Our Anniversary Dinner
Normally, we would go away for a long weekend to celebrate our anniversary. This year, because of work schedules, it was simply an impossibility. So what to do? Well throw that money into one kick-ass, over-the-top, sit-down dinner of course! So, we broke out the good china, the wine glasses, and even had a custom table runner made. I arranged the flowers while he vacuumed until he had blisters, and finally it was time to enjoy.
I started testing recipe ideas weeks ahead of time. In fact, some of the recent posts on the blog were tests for this dinner. We were all set for a lovely rabbit dish when a better idea came to mind. So the Thursday before our dinner, I tested a new recipe that was so stellar, we had to replace the rabbit. I might post that rabbit dish eventually, though… as soon as I’m done tweaking it.
You might be wondering about me and what I could eat. Well, the truth is, not very much. I don’t mean that only because of the small amount of food I can digest these days, either. Most of this food was too rich, or too starchy for me. That being said, I realized something, something that kind of boggled my mind. You’re going to laugh because it won’t seem like some grand epiphany, but for me it was. Ready? I don’t have to eat everything. Yup, that’s it. Even if I did have the space in my stomach to eat everything I made and bought, there is no rule anywhere that says that I must eat it all. I’ll be bringing this little nugget of wisdom with me wherever I eat from now on.
Before I get to the menu and recipes, let me say this: if you’ve had surgery or even if your watching your weight, never let food stop you from having a good time. So you shouldn’t/can’t/are allergic to x, y, or z food. So what. Enjoy the company of the people around you and love whatever it is that you can eat. Truly, that’s the lesson I’ve been learning. I can’t eat spaghetti Cabonara anymore. No big deal. I can think of three things I’d rather have right now, anyway. That’s the truth, too.
Trio of cheeses with water crackers
Mushroom Pate with olive bread
Cornish Game Hens with Bacon-Brioche Stuffing
Individual Potato Au Gratin
Arugula Salad with Shaved Fennel and Radish in Shallot Vinaigrette
Pickled Beets, Carrots, Cucumbers, and Asparagus
Japanese Plum Wine-Infused Flourless Chocolate Souflee
The cheeses, crackers and breads were all bought, of course. As for the Mushroom Pate, this is something I’ve been making for years all thanks to Martha Stewart (click on the title to be taken to the recipe). I have to warn you that it takes a long time and is something of a hassle, but people RAVE about it and for special occasions and holidays it’s what I always make. The scallops were a blog post from a few weeks back (again, click on the title to be taken to the recipe. Same holds true for the pickled vegetables). The salad doesn’t need a recipe and the dressing is Delouis Fils, a brand that I’m wild about but have only found at Fairway Markets in NYC. Amazon carries their Dijon Vinaigrette, however. As for the potatoes, that is thanks to the fabulous blog In Sock Monkey Slippers, (click the title once again to be taken to the recipe). We were eight, but I’ve scaled back the hen recipe for four. The original Souflee recipe is for 10, I’ve halved it for you to make 5. Make sure you click on the pictures below, there quite a few of them!
Cornish Game Hens with Bacon-Brioche Stuffing
- 4x 3/4 lb – 1 1/4 lb Cornish Games Hens (sometimes called just “Game Hens” or “Cornish Hens”)
- 1/2 – 3/4 lb Brioche (rolls or loaf, doesn’t matter), 1/2″ cubed
- 1 cup double smoked slab bacon, 1/4″ cubed (if you can’t find double smoked, that’s okay, but add a 1/4 cup more)
- 2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, cleaned and sliced
- 2 large shallots, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 cup white wine, (I would suggest Chardonnay)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Melted butter
- Preheat oven to 425. On a cookie sheet, toast the cubed brioche until golden brown. Turn and shake the pan often to avoid burning. Approximately 8 minutes.
- Cook the bacon until the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan, being sure to reserve as much of the fat as possible, set aside. Add the shallots, leeks, and thyme to the pan with the bacon fat, and cook until translucent and soft, but not colored. Approximately 8-10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the brioche, bacon, flat leaf parsley, and leek mixture with any extra drippings, set aside.
- Bring stock and wine to a boil. Ladle the liquid over the brioche, mixing well between additions. You don’t want the stuffing too wet or dry – think of your standard stuffing at Thanksgiving. You might not need all of the liquid, it really depends on the brioche that you’re using. Before you stuff the birds, taste the stuffing, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Wash the cavity and outside of the hens with cold water and pat dry. Evenly sprinkle the lemon zest into each hen cavity. Stuff the birds with as much of the brioche dressing as you can, then cross the legs over the cavity and tie with kitchen twine. Tuck the wings under the bird so the tips wont burn, then salt and pepper the skin very well and place in a baking dish. Before popping in the oven, brush the skin with the melted butter.
- Cook for 30 minutes, then brush again with butter and turn the baking dish. Bake for another 15 minutes and check the internal temperature. If the skin is golden brown and a thermometer placed between the breast and leg reads 165, then its done. If not, cook for another 15 minutes.
- To serve, snip and remove the twine. Ask your guests if they would like you to remove the legs and wings to make it easier for them to eat. If so, then using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, remove the wings and legs at the joints and serve.
- If there is any stuffing left over, place in a small baking dish and brush the top with melted butter. Let it cook in the oven uncovered with the birds for the last 15 minutes and serve to your guests.
*A quick idea about this, if you change out the lemon zest for orange zest, and switch the parsley to 1/4 cup of fresh chopped sage, you have a stellar option for the fall/winter holidays.
Japanese Plum Wine-Infused Flourless Chocolate Souffle-Credited to Nick Malgieri
- 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 1.75 fluid ounces Japanese Plum Wine (you want the dark plum wine for this, not the pale green/yellow plum wine)
- 1 ounce unsalted butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ounce sugar (superfine sugar is your friend for this recipe, but not a requirement)
- Cut chocolate in 1/4 inch pieces and combine with plum wine in a heat-proof bowl. Place bowl over pot of boiling water and allow to melt, stirring occasionally. Stir smooth, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Cool to room temp. Once at room temp, stir the yolks into the chocolate mixture.
- Butter individual souffle molds and coat with sugar. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Whip eggs whites with salt until frothy. Very slowly, add the sugar and continue to whip to soft peaks.
- Fold in 1/4 of egg whites into the chocolate base. Once combined until streaks are gone, add the remaining 3/4 of the whites also until streaks are gone.
- Place buttered molds on a cookie sheet and fill each one with the batter to the top. Before placing in the oven, run your finger around the interior rim of the mold. This allows the souffle to rise and not stick to the rim.
- Place in the oven for exactly 15 minutes. DO NOT open the oven until the 15 minutes are up or else the souffles will fall. At the fifteen minute mark, quickly remove the souffles, dust with powdered sugar, and serve immediately.
*If you can’t find the Japanese Plum Wine, use any flavoring you’d like. Vanilla extract, brandy, and orange liqueur are all excellent options