Once a hostess gets north of 40, I think an equal amount of time can be allocated to dinner preparations as dinner recovery time. Saturday night I hosted our family for dinner, including my sister Jacquie and her family from Minneapolis. I’ll admit it, Sunday I was tired!
We started with Brie en croute, which Eddie Ross reminded me makes a great cold-weather appetizer. I don’t have any leaf cookie cutters like Eddie’s, so I used hearts instead; big hit with my little niece Lauren~
For main course, we had a large platter of veal chops, with a medley of potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, caramelized pearl onions and bacon; from Patricia Wells’ Simply French cookbook~
Because my family are chow hounds, I also made twin roast ducks with delicious sauteed apples and a citrus sauce of orange, lime and grapefruit, with a little vinegar and honey; I will be making this sauce again soon, but for chicken. Email me if I can send you the recipe, also from Simply French, it’s too long to retype here! These are the apples, sauteed in a little butter~
I had the table set with what flowers I found at the market in the morning; simple and fragrant sweet peas in a rich mix of pinks & purples~
With deep pink 12” tapers from Point a la Ligne; it made a very pretty table, unfussy but perfect for a cool late-winter evening~
I finished the last presentation plate and sat down; it seemed like I was in my chair for 10 minutes when everyone finished their plates and said they were now ready for dessert, twin apple tartes on puff pastry~
The slices of tarte were topped with homemade cinnamon ice cream, also from Patricia Wells, and a very simple caramel sauce (sugar, butter & cream) that everyone loved so much they put it on their brie and bread before dinner.
The next thing I knew, Jacquie was blowing out the candles on the dinner table (!) and Dad was opening the door to the patio “to let the smoke out” though with the smoke went the two little dogs. Good thing they know the command “inside!”
I had thought to have coffee or tea in the living room and play Bach’s simple minuet on my harp, but everyone seemed to be in an “eat and run” mode and was busy jockeying for leftovers or fussing with the kids. No matter, I sent them all on their way, then relit the candles, and played the minuet and some other melodies by myself.
I spent most of the next morning cleaning up and for a few minutes wondered why I felt dissatisfied with dinner. Or was I? In the end, perhaps I like to host dinner as much for myself as for my guests…While it was work, didn’t I love the dinner preparation, and didn’t we enjoy the leftovers at the same pretty table on Sunday as well? And won’t we be smelling the sweet peas all week? Is there some reason, the challenge perhaps, that I like to prove to myself that I can cook “good” food and host a pretty party? Some inner drive to flex my creative & culinary muscles?
Yes, I think so. Jacquie offered to make dinner of tri-tip roast in a crock pot. Um, I don’t own a crock pot I told her, slightly embarrassed. She may have been happy to have had a tri-tip for dinner, but I would not. Family dinners (especially when we have out of town guests) are special occasions and as such I like to prepare food that we wouldn't eat during the usual week. So...Dinner for my family, dinner for Jacquie but also for myself….What do you think, am I silly? Do you entertain for yourself as much as for your family and guests?