julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

Hidey Ho, Neighbor!

Dinner With Neighbors

I’m happy to report that our “meet the neighbors” dinner party last night was a success!! We’ve lived in our house almost a year now, and while we’ve visited with our next door neighbor David out in the driveway several times, we’ve never really had a chance to get to know his wife Jennifer. With two young girls at home and an early bedtime, their busy schedules don’t allow many opportunities to do much beyond the normal daily routine.

But last night, Jennifer’s folks (who live in our neighborhood) took the girls, and we had a night of good food and great conversation. I got home about 6:00 and made the bitokes a la russe. My goal was to finish these before our guests arrived, because usually when I make this dish, it’s inevitable that our kitchen gets more than a little smoky. Since I usually cut our recipes in half, I didn’t take into account this meal would take twice as long to cook, but I finished them just in time. I made a total of 10 patties for four people – they always shrink up significantly in the pan – and we had 2 patties leftover at the end of the night, so it was just the right amount.

David and Jennifer showed up around 7:00, which was perfect timing. We sat and visited for a little bit, and then Ben gave them a tour of the house while I made the sauce madere for our meat (super easy – mix a little corn starch with beef stock, let it simmer, then add some madeira to the pan the meat had cooked in and finally pour both mixtures together). I also reheated the potage veloute and added a mixture of eggs and cream, finishing it with a little butter. I set out the salad and some various dressings, and we were ready to try our first course.

Jennifer’s not a soup person (both she and David knew about the Julia challenge and I gave the disclaimer that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they didn’t want to try something, or if they tried it but didn’t like it), so she had some salad. The rest of us tried the soup, and I have to say, it was excellent! Really creamy with great mushroom flavor; not too thick but not too runny. I went back for seconds and if you like mushroom soup, you must try this recipe. I would definitely make this again.

While we had our soup and salad, I popped the tomates a la provencale in the oven and the potatoes into the microwave to bake. When we finished our first course, the side dishes were ready – perfect timing! We were ready to dish up the main course. Jennifer and I split a baked potato (they were huge!) and we each put a couple of meat patties on our plate with some of the brown sauce. I was proud of David, who was willing to try the stuffed tomato. The meat turned out okay – I had to heat them up in the microwave, so they weren’t right-off-the-stove fresh, but still pretty good. The sauce was tasty, but not my favorite – I think I’ll stick to the cream sauce from the last time we made this dish. I was impressed with the tomatoes – they were pretty good! The ones I had used were pretty large, so next time I would try using smaller ones so that the bread crumb stuffing would fill up more of the tomato. As for the baked potatoes, you can never really go wrong there.

A very runny custard

After dinner, Ben called for dessert, so I went back into the kitchen to unmold the creme renversee au caramel – and it was a minor disaster. When I inverted the mold onto a plate, the custard pretty much fell apart (all I could think of was the scene from Julie & Julia when Julie unmolds an aspic and it goes slopping all over her floor. Luckily, my experience wasn’t that bad…but pretty close.) For some reason, a lot of liquid had collected at the bottom of the pan, so the custard was a little runny. No matter! I brought out some coffee cups and scooped some custard into each one, draining the excess liquid. Everyone was willing to try it, but nobody finished it – including myself. To be honest, it came out smelling kind of strange and it tasted kind of eggy. Once Ben said that out loud, everyone kind of looked down at their dish and slowly pushed it away. But he was right. It was kind of eggy.

All in all, the dinner was a hit! I’m really proud of our guests for having an open mind and being willing to try new things (even when David, while flipping through MtAoFC said, “Man, the French people sure use a lot of mold in their dishes!” Then we realized he was looking at the section on souffles, and the “mold” was actually the pans the dishes were cooked in. We all had a really good laugh over that one.) We really enjoyed our time with our neighbors, and we’re looking forward to getting to know them even more.

– Jessica

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One Response to “Hidey Ho, Neighbor!”

  1. Roger Ridings says:

    Ummmmmmmmm, c*a*r*a*m*e*l !

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