I like to make Sunday suppers. It is as if I hold my creative culinary energy at bay during the week and let it all spill out on Sunday afternoon. And since we were both down with the crud last week, there wasn't much going on in the kitchen, apart from miso soup, rice and tea.
For Sunday supper I usually try to roast or braise a piece of meat. Something that takes longer than the average weekday night throw together meal. Sometimes it is just us two, at other times friends come over. Tonight our very good friends visiting from out of town joined us. We had to postpone visiting with them last week because of our joint colds, but I think I made it up to them tonight.
Menu: Fresh Polyface Farm ham, spaghetti squash à la Julia Child, beets in Dijon vinaigrette, salad, fresh nine-grain cereal bread.
To drink: I had the 2008 Revelry Cabernet Sauvignon that we brought back from our last trip out west. I discovered this wine at Gordy's Sichuan Restaurant in Spokane, WA. If you are ever in Spokane, you MUST go to Gordy's. And when you go to Gordy's, you must have his jiaozi (dumplings). Gordy makes the best Chinese dumplings I've ever eaten that were made by a big white guy. This wine is pretty good, albeit a tad bit on the sweet side. Lots of spice (I got cinnamon right away, but then there is lingering vanilla as well). It says French Oak on the bottle, but we struggled to actually find it. Anyway, a great Sunday night wine from the Washington Walla Walla area.
For our good friends, we busted open one of the bottles of the wine we brought back from France last year. They like white and so they got the Dopff & Irion Grand Cru Steinert Pinot Gris 2004. It was sweeter and more honeyed than I remember it being when we tasted at the vineyard. Perhaps because when I tasted on that lovely morning in Riquewihr, Alsace it was barely 1100 and I was already on my second tasting (read slightly sloshed).
So dinner worked and was very well received. I figured the leftover ham would feed us for the week, but apparently that was not to be. There wasn't a lot left, which is a compliment I suppose. The ham came from Polyface farm out in the Shenandoah Valley. They are special meat makers and I will devote an entire post to them at a later date.
I promised I would put the recipes for the spaghetti squash and beets here. I made both recipes up. Here goes.
Spaghetti Squash in the style of JC (that would be Julia Child, my kitchen muse)
In Mastering the Art of French Cooking II JC has a recipe for Aubergines (eggplant) en Persillade, Gratinée. Basically you cube, salt and sauté the eggplant with garlic and shallots then mix it with freshly made Béchamel sauce, sprinkle some breadcrumbs over it, dribble butter on top of the crumbs (of course there is a lot of butter involved, the recipe is from JC, remember?) and then bake it. I LOVE this way of doing eggplant, although it is a tad bit tedious.
But I didn't have eggplant, I had a lonely spaghetti squash bought before the holidays that had ended up hidden under my wok cover (don't ask). It needed to be used but I didn't know what to do with it. The usual side dish with butter didn't thrill me, so I thought...why not take that technique and apply it to the squash? And so here is what I did, what I would do differently next time, and what people thought:
Cut a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds. Put it in a casserole dish, wipe the exposed squash parts with olive oil, cover with foil, bake for an hour or so at 350ish. I put it in my small convection toaster oven, because it saves electricity. I am sure it could be done in the microwave too. It is done when it is soft. Let it cool. Scoop out all the strings of squash and discard the shells. Set aside.
Chop half an onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Heat a pan (I used a wok) and add the lubricant of your choice (as this was in the style of JC, I of course used butter). Sauté the onions and garlic. Add the squash, breaking up the big clumps. Add some thyme, salt and pepper. Try to get as much of the liquid to evaporate off the squash. Work it until the steam begins to diminish and it feels right. Set aside.
Make a basic Béchamel by melting 4 T butter in a 4-quart saucepan. Add 5 T flour. Whisk, whisk, whisk the roux but don't let it brown. Do this for a minute or so to get the raw taste out of the flour. Add cream, milk, half-and-half, stock, in whatever ratio your waistline determines for you. Speaking of the waistline, we had Gruyère left over from Christmas cooking, so I threw in about a half cup of shredded Gruyère. Whisk it around until the liquid begins to go plop plop and it thickens. Keep stirring. When it gets pretty thick take it off the stove and dump it into the pot with the squash. Stir it up. Transfer it to a buttered casserole dish, toss about 2-3 T breadcrumbs evenly over it. Put it in an oven heated to about 350-375 and cook until the crumbs are brown and it is bubbling through (not just at the edges).
Okay, since we added Gruyère it was technically a Mornay sauce. Regardless, this was good. But seriously, how could something with Gruyère in it not be GOOD? It was a bit gloopy, I admit that. I think I probably made more Mornay sauce than I needed and was loathe to let it go to waste (does Mornay keep?? Mom, I give you permission to comment with that answer if you know). I probably should have used only 2 cups of sauce, this turned out to be more like 3 1/2. Still it was eaten up, so I don't think the gloop factor was too serious.
And what I think is that if you have a vegetable averse member of your household (we don't, but I have heard that such people exist), this is a great dish to "trick" kids. I didn't taste the squash at all. I tasted goopy Gruyère wonderfulness with tiny little slivers of squash every once in awhile. "No dear, it isn't vegetables, it is stringy mashed potatoes with cheese, only I added a bit too much milk..."
The beets were another hit. Since I "discovered" beets at the home of the friends we had over to dinner, I thought it would be appropriate to return the love. I like my beets on my salad, cold. I marinate them in a Dijon vinaigrette. Easy.
Beets with Dijon Vinaigrette
Boil three beets. Drain, cool, peel, chop. While the beets are cooling, chop three shallots, or maybe a quarter of a sweet onion. Add a good sized blop of Dijon mustard (I am partial to Dijon, not the school bus yellow stuff please), olive or canola oil (about 1/4 cup), two or three blops of apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. Mix this up in a bowl. Add the beets and mix it up some more. Let it sit for a few hours to turn the vinaigrette dark pink. Serve it cold with a salad.
I keep a stock of this marinating in the fridge. Every once in awhile I'll buy more beets and add it to what is already in the fridge, topping of the vinaigrette as I go. That way there is always some waiting for me, at different stages of piquancy. It hasn't gone bad on me yet.
Our friends have a Boston Terrier. We had one of those once and she brought back memories of old Maile, all black and white sass. She put Mei Ping in her place.