Jan. 27th, 2013

snousle: (rakko)
At the suggestion of one of my buddies here in Ukiah, I had a dinner party tonight, the first of my own for a long time. Cobbler's children, and all that; I've been doing it for money for so long now that I had forgotten to do it for my own friends.

The work kind of kicked my ass, since I made two pastry type things from scratch. One, my usual squash ravioli, which I served with lemon beurre blanc. The other, apple turnovers. These are both really labor intensive, particularly in small amounts like that. Also, as it turns out, both are better frozen immediately after assembly than held for even a few hours in their raw state. They both get sticky and hard to handle over the course of the day, which harms them more than the freezing does. Next time, they're getting made in advance for sure.

The other dishes were a tomato and grilled eggplant salad with arugula and mozzarella, panko fried prawns and fennel with a saffron flavored sake reduction sauce, and braised short ribs with lentils, fingering potatoes, and collards. The prawns were both a disappointment and a triumph; disappointing because the prawns themselves were not very good quality, but the sauce was brilliant. I had obsessed over the question of exactly what the perfect foil for a deep fried prawn would be, and the light, sweet, aromatic liquid, with just a bit of cornstarch for body, filled the role exactly right. A few pomegranate seeds rounded it off nicely.

There were supposed to be eleven guests, including ourselves, but one was not feeling well, and another spaced out and forgot to come. This didn't matter so much but it does make seating awkward when it happens. We ended up ditching the extra table, extending our main dining table, and squeezing all nine of us around it. This was a lot better than trying to split it into tables of four and five, which always makes me feel left out somehow.

One thing made me feel really good, though. Dave, who had suggested this in the first place, had NEVER attended a formal multi course dinner before. Not even once. Now, this might not be the most important thing in the world, and if he was really into that he could have always just gone to a fancy restaurant. But finding out that it was his First Time made it kind of special, and reminded me of the kind of magic that a good dinner can bring about.

Otherwise, I'm feeling a little ambivalent about this sort of thing nowadays. I think that in the future I'm not going to do very many of these touchy, high concept dishes anymore. So much washing up!!! There's lots of ways of having a fun party, and I'm thinking that trying to outdo the masters with these heroic concoctions is not where it's at. There's no shame in just serving up a big pot of spaghetti, and I need my energy for other things right now.

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