the garlic potato puree until much later on, at dinner time, but all it would take would be heat and time. I still have to tenderize the chicken and bread it but I want to finish everything before I start playing with the raw chicken. So I finish off the eggplant salad by finely chopping the eggplant (I did it by hand but you can use a food processor I suppose), adding mayo and finely chopped shallots to it. Stuff it into the hollowed out tomatoes, add garnish, and voila!

Two dishes down (the bisque and the eggplant), I have only two to go because the dessert I would not make ahead of time.
I'll skip the rest of the play-by-play because I think you got the picture. It was go, go, go until 5 pm when it was time to get the kitchen cleaned up and myself ready. In the car by six, at the station at 6:10 and by 6:25 pm we're all basking in the late afternoon sun, food and wine in hand.

Three hours later we're still eating and both my partner and my guest are yelling "uncle!" Plates got pushed aside, it was simply too much food!

Dessert was not until midnight -- we were too full -- and I didn't take a picture. I will recreate and photograph it later today but if you must know right now, it was a simple rum-soaked loaf cake with flambe berry compote. Colourful to look at and the rum in it made it oh so tasty at 12:30 am...
Also after much food and wine my friend came up with an idea on how I would pimp myself out (although I think she used the term marketing and offered to take upon herself said task) and what my shtick will be (branding?). We have all decided that I will develop into the female version of Chef Gordon Ramsay (given my rather limited patience in watching others make a mockery of prepping/cooking). She even came up with the idea of a bobble-head doll of me wielding a Chef's knife. I think she had too much wine.

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