Tuesday, March 11, 2008

recipe renovation

As anyone who has ever cooked dinner most nights of the week knows, it's very tempting to fall into a routine of making the same few recipes over and over again. For a while, every time my mother would call while I was making dinner -- which she did fairly regularly but definitely not every night -- I was making my turkey meatballs with some kind of sautéed vegetable. She finally said she started to think all I ever made anymore was turkey meatballs.

This is clearly not true. It's also not entirely false.

Anyway, I have realized that I have what amounts to just a few different preparations for each kind of main-dish protein that I cook. I have a couple of different marinades or sauces for pork, for steak, for fish of varied kinds, and, yes, for turkey (ground, in the meatball case). I have a slightly larger répétoire for chicken, based on whether I'm making skinless/boneless, on-bone, or a whole roaster, although some of the versions can be applied across chicken formats. Sometimes I'll make a special dish of herb-crusted rack of lamb, and I can riff on a frittata til the cows -- er, chickens -- come home.

And lest anyone ask, although knowing my readership I can't imagine many will -- I enjoy tofu. I just don't cook with it.

But sometimes, one gets bored of the same old same old. So, last weekend, when my best friend and her husband (squee!) were in town visiting, I threw a small dinner party.

My friend David -- the French-trained chef-cum-guybrarian (his word) at school -- and his wife came. Sam, inasmuch as he is still in residence, also attended. And David and I cooked.

First course: Kir royales with bruschetta.
Second course: Seared sea scallops on arugula with toasted walnuts, shaved parmiggiano, and white balsamic-truffle vinaigrette. Wine.
Third course: Mango granita. More wine.
Fourth course: Bacon-wrapped petits filets with mushroom sauce, chive-truffle-garlic mashed baby red potatoes, and herbed asparagus tips. Even more wine.
Fifth course: Truffles. Oh, and wine.
Sixth course: Explode. With wine.

No, actually, the sixth course was a few awesomely wonderful rounds of Movies in a Hat after the Bonners had departed to relieve their sitter from year-and-a-half-old Kennedy duty. (I had invited the baby, but apparently, despite her love of steak, she had better things to do with her evening, like watch Fraggle Rock with a sixteen-year-old neighbor girl. Sheesh. Silly toddlers.) I laughed so hard that I hurt for a day after. Oh, and we drank more wine.

Anyway. It was a triumph of the taste buds, and playing sous-chef was a blast. My apartment kind of still smells a little like scallops, but that doesn't bother me. I may not have professional chefdom in my future, but I can whip out a fancy dinner party, and that is pretty exciting ... particularly on another turkey meatball night.

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