Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sharlene's second cooking lesson

At the beginning of the summer, Sharlene and I had grand plans to do a number of regular cooking lessons. One month into the fall, we got around to cooking lesson number two. This time around, she made paella. Here she is, looking like quite domestic.

And here is the finished product.
We made vegetarian paella that had artichoke hearts, tomatoes, red bell peppers, peas, carrots, and a healthy dose of saffron. We served the other components (chicken, chorizo, clams, mussel, and shrimp) on the side so everyone could mix and match according to their own preferences. You lose some flavor cooking paella separately like this, but the flexibility it provides makes it a great dinner party dish.

Roasted leg of lamb

Abby and I were shopping at the Market Basket the other day and I decided to pick up a leg of lamb. I hadn't had lamb in a while, and that's about as much excuse as I needed. The thing with this cut, though, is that even the smallest one I could find was way too much for two people, so rather than deal with leftovers, we had Wei Shun, Lauren, and Michael over for dinner.

I prepared the lamb by rolling it out, smothering it with a paste of garlic, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, mustard, salt, and pepper, and trussing it back up again. The lamb was served on top of melted leeks and flageolet beans (these are hard to find, but Christina's spices, right down the street, has all sorts of rare ingredients) in lamb jus. The thing about the beans is that they were dried, and they probably should have soaked for a lot longer. They tasted fine, but the texture was off.

Lake Luzerne

A few weeks ago, Adam and Natalie invited Jon, Katrina, Abby, and me up to the Pollets' cabin on Lake Luzern. When camping...or cabining...or whatever it is we were doing, cooking out is imperative. We spent most of the day playing tennis, vollyball, or swimming and then the guys were sent out to get food for dinner. Being guys, we chose burgers. Cheddar jalapeno burgers, to be precise. Jon and I had made them a week or so earlier and they were good enough to merit a second go-round.

By the time we got around to cooking, it was pretty dark, and the charcoal was really smoky. Good thing Jon never leaves the house without his trusty headlamp.

Clearly, Jon and Adam were psyched about the burgers, although if I were a betting man, I would bet the Jon was slightly more enthusiastic...not sure what would give me that idea.
Natalie and Katrina preferred the corn and grilled vegetables. They were kind enough to share some of the corn with Jon.
The next morning, Katrina made an excellent batch of French toast that was enjoyed by all.

Wedding planning

In early September, Abby and I went to Chicago to go to a friends wedding and get some of our own wedding planning underway. We spent a day running around the city to meet with the photographer, check out a church, a bakery, the venue, and, finally, at the end of the day we went to the caterer's main kitchen for a tasting.

We tried out three salads. Here are two of them. I forgot to take a picture of the third one. We also tried a number of hors d'oeuvres, some good, some not so great. We think we'll go with the last salad pictured. Everyone liked the fresh berries in it, and the flower petals were a nice touch.
The salads were followed by three sample main courses. Fish, chicken, and beef. Surprisingly, the chicken was the best of the three. The fact that they used truffle butter in the chicken probably didn't hurt. I also liked the beef dish, the brussels sprouts in particular, but everyone else seemed to think that a lot of guests would not be as excited about them.

We finished off with a desert plate, which probably won't make an appearance at the wedding.

I don't think any of the dishes will show up on the wedding day menu in their current form, but that gives us a good excuse to go back for another tasting.