Thursday, January 1, 2009

Last Night's Dinner

First course:
Tomatoes Provençal
Rabbit Provençal

Palate cleanser:
Sage Sorbet

Main Course:
Orchiette with Pesto
Lamb Tagine with Dates
Chicken with Garlic and Shallots
Tomato stew with Sausage and home-made pasta
Mushrooms with olive oil, garlic, and thyme

No-knead Bread

Hazelnut Biscotti
Ice Creams:
-Salted Butter Caramel
-Double Chocolate
-Strawberry Sorbet

(Technically the first two dishes are "niçois" and not provençal, but since that tends to mean 'with tuna' here, as opposed to just 'from Nice', I'll go with provençal.)

Twenty people total, including us. Definitely the most people we've fed, and the second most people we've had in the house. Eight empty wine bottles (but only ten empty beer bottles). Although it was quite a stretch for our little kitchen, I feel confident in saying that everyone ate well. We sure did!

There were a few slight misses. Well, not 'misses' – that's too strong – but a few things I'd redo differently. Right before serving the rabbit, I was supposed to add the olives and a squeeze of lemon juice, which I forgot to do. I didn't get to eat a tomato, but Helen said that they weren't as good as some others I made, probably because I had to make them in an oversized toaster-oven. I also didn't think that the stew really fit well. We've had it a bunch of times, it's a great dish, but at that point in the meal you've already done the tomato/salty thing and then cleansed your palate, so to go back to tomato/salty was a mistake. Hannah brought a salad, which was great and people definitely enjoyed it, but in retrospect I should have made sure people only ate it after the main dish, so that it doesn't dampen the palate-cleansing aspects of the palate cleanser.

Everything else was really successful. Even though I forgot the olives and lemon, people really liked the rabbit. People differed on what was their favorite dish, but I suspect that it was the lamb, followed closely by the rabbit and the chicken. The lamb was really tasty, and super tender.

Among ice creams, it was easier to rank people's preferences, since I'd made roughly the same amount of each. By far people ate the salted caramel the most.

I was thinking that the lamb was my favorite dish, but now I'm thinking it was the sage sorbet. Palate cleansers, especially palate-cleansing sorbets, might be my new favorite course. They're so tasty and so refreshing. I don't think the sage one is quite as good as the basil granita we served last year, but it was close. It's oddly addictive. And the temperature balance is so nice, too. I wish they were more popular.

Anyway, I don't see doing a dinner this big for a while. It required a lot of planning, and cooking for it was the main activity of the last two days. With only four burners and one oven I had to make up a whole spreadsheet to make sure that I'd be able to pull this off! But all those challenges just made it that much more satisfying when we pulled it off. Thanks to Helen's family for providing a table, spare plates, etc. Thanks to Melissa for the spare chairs and the ice. But most of all, thanks to all who came!

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