And another Solstice is in the history books.
I don't have a lot of photos of the actual event, John has a few on his “real” camera, but we tend to not take a lot of photos once the actual party starts. This year's dinner was a six course sit down meal for ten of our friends, most of whom are also neighbors. I consider myself a lucky woman to have that many people to cook and enjoy a fine meal for/with, and the fact that they are neighbors as well is a lovely bonus. I know a lot of people who don't even know their neighbors, much less like them enough to invite them to dinner.
Here's Lewey at the groomer getting ready.
Here is the menu:
That's mostly correct. The pork roast recipe came from the December/January issue of Fine Cooking, I did the roast per the recipe, but just ended up making up the sauce. The dried morels were hideously expensive, so I used part morels and part cremini mushrooms, and it was white wine and cream instead of red wine. I sauteed the sliced crimini mushrooms in butter, added white wine and the morel soaking sauce and cooked that down some, then added cream and cooked it more to thicken it. I added the morels at the very end so they didn't fall apart. The sauce in the recipe called for using the pan drippings, but I just made it ahead so I didn't have that last minute thing to do.
The appetizers were Jacques Pepin's salmon rillettes, from his new cookbook and PBS series. This was a huge hit, and can be made well ahead. I have two of these little pots of rillettes left. I'm thinking football game day food. This was served with crackers, though it would be good on baguette slices as well.
The other two appetizers were from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table cookbook. Seriously, go buy this. Most of the recipes are not fidgety, they can be prepared with readily available ingredients, and work well for parties (or just-the-two-of-us meals). The herbed olives are just that, olives in a herb blend that really kick up a plain olive mix. The tomato tarts as she does them are for more of a larger sit down course, I made them as individual tarts. They use puff pastry that you can bake ahead, then top with tapenade (I used store bought), a slice of tomato and mozzarella. Pop them under the broiler for a few minutes, then add salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil and good balsamic vinegar and basil.
The ceviche was also from her cookbook.
No photo of the soup, also Dorie's recipe. I made this on pure faith, pretty convinced that it would be weird. It uses pears, leeks, onion, celery, and vacuum packed chestnuts, all cooked together in stock ( I used turkey stock since I have a surplus in the freezer). When it was done I ran it through my food mill. You can made this ahead, it doesn't have any cream/dairy so it keeps for a few days. I stirred a bit of creme fraiche into it before serving. It was actually very good.
The salad was mixed greens: romaine, radicchio, escarole, frisee, tossed with a basic vinaigrette, and topped with chopped pecans.
The pork couldn't have been easier. I've never done one of these, but you just season it with the herb blend the day before and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator, then roast when you need it. Ask your butcher for a bone-in pork rib roast, frenched. Count on one rib per person for a generous serving. I served this with the mushroom/white wine cream sauce. Did I mention there was a lot of cream in this menu?
The same issue of Fine Cooking has two recipes for a potato gratin, I did the “fancier” version but left out the chestnuts since I thought that might be chestnut overkill. Next time I might add them. It's a fairly standard gratin recipe, but with a layer of sauteed prosciutto added before the gruyere cheese. It was divine. It had a lot of cream, bacon, and a ton of really good gruyere cheese.
And roasted beets, for some reason beets have become a Solstice tradition. I usually serve them in one form or another. I just toss these in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, toss in some rosemary sprigs and roast. There are some shallots in there as well.
And trifle. I haven't made a trifle in quite a while. See my last post for the recipe and photos. There was fortunately some left, we had it for breakfast this morning.
One of the things I've discovered over the years of doing big dinners like this is to minimize the number of last minute fidgety things that need to be done. We served from the kitchen in courses, so while a guest or two are helping clear the previous course, I have time to plate the next one. Plenty of wine helps as well to keep people occupied during course changes.
The other important thing is planning. I plan the menu well ahead, get all the shopping done based on the menu, then have lists and more lists. I have a detailed game plan of what gets done when, which helps me identify stuff that can be done ahead. It also helps identify when I've planned a menu with too many last minute fidgety things. John periodically reminds me of THAT ONE year when I didn't plan so well, and there was a lot of chaos at dinner time. Planning ahead also helps cut down duplication, for example, if I have multiple items with chopped or sliced onions, a detailed plan lets me know that so I can do them all at once.
There you go. I think it was a successful event, if the number of wine glasses are any indication.
And here is my pretty table before dinner:
And cleaned up, ready for the next meal!