Amy wanted to have some people over for dinner for her birthday. This was really not a big deal. Turns out we had seven for dinner. Our original menu was Poulet Basquaise with saffron risotto, a salad with the sherry vinaigrette that I made a while back, and then she was making an English Fool. Sorry, I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures.
The English Fool was a very easy thing indeed to make. It is essentially fruit in a syrup folded into whipped cream. We decided, because we had some very local pears, to poach them in port, and fold that into the whipped cream! Port poached pears are exactly what they sound like, and make an amazing gluten-free dessert by themselves! If you want to try them, all you need to do is peel a a few pears, one per person. Leave the stem in, and maybe a little bit of the top with the peel on. Set them in a sauce pan. Then pour a full bottle of port in with them, add about a cup of sugar, a couple of cinnamon sticks, a little allspice. Bring it to a boil, and then simmer until the pears are tender. Take the pears out of the pan, then return to a boil, and reduce it to thick syrup. This is your sauce, serve it with ice cream or creme anglaise, and you are going to be amazed. In this case I cubed the pears before they went into the pot. Otherwise it worked the same. After dinner Amy whipped the cream, and folded the pears, and the syrup into the cream. It was very good.
The main course was a bit more time consuming, but fairly easy since I have done it a couple of times already. First prep all of the veggies. I had always thought that there was plenty of the veggies in the original recipe, and I didn’t even add any more this time. As far as quantity goes, the only change I made was to cook a second chicken. We bought whole birds to save a little money, and it also tends to get you a nicer bird. Parts can come from birds that didn’t hold up well during processing or for whatever reason weren’t in as good of shape. I’m not going to get into the politics of eating meat, but if you think about it as a producer you want as little waste as possible, and you’ll sell what you can.
The only thing that I did differently was that rather than searing the chicken in the pot, and letting it simmer with the veggies to finish I put the chicken on a sheet tray and finished it in the oven. This allowed me to make sure that the chicken was all cooked through, and also cook the veggies. I thought about doing it all in the same pot, but when I tried there was just not enough room.
That experiment is what caused a slight change in menu. Like I said before I had planned on saffron risotto. What we had was a saffron rice pilaf. I turned the wrong pot off when I was transferring the chicken to a sheet tray, and ended up burning the last of the arborio rice we had. Amy had some normal long grain rice, but since I already had a pot with chicken broth and saffron I decided to switch rices. I quickly cleaned the pot, and started over. Pilaf is a method of cooking rice, but you could also use it for other things as well. Just like with risotto you toast the rice in a little oil, add some onions, and then just pour in all of your liquid. Bring it to a boil, cover, turn down the heat, and let it cook for 10 minutes on low, and then turn off the heat, and let the rice sit for 10 more minutes. This gives you rice that is separate grains, and not sticky. It is also a bit simpler to do than risotto!
While guests were arriving we threw together a little cheese plate. Amy loves dairy in general, and cheese is a special favorite. We had a Tillamook cheddar, some Jarlsberg, and smoked gouda, some sliced apples, and everyone was happy to munch while dinner was coming together. I also found a couple of nicer cheeses for Amy. I got her a piece of Petit Basque, and a small piece of a cloth bound cheddar. Petite Basque is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese which I had tried at work, and really liked. Amy and I really like sharp cheddar, and the one I got for her is certainly sharp! It is a mature cheese, and is somewhat crumbly, and has some a bit of graininess caused by calcium lactate crystals which form during the aging process. Very nice!
Everyone had a great time, and enjoyed the food quite a bit. Happy Birthday Amy!