Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Perfect Evening

I've been singing all week. Mercifully, mostly in my head, not out loud. What a week it was! Right now I'm thinking of this song (see if you can remember the source-only people my age or older need even try):

I'm so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh and sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say ... so long

What a night we had! I'm not ashamed to say I was pretty nervous getting ready for this dinner, dustbunnies and recipe mistakes haunted my dreams. Not to mention the fact that I could not for the life of me, remember the words, not even the tune! to the Notre Dame fight song. You see my Dad had an album (yes vinyl) of the Greatest Football Fight Songs, and it goes without saying that Notre Dame was a member of that club.  With great joy I awoke this morning, after the 4 courses were eaten, the wine was drunk, the dishes were done and all the goodbyes were said and sang out loud:

Hail! Hail! to Old Notre Dame!

Jim was very pleased (as was Bullet) both of them filled with patience from years of enduring life with me. OK I digressed a little too far there. Back to the real deal...

Our Little Mermaid, (Yes, that's right Kathy and Hubbard, I said OUR- we're claiming her too!) is leaving for Graduate school. I bet you can't guess where! **More on the Mermaid reference at the end** Jim and I hosted a dinner party with four of the nicest, brightest and honestly - best looking - kids young adults anywhere. Meg and Mike, Ken and Alison all came out to see the old folks and have a bite to eat. We spent the evening talking and laughing, sharing stories about life, learning things we didn't know about others, and also about ourselves. To me, it was a perfect evening, even with the dust bunnies and recipe mistakes!

Our first course was easy: it was intended to be a Red White and Blue fruit salad in honor of our Independence day and in memory of GrandMaria with whom Jim and Ken and I spent every 4th. However, the white nectarines were not cooperating so a substitution was made with cantaloupe. This salad was dressed with a light vinaigrette of olive oil, fig balsamic, maple syrup, salt pepper and thyme. On the side you'll see a balsamic reduction. Some plates have prosciutto, some have feta, all have toasted almonds. If I do say so myself, this was a refreshing start on a summer's eve.

As you can see we had no shortage of wine glasses and Alison's smile was so lovely I just had to put this otherwise terrible photo in:

The second course is actually a hybrid Keller recipe. In Bouchon there is a recipe for Gnocchi a la Parisienne with summer vegetables. Rather than a potato based gnocchi, it's a pate a choux - a soft dough piped through a pastry bag. When in a Keller recipe you read about warnings that the process may be hard and how to get around the physical difficulties by propping another pan up to rest your arm on -- RUN! Instead, I made his French Laundry Potato Gnocchi and blended it with the summer vegetables. And yes, a recipe mistake was made here.  After baking, rolling chopping, boiling, drying and then freezing the gnocchi, I realized my mistake and was pulling out new potatoes to start over when WSH said something to the effect of "Thomas Keller isn't coming to dinner" and I calmed down. I confessed my sin at the dinner table and Mike said that even though he'd never heard of gnocchi before he could tell I had not riced the potatoes with the first bite! Damn~ : )

The dish was dressed with brown butter, lemon, parsley and sage--brown butter can make up for a multitude of sins in the gnocchi department.

Our main course was simple. Shrimp and Grits. I had worried and changed my mind at least 10 times on exactly how to do this ... that's what happens when I go off-recipe and on my own -- and ended up with grits rather than more roasted veggies, or rice, or pasta, because honestly, grits are very forgiving. The last thing I needed was one more dish that had to come together at the last minute. So the grits were started as dinner began and waited patiently for us as we lingered in conversation. I like that about grits. I lingered in conversation so long that I forgot to add the roasted garlic and marscapone, while Meg and Jim plated up dinner. I like that about Meg and Jim.

I made the marinade the day before from ancho chiles, lime juice, canola oil, vinegar,  roasted garlic, honey salt and pepper and maybe a few other things I can't remember. It seemed very spicy to me but on a test shrimp the heat was not nearly as noticeable. So we sauteed....

And for dessert as is the custom here, we got take out!  We served a tray of individual treats from Whole Foods and they were very well received. We offered coffee, then forgot to make it! Here are the leftovers from dessert

All sorts of mistakes were made but in spite of that, or maybe even in part because of that, everyone had fun. Here are some of our smiling faces.

Meg and Mike

Ken and Alison

The famous WSH

Look out South Bend! Meg will blow you away!

As for the Little Mermaid reference, part of our conversation last night centered on the bands Meg wore on her wrist. The only reason I know about these things is because my darling beautiful incredibly talented and smart sister makes a nice living selling junk. Well, I call it junk, for obvious reasons, she doesn't. Anyway, one of her biggest items at this time is the new craze called Silly Bands. Meg was wearing silly bands.

She gave her Uncle Jimmy one of her bands to keep. It was this one:

I think he will wear it until it breaks. And I also think Alison was a little jealous! /wink The Little Mermaid evidently is a rare Beanie Baby I mean silly band. And anything that makes memories like this certainly deserves not to be called junk. I really am glad we had that time together. It was a wonderful night. Thanks to the young folks who trekked out from the city to the burbs to see us. Best Wishes Meg!

Happy Fourth of July everyone! Let Freedom ring!
See you soon.

Edit** I must have oldtimer's because I can't find the ND lyrics I remember. Here is what I found on the web and these words ring true.

Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame,
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send a volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky!
What though the odds may be great or small,
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching    (and daughters!!!!)

Onward to victory!

No comments:

Post a Comment