French Friday

As I sit at my kitchen table on a early Saturday morning, (my basement office is still unfinished) and write this article, I am still surrounded by just over two dozen empty and partially filled wine glasses. My dining room looks as if Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart did one of their TV shows here about Julia Child’s cooking and left me the mess to clean up! I even did a weak impression of Julia last night just as the wine was opened. *In a Julia Child voice* “And finally, the drinking can begin. Bon Appetit!” At lease the coffee is done and sitting next to me as well as TWO loads if dishes and there is still more to go. If all the prep work involved in French cooking does not scare you away, all the damn dishes should! Thank god for my Whirlpool Dishwasher!

 I will stick with American cooking for a while after this. Maybe, even recipes without cream and butter. Well, maybe just a bit of butter… Let me state also that today’s Sunday posting has none of the recipes from either of my two books. Nope, not one, but it was a marvelous evening of food, friends and wine that enhanced it all.

Sam and I worked on the menu. It was mostly Sam’s suggestions that went into the final menu. I only really wanted to make one dish for last night and that was Beef Wellington. I found out far too late that Beef Wellington is English and decidedly not French. Who knew?! I will return to that issue later.

Our friends showed up right on time, as we were just finishing any last minute prep work. Scott brought with him all the wine for a long evening of drunken debauchery. He was carrying what looked like a very large brown leather suitcase that one would bring to an airport for a long trip.

I said, “Quick, honey, turn off all the lights and be quiet it looks like they are moving in.” I thought I was being funny but no one laughed.

The suitcase, which Scott was carrying, contained serval bottles of wine. Holy cow that was a lot of wine! It was like watching Marry Poppins with her carpetbag as he pulled bottles out of his suitcase and placed it on my counter.

There were five white wines, two reds and one desert wine. That was more wine then there were courses we prepared to serve.

The first course was Julia’s a Fromage e Atelier Fondue that Sam made using a Pinot Grigio by Clos du Bios. Scott paired it with an Italian white wine, Gabriella Pinot Grigio, and a French Pinot Grit. It was the first time using Sam’s new Fondue pot. I set up the pot, grated the cheese, and Sam put it all together. The recipes he “adopted” form Julia’s book. He just left out the seafood, otherwise he kept the cheese, spices and wine consistent. Next was a canapés that Sam’s very talented classically trained French chef cousin, Josie, designed. Who, by the way, should come visit us! She tends to cook Fusion dishes and they are delicious! The canapés were incredible. Scott paired these with a Viognier from Rhone and the Crozes-Hermitage. We now had four half glasses or wine in front of us.

Following the canapés, we had Cornish hens that again came from Julia’s cookbook. The hens were stuffed with a plethora herbs. As they cooked we began basting them with heavy cream. To serve, they were cut in half and Sam coated them with an herb cream sauce that included a bit of lemon juice. They were spectacular (I had never had cornish hens before), especially when paired with one more white wine. Next, was a salad and not just any old salad but some kind of French greens concoction that had eschellets (marinated shallots) on top and it was scrumptious. The salad consisted of mustard greens, romaine lettuce, flat leaf parsley, tarragon, and chives. We even tried one of the red wines with it all while going BACK to the white wines and trying them too. So overall we had six glasses of wine now in front of us. No time to rest on our Loral’s. My beef course was next the beef wellington and peeled asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

I had never made beef wellington and Sam had never made any of the previous dishes. I made two big mistakes: The first was with the dough I purchased at my very local the grocery store. It was phyllo dough and that was a mistake. I should have known better too having worked with it before. As soon as I opened it and saw what it was I said oh $#@&! It was supposed to be a puff pastry. That’s more like a pie crust then phyllo dough. The phyllo dough was too flaky.  The second I didn’t think this dish went at all with the other previous dishes but everyone ate it all saying it was delicious. I was disappointed in myself for not realizing that beef wellington was an English dish. It just did not go with the meal I thought. Another course meant another French red wine. The wine that Scott picked out for the beef dish was perfect of course. Truth be told, after eating the beef I could have used more of the asparagus as it was extraordinary with the wine or perhaps my body is just craving more vegetables!

We did rest on the couch for a bit after the beef but not very long. We all needed to digest and make room for desert. We sat, we talked and we sipped one of our favorite wines from the eight now on the table as we waited for Alysa to return from buying Girl Scout cookies from someone.

 Crème Brule was for the first dessert. This is where Sam’s got to use the brand new kitchen torch we got him for Christmas. Additionally he prepared a Chocolate mousse he just whipped up and the last minutes out of the rest of the heavy cream and some semisweet chocolate morsels. Two deserts… I looked around to make sure I was not on some kind of cruise ship. I usually never eat dessert much less have two in front of me. I came to the realization that I was still in my own dinning room and there would be no waiter or staff either to take care of the dishes. Of course, Scoot had brought a desert wine to go with it! I think it this was my favorite wine of the night. I’m not sure if it was because it was the last wine or just because it was just so damn good. The history lesson on the wine from Scott was pretty cool too. The desert wine was a Clos du Bois, Sonoma Reserve, Knights Valley, FLEUR. It was a late harvest Semillion. Apparently, Semillion wines date back to the time when Napoleon ruled France and he classified the original four vineyards as “First Growth” wines.

After diner, it was late, and time for our friends to return home with a small amount of the leftover beef for their wonderful and huge German shepherds. Jennifer and I both love how good and playful they both are with us whenever we are there.

In the end I think even Snoop Dogg and Martha would have loved it. It was certainly well worth all the dirty dishes I had to run through the dishwasher then put away. At least until next time, in some not too distant future, when we will use them all again for another fabulous meal with friends!

Well that is all I have to say this for week. See you again next week and until then. Stay healthy, be happy and eat well.

The Drunken Chef

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