During a manicure at the Nail Bar (literally a nail place that does your manicure at a wood-and-tile bar while you sip wine or cocktails) I offered to let a friend come over one Saturday and we’d spend the day in the kitchen, preparing awesome food and then have a small dinner party with our significant others. And lots of wine.
After many reschedules, we finally had our kitchen day.
Bacon-Wrapped Artichoke Hearts
Individual Beef Wellingtons with Onion Marmalade and Goat Cheese
Garlic Green Beans
Oven-Roasted Red Potatoes
Crullers with Vanilla Ice Cream
Q arrived just after 2pm and we donned our matching aprons and got to work.
Desserts were first (as they should be) since they needed to be prepped, piped and chilled before being fried. And then they could sit.
This was one of the Q’s requests, as the light and airy cruller is her favorite and she really wanted to learn how to make them herself. It’s a testament to our friendship that I agreed as I really don’t like to fry things and these are basically fried cream puffs, unfilled but topped with a glaze. We used Gale Gand’s recipe (via Food Network Online) which says it yields 12 (but I think a single batch will give more than that, based on our own yield). Well, we figured since it was early and we’d want to snack test them for quality we’d increase it by half and make sure we still had plenty for after dinner.
To pipe the crullers you need a pastry bag and a large star tip, which gives you the traditional “tractor tire” ridges. Trace a 3″ circle while keeping even pressure applied to the bag and the same distance from the parchment-lined sheet pan (about half a inch). When you get back to the beginning, stop the pressure but continue to follow the circle around so that the tail hides in the rest of the grooves.
While those chilled, we got started on the next long project: the onion marmalade. Usually a wellington is topped with either pÃƒÂ¢tÃƒÂ© or a duxelles (minced mushrooms, etc. cooked down to a pÃƒÂ¢tÃƒÂ©-like consistency). Since neither of our guys are big mushroom fans, I decided it would be fun to try something new. A quick search yielded a recipe that seemed promising. It was also time-consuming, taking up most of the afternoon waiting for the liquid to reduce. It did give us time to start frying the crullers, though, and glaze them (tip: for all that’s good and flavorful, add some good vanilla to the glaze.)
I want to try the onion recipe again because it’s truly delicious but almost too sweet (yes, I know, I can hardly believe I typed those words, myself) and I want to make it slightly quicker. Not instant, just quicker.
Meanwhile, we pre-cooked the fillets for the wellingtons according to this recipe. In the past I’ve always baked it just the once and been a little apprehensive about getting the meat done enough while not overcooking the pastry. This method of baking the meat til rare, cooling, assembling and then baking just long enough to heat everything and brown the pastry worked so well I’ve adopted it as my new favorite method.
The side dishes are the epitome of simple: steamed green beans sauteed with garlic, olive oil and a last minute addition of the bacon leftover from the marmalade. The potatoes are steamed first, then tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, sage and rosemary with just a dash of chili powder before going into the oven to get nice and golden-brown.
The last thing to be started was the appetizer: bacon-wrapped artichokes are, truly, as simple as they sound. Wrap half an artichoke heart with half a slice of bacon, place on a foil-lined pan and broil until crispy.
Dinner was lovely. It took us about 4 hours to cook and the meal lasted close to 3. Q & I had finished off a bottle of Arbor Mist Blackberry Merlot while we cooked, served a bottle of my favorite Pinot Evil during dinner and then had coffee and Blackberry Wine from Chautauqua Winery with the crullers and ice cream (did you know Breyers has a Lactose Free version? I’m officially in heaven!).
Eclairs and lamb have already been requested for the next Kitchen Day.