*I spent the day doing what I love. Cooking and sharing that meal with family. Our family dinner tonight was a celebration of Christy’s birthday. A couple of weeks ago she sent out a request for her birthday menu: roasted chicken, Caesar salad, green beans and rice pilaf, and a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. And she wanted Old Fashioned cocktails served before dinner. Bill said he would take on the cocktail duties. I said I would take on the meal preparation duties.
*Sometime over Christmas break, Christy was looking at my bookshelf of cookbooks, and said she didn’t know I had Julia Child’s cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I had forgot I had it. My friend Anita had sent it to me sometime in the last year or two. After Christy shared her menu requests, I looked up recipes in this cookbook, and found out I could prepare everything on the list from this cookbook, except the Caesar salad. I used the Bon Appetit website for that recipe.
*What a marvelous experience preparing these items. As I mentioned yesterday, I worked on the cake close to six hours on Saturday. I baked four round layers, made an orange filling to go between the layers, and then covered it in a chocolate butter frosting. And it turned out pretty good. The cakes were made by separating eggs, and whisking the egg yolks with sugar and vanilla. Then you take the egg whites and beat them with sugar until they form stiff peaks. Then you fold in the whites with the eggs a little at a time, and also add flour. At the end you add melted butter. Then bake. My right arm is getting stronger from all the whisking I have done in the past two days!!
*I have never been a big Caesar salad fan. But I am now after making homemade Caesar dressing for the salad. You take crushed garlic and salt, and combine it with two large egg yolks, fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, vegetable oil, finely grated Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper. I made the salad with leaf lettuce rather than the traditional Romaine lettuce, because there is an e coli outbreak associated with Romaine lettuce, but the red leaf lettuce worked just fine. Before serving I plated the lettuce, added some dressing, put on some croutons and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. Again, much whisking involved!
*The French way of preparing green beans is to boil them for about 8 minutes, then remove them from the water and cool them off in cold water, dry them off, and then they sat in a colander on the counter until just before they were served. I heated a pan up on the stove, and added the beans to a dry hot frying pan to remove the water. Then I added butter and lemon juice, and heated the beans back up. After putting the beans in a dish, I added some fresh parsley on top.
*The roasted chicken involved lots of basting. To prepare the chicken, you put salt in the cavity and rub softened butter inside the bird. Then you rub the outside with butter as well. I didn’t really truss the chicken as it said to, but I did tie the legs together as it cooked. I melted butter and olive oil on the stove, and this was used to baste the bird every 10 minutes throughout the cooking time until it was gone, then you used the drippings in the bottom of the pan. You also roast the bird on the left side for about an hour, then the right side for 45 minutes, then you roast at the end with the breast side up. Then you take the pan drippings and make a sauce to put over the meat once it is sliced.
*The preparation for the rice pilaf began with sauteing some minced onions in butter. Then you add the rice to the butter and onions and saute the rice until it becomes a milky color, not brown. Then I took the boiling chicken broth from the stove and poured it into the pan and stirred. Then I put a cover on the pan and the rest of the cooking was done in the oven. about 20 minutes later, it came out from the oven cooked perfectly.
*In a world of processed, boxed, convenient food, it was nice to have the time to go through the steps to prepare a meal that was quite labor intensive. But the smiles of satisfaction on my family’s faces as they ate the food made it truly a labor of love. The steps were not difficult to do in these recipes. It just took time. And I loved slowing down today and taking the time to prepare this kind of meal.
*The evening turned out to be slow paced as well. We had some wonderful conversations at the dinner table, then adjourned to the living room, where we continued to talk about a wide variety of topics.