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Entertaining, Holidays

Hello 2012!

Happy new year everyone! May it be a year filled with health, love and good food!

Our potluck dinner party on New Year’s Eve was a lot of fun and oh so very tasty and creative..my friends definitely outdid themselves putting together a great meal for all of us to share in celebration of the end of one great year and the start of a hopefully even better one.

On the menu:

Team Amuse-Bouche: crostini duo, one with thinly-layered smoked salmon, fresh mango, creme fraiche and chives, and another topped with a slice of parmiggiano with honeycomb and basil, paired with a flute of champagne and fresh holly berries. Truly ingenious all around.

Amuse-bouche spread

Team Entrée: shot of cold and spicy zucchini-curry soup with garlic croutons, followed by a pizzette of sauteed mushrooms (including delicious fresh chanterelles!), parmeggiano and creme sauce on a puff pastry crust, paired with a mojito-champagne cocktail. This course, particularly the pizzette, somehow managed to turn comfort food into chic party fare.

Zucchini-curry soup

Mushroom pizzette

Team Salad: smoked duck salad with baby spinach leaves, avocado, orange sections, grilled red peppers, baby mozzarella and basil on a cherry tomato, dressed with a French vinaigrette, paired with an orange liquer cocktail with sugar-rimmed glasses and orange peel. I must commend the meticulous attention to detail that this team invested into making what most people would consider a very simple/easy course.

Salad course and orange cocktail

Team Main Course (my team): slow roasted 7-spice rubbed beef with a mushroom gravy, maple-glazed sweet potatoes with balsamic caramelized onions, and lightly buttered French green beans, paired with cabernet-sauvignon

Slow-roasted beef with maple glazed sweet potatoes, caramelized onions and green beans (I was busy plating and serving so this is sadly the only picture I have!)

Team Dessert:lemon-meringue tart paired with a flute of champagne with strawberry puree. Classic but delicious. Dessert often loses in food competitions, but this was our winning team!

Lemon-meringue tart...the winning dish!

I must say foodies, this dinner was truly a big learning experience for me. I think I have been lucky so far that every time I’ve cooked a big meal for a dinner party, things thankfully always ran quite smoothly and I have managed to avoid any big disasters (well, at least I haven’t had to deal with any that were unfixable), and I would even dare say that I have been proud of the meals I’ve produced. But for some reason this time around I experienced first hand the panic that comes from discovering a bit too late that the meal you’re cooking is not coming together exactly as planned. To be fair, I would say that the meal was festive and delicious, and I’m pretty sure everyone had a great time. However, I also sadly learned the hard way that it is not the best idea to attempt making a main dish using an unusual cut of meat (brisket) when you’re buying from a butcher in a small French-speaking Alpine ski town on the morning of New Year’s Eve. My French is pretty decent, but sadly none of my language classes covered conversations with butchers about a cut of meat that is quite rare in Europe. So we ended up with what the guy described as “shoulder steak,” which I can only assume comes from the chuck portion of the cow, and I was disappointed to discover (as we were carving the meat!) that it was much fattier than expected, with unsightly veins of fat running through it. The sweet potatoes were not ripe enough, the maple syrup was a bit runny, and all in all our course turned out fine but was just a bit…average. And I HATE average, especially when I know I am capable of better…maybe it was too ambitious given that I was cooking in a new setting, at altitude, without my usual utensils, etc and that a main course in a potluck is a big responsibility to begin with, but whatever the case, it is still quite a disappointment not to have put together a meal that I can truly say I was proud of. Oh well…admittedly not my finest culinary moment, but live and learn, right? They say that failure is just as important in the learning process as success, so I guess I’m just thankful that this was a mini-failure rather than a spectacularly disastrous one. I just wish it hadn’t happened on New Years!

How was your New Year’s Eve? Any fabulous culinary feats? Any disasters?

In good health,

F

New Year 2012 photo credit (top): designyoutrust.com

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