A special dinner

My wife and I try to have my sister-in-law and brother-in-law over for dinner at least once a year for a special couples evening.  Gourmet food, good libation, interesting discussions, good company, and fun.  We had plans for this Saturday Sept 26, but with the passing of the girl’s grandfather there was some doubt as to whether to proceed.  My mother-in-law was the driving influence; she insisted we continue with our plans.

You must understand that my interest in a gourmet experience causes me to plan these events with the most exacting detail.  I keep the shopping to the very end but I know what I am going to prepare, when, and how.  And I attempt to create an experience in keeping with the best restaurants in the country.

There is a restaurant in Kansas City, MO called The American Restaurant whose service and ambience is exquisite.  It is the kind of environment that is a once in a lifetime experience.  unless, of course, you come to my house.

The opener was three types of dips/spreads/pates: Olive Pate, Greek Style (previously outlined in this blog), Salmon Pate (a particular favorite of my brother-in-law); and Hummus (a recipe from The Three Stooges cookbook–How about THAT for gourmet?).  These were served with warmed pita and pita chips.

The next course was a French Onion Soup.  It was from a ridiculously easy crockpot cookbook but the nature of the soup itself yields that sense of “Aah!’ in any meal.  The gooey broiled cheese on top is rather fun as well.

The appetizer course was a Leek and Prosciutto Empanadas.  In one regard I goofed because I used the green part of the leek instead of the white as the recipe called for.  But my wife and I felt it lent an earthiness to the recipe that might not have been there.  Coincidentally, the same cheese used on the soup was used in the emapanadas.

The salad course was the self-named H.B. Salad.  Many years ago, while trying to put together a quick stylish dinner for my wife, i threw together some “leftover” items to create this salad.  It is made of mixed greens, sliced avocado, shredded carrot, diced leek (the white part–again the continuity of items), rolled filet of anchovies, and sunflower seeds.  Any dressing or vinaigrette can accompany this salad.  Last night I used a Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette, heavy on the chopped garlic.  {In our family there is the strong belief that there is no such thing as too much garlic.}

The entree was a Chicken with Raspberry Sauce, Blanched Asparagus sauted in olive oil with shallots and garlic, and a Rice Pilaf with diced onion, slivered almonds, and a dash of orange juice cooked in beef broth.   The sauce for the chicken contained raspberry preserves, sweet vermouth, lime juice, and chopped chives.  It was thick and not overly sweet.  The thickness of the sauce came from the fact that the chicken was dredged in flour and pan fried in butter.  I did worry about the asparagus because, like green beans, they get cold quickly, although they are not overly repugnant in that fashion.

The dessert was a personal favorite of my sister-in-law: Vanilla Bean Flan.  Unlike the typical Creme Brulee, this dessert presents a richness and elegance that is not typically found in most household dinners.  I served it with pressed coffee and introduced my guests to Limoncello.  As for after dinner libations, I had always been fond of Amoretto di Saronno and my wife favored Frangelico.  These are delightful in moderation but are quite syrupy and do not lend themselves to more than one small glass.  Limoncello, as a digestif, is cleansing on the palette and refreshes after consuming a rich meal.

Coming on the heals of the viewing at the mortuary, this evening was a welcome relief, a cleansing of the spirit as well.  And so it should be that such a culinary experience should be more than just about the food but the food should lead to a greater awareness of the complexity and strangeness and joy of Life.

We look forward to another evening with our dear family members who we treasure greatly.

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