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You’ve been served: Dinner party

OrangesaladAs promised, we  had  a dinner party last night, which went swimmingly. It started out as an Italian-themed evening. However, as we planned the four-course menu the entrée evolved from Italian to Southern. Funny how it never occurred to me before how similar the cuisines really are.

We kicked things off with a pitcher of cosmos, just to get things moving. After initial conversation over cocktails and some lovely Humboldt Fog and olives, we hunkered down to dinner. Unfortunately we wre too busy entertaining to photograph each dish, so you’ll have to rely on my descriptions beyond the salad course. The menu and notes after the jump.

Salad of blood orange, shaved fennel, red onions and parmigiano. We
left the salad undressed, allowing everyone to season to their own
tastes with fresh-cracked black pepper, sel d’épices with rosemary and
lavender, McEvoy Ranch extra-virgin olive oil and 8-year balsamico that
we brought back from Bologna.

Tortellini in brodo. Using chicken stock we made last weekend, we steeped some dried porcini to deepen the flavor. We then boiled (store-bought) tortellini in the broth and reintroduced the chopped porcini during plating. A crack of black pepper and fresh grate of parmigiano finished the dish.

Costalette di maiale milanese con cavolo fritto e purè di patate.
That’s fancy Italian talkf or fried porkchop with cooked greens and mashed potatoes. We took boneless, pounded porkchops, lightly floured and fried it until just rare, then set it in a warm oven to keep until ready to serve. The greens were a combination of Swiss chard and mustard greens, all organic. We rendered 4 strips of bacon, cooked onions and leeks in the rendered fat, then added the stalks of the greens. When they were just tender, we added the chopped leaves, some pepper flake and a squeeze of lemon and braised them gently. The mashed potatoes were our standard method, except that we had a garlic compound butter left in the fridge which we added to the hot milk, which gave it a pleasant garlicky flavor without being overpowering.

Truthfully, the only component of this dish you would not find on the Italian table is mashed potatoes; you would likely find roasted potatoes, however. Again, we were surprised by the intersection of these cuisines.

Torta d’Etna. Yeah, ok, otherwise known as chocolate volcano cakes. We popped the cakes out of the ramekins and reinverted them, right side up, on a bed of strawberry-blueberry purée.

The intent for these dishes was to be cakey on the outside and molten on the inside. Instead, they ended up a bit evenly soft throughout. This is not an altogether bad thing, and it certainly had a robust chocolate flavor. But next time we’ll crank up the oven a bit to cook the outer edges and seal in the molten goodness.

At any rate, it must have been good, as the only plate that came back to the kitchen less than spotless was my dessert, as I was just too full to finish it.

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