Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Just what I needed

My book group met yesterday evening and it was just what I needed.

I'd been having one of "those" days. The three year old kept shouting at me "I'm taking you to jail, but you have to drive!" every time I asked her to do something (it's cute the first time or two that you hear you have to drive yourself to your own incarceration; it gets less funny the 30th time...). The six year old has been obsessed with the computer lately and cares more about it than any humans; yesterday was no exception and included some epic battles of wills with his teachers. He followed that up on the way home from school with one of those confusing/disturbing declarations: "I was too sad to go to my focus study so I got to go spend time with Kit (the librarian) who is always really kind to me." I tried to dig and find out what the hell that sentence meant--why was he sad? had someone been unkind to him? Kit is a lovely person and I can understand why he'd want to spend time with her, but what was the problem with his focus study (which is this really cool two week long mini course that the kids get to do three times a year at his school)? But it was like talking to a wall: I couldn't get any information out of him.

By 4:30 I felt like I had been banging my head into a post for a few hours--dazed, confused and with my confidence in my mommy-skills totally shot. There were moments yesterday when I thought about handing the kids off to Brian and just going upstairs and crawling into bed, but somehow I got myself into the kitchen to make my contribution to the book group feast and Sarah and Lea picked up my sorry ass and drove me out to Ami's house.

It took 3 large glasses of wine and some pretty potent chocolate, but after an evening with these culinary therapies, and the best therapy of all, the company of some wonderful women, I felt a whole lot better.

We talked about Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (which I raved about here) and as the narrator reflects back on her upstate New York adolescence from her present location of Paris, we had French food. Well, sort of French...Everyone else made French food and I brought an Italian antipasti that I'd been wanting to make since I was given this book for Christmas.

We started by sipping (or in my case, swilling) a really nice wine that Marilyn brought which, despite its rude name, Fat Bastard, is from Languedoc grapes (look at the cute hippo on the label!) With it we had my antipasti:
warm Gorgonzola custards with an arugula, pear, and walnut salad

The custards didn't come out of their ramekins as nicely as I'd have liked and so looked a little like a pile of scrambled eggs, but they tasted fine. The combination of the cream and eggs mellowed the bite of the Gorgonzola and the pear, arugula, walnut salad was the perfect bit of sweetness and freshness to keep the custards from being overwhelming. The dressing couldn't have been simpler, a little walnut oil and some balsamic, but I used really good balsamic, an 18 year old one from Morgan and York ($18 for 18 years, seems like a good deal to me!) and it really made a difference.

Then Ami served a gorgeous, huge, juicy, roasted chicken and made some smashed-then-roasted potatoes that were fantastic (must get the January 2007 copy of Fine Cooking for the recipes).
Sarah brought a classic salade crudite with matchstick beets, celery root and carrots in a shallot vinaigrette:
The sharpness of the vegetables cut through the richness of the chicken and potatoes--really a lovely pairing.

And then it was on to chocolate therapy provided by our favorite sweet-tooth of the group, Lea:
pots de creme with an ample dollop of whipped cream

John came in an pulled an expert intense espresso to go with the dessert. I decided to also have a little more wine...

my kind of triumvirate: red wine, chocolate and espresso

I got myself into a blissful groove of alternating a sip of espresso--a bite of pot de creme--a sip of wine--a bite of pot de creme--a sip of espresso--a bite of pot de creme, etc.

And by the time Sarah delivered me back to my door, with a full belly and a buzzy brain from the wine/espresso combo, I felt like I could face another day, no matter how flawed it may be.


Anonymous said...

I'm dyin' here, just dyin'.

Anonymous said...

"The custards didn't come out of their ramekins as nicely as I'd have liked and so looked a little like a pile of scrambled eggs, but they tasted fine."

Fine? Manohman, that dish was one of the most amazing of yours that I've had. I look forward to seeing the recipe, though even if I try to make it, it won't have the Kate touch.