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Filtering by Tag: dinner

A Dinner Party in Twenty Minutes

Suzanne Pollak

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie : the opposite of a twenty minute dinner party.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: the opposite of a twenty minute dinner party.

What happens when you invite guests for 6:00 PM, but then you get so involved at work that when you look at the time on your computer, it says 5:35? Can you get dressed & made up, set the table and cook dinner in just twenty minutes? The answer is, YES. (The Dean learned this by accident one recent Monday night.)

Here’s what to do:

Resist the urge to immediately call guests and say all of a sudden, you're not feeling well. The Dean knew her menu included seafood stew, a salad, roasted peach halves with bourbon for dessert. What she didn’t know was what to wear or where everyone should sit...

5:35. Turn the oven on broil, put a dutch oven over medium heat and add a slug of olive oil. 

5.37. Slice two large peaches in half, fill them with a spoonful of sugar and a slug of bourbon, and put the four peach halves in a sauté pan over high heat. 

5:37. Roughly slice a large red onion and place in hot Dutch oven with a few whole garlic cloves, peeled.

5:41. Place sauté pan of peaches under broiler. Put timer on ten minutes. Stir onions.

5:43. Exit kitchen, with onions on medium heat and peaches under broiler. Run three flights upstairs while deciding what to wear.

5:44. Put on one outfit. Decide that looks wrong and put on another shirt. Try to do some quick make up. Whatever!  

5:50. Race downstairs to the smell of caramelizing onions (another way of saying they are on their way to burning, but haven't quite. Instead, just perfectly caramelized which means extra flavor.) Stir onions and add a jar of tomato sauce. 

5:52. Take out bag of defrosted shrimp and bag of calamari from refrigerator. Realize that even though they have been in the fridge since morning (because you are so organized and an excellent planner) no actual defrosting has taken place...

5:53. Put bags of frozen shrimp and calamari in a bowl and run warm water over bags, saying a little prayer that by 6:25 they will actually thaw!

5:55. Take out four silver forks, knives, spoons, shallow bowls, dessert plates, olives, two different kinds of bourbon and cocktail glasses. 

6:00. READY TO ROLL! Doorbell rings, guests arrive.

The Dean then explained the situation, garnering laughs and offers to pitch in. Cocktails? One guy choose bourbon, one guy soda water, one woman white wine. High-alcohol beer for the host. While cocktails were being organized and poured, the Dean threw together the famous Academy croutons while tomatoes and onions simmered on low, the peaches came down to room temperature, and seafood (still) thawed in the sink. Finally, where to eat? Decision: a movable feast. One small garden table for Stew. Another small garden table for salad. By the time the mosquitos started biting, everyone moved inside for dessert of roasted peaches and chocolate bars at the dining table.

Perfect!

"A Delicious Idea" with Lucy Cuneo

Suzanne Pollak

The Dean thoroughly enjoyed making a Valentine's Day lunch with the inimitable Lucy Cuneo, including a rustic roasted pepper tart and Academy salad, featured over on her blog. Here's a little video of the kitchen action, edited by Lucy (and shot by her husband. : ) 

Read the full post, including recipes, HERE on lucycuneo.com. Thanks LC!

So Long Tomatoes

Suzanne Pollak

Photo by Landon Neil Phillips for CAoDP.

Photo by Landon Neil Phillips for CAoDP.

Invariably there is an abundance of tomatoes at the end of the season. Now is the time to take a day and several bushels of the fruit to make sauce and can juice for the months ahead. A classic seafood stew in tomato sauce couldn’t be easier, quicker or more delicious. It makes a fantastic weeknight, work night, school night dinner. And once you've tasted homemade tomato juice, you will be ruined for any store-bought version. Concoct the world’s most delicious Bloody Mary on football weekends or for a weekend brunch... 

Tomato Sauce

We give no amounts in this recipe because you do not need any! Only common sense. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté a chopped onion until translucent, add a few cloves of sliced garlic and continue cooking until caramelized. Fill pot halfway with coarsely chopped tomatoes and continue cooking uncovered until thick, about 45 minutes. Add course salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When sauce is cool, pour into Ziploc bags to freeze. 

Squid Stew

Squid Stew is our new favorite go-to stew, but any shellfish or firm white fish will make it delicious. Scallops, clams, shrimp, Dungeness crab, Alaskan King Crab (flesh removed and cut into long pieces), monkfish (tastes like lobster), are all fine on their own, but if choosing is too difficult, combine for a tasty treat. This recipe is loose because it's up to you to decide how many olives you want, how much garlic you like (for us: plenty!), ditto with the capers. 

  • 2-3 cups Tomato Sauce
  • 3/4 lb. Squid tentacles 
  • 1/4 lb. Squid tubes, sliced 
  • Garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Capers in liquid
  • Black olives, pitted
  • Oregano 
  • Pepper

 In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat, sauté garlic, capers and black olives in olive oil. When brown, add squid tentacles and tubes, plus two or three cups of tomato sauce to cover. Turn heat down and simmer until liquid reduces and squid is done, about ten minutes. Never overcook squid! If you do, they turn to rubber bands. Serve in a shallow bowl with a large crunchy crouton on the side. 

Mrs Alice Wanner's (1869 - 1958) Tomato Juice

It was pretty radical stuff to drink tomato juice in Mrs. Alice Wanner’s day. Tomatoes weren’t eaten much before she was born, still recovering from their reputation amongst colonists as purely decorative. (Legend even has it that Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson ate an entire basket of tomatoes on the steps of the local courthouse in 1830, simply to prove to onlookers that they would not send him into fatal convulsions with their poison, as expected.)  So Mrs. Wanner was obviously a domestic diva. This recipe is courtesy of her great-granddaughter, Kathy Phillips, and makes about ten quarts:

  • For the juice, you'll need thirty pounds or more tomatoes. This all depends on how juicy they are; you may need as many as fifty pounds. Wash tomatoes, trim off stems and any dark spots, quarter. Fill a large pot and bring to boil. Boil hard for ten to twenty minutes, until they are soft and liquid-y. Meanwhile, sterilize quart-sized Ball jars and heat flat lids in simmering water.
  • Put Foley food mill or a tight weave strainer over a second large pot. Ladle in tomatoes and crank mill, or use ladle in strainer to mush and push until all juice goes into pot, leaving behind skin and seeds. Keep doing in batches until juice fills pot. Bring juice to boil and then ladle into sterilized, seasoned Ball jars to about 1/2" from top. To each jar, add: 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. celery salt, 1 tsp. sugar, grind of black pepper. Remove bubbles. (Use a teaspoon and go around the edge of the top of the juice where bubbles collect. Then wipe the rim clean, plunk on the flat lid, and screw on the ring.) 
  • Place fresh lids on jars, tighten ring, and set aside to "ping." Then they are sealed and will keep up to about three years. Beyond that they start to lose flavor. This process of cooking tomatoes and making the juice will be done many times, maybe four or more depending on the size of the pots you are using. So use big pots. 

For a Bloody Mary, simply add vodka, Worcestershire, lemon wedge and dash tabasco. Top with to Ms. Wanner's fine juice!

Dinners for Three

Suzanne Pollak

The Dean loves a good trio. The chicest dinner party she's attended of late happened in NYC, hosted by a super busy deputy director of a major institution (a friend whose identity shall remain a secret, as always.) Somehow, this doyenne finds the time to cook, set a glorious table, pour champagne, and even, in Summers past, fill a kitchen shelf with bottles of her put-up tomatoes, peaches, plums -- which just proves the Academy's number one discovery: the busiest people in the world somehow manage to get the the most done.

Enter this beauty's house and her dinner is nearly prepared, but not quite. Genius move! The guest sees the host in action and the house smells heavenly so taste buds tingle. The entertaining atmosphere becomes cozy, soothing, comforting, exciting, relaxing all at once because you are hanging out in the kitchen. Who wouldn't fall in love? 

Her no fail hors d'oeuvres? More genius! Chips and cashews. No work, easy peasy.  The water bottles on the table? Genius again! This exotic lady collects interesting shaped liquor bottles and when the alcohol is finished, keeps the beautiful bottles filled with water in her fridge. 

The Dean loves peeking into powder rooms, whether she needs to use one or not. These tiny rooms reveal so much. Her's was moody and sexy with a dimly burning candle, scented not too sweet. (Cloying candles are a major turn off, if you don't already know.) The dark aura would make anyone appear beautiful. Here's a tip -- if you want all your guests to feel glamorous, then the powder room is a tool in your arsenal. 

Back to the guest number...three is just perfect. You will have a chance to really get to know someone if one is unknown. Or, if you are old friends, then you can really catch up. Dinners for three are less work, easier to clean up, and deliver huge returns. Relationships glue together by the end of the night. 

Thank you my NYC Secret Lake Diver.

Dinner Parties Gone Wrong

Suzanne Pollak

Wondering what to do when a dinner party goes south?

  • DON'T do what Bravo’s Southern Charmers did at Thomas Ravenel’s: look and linger. When a train wreck happens, move fast A.S.A.P. Of course it’s mesmerizing to watch an explosion, but the smart money doesn't. They leave and want no part of a coming disaster. They run, run, run out the door if they are guests who have the option to do so...* 
  • DO "keep calm and carry on" if you find yourself host to a train wreck. The Dean once had a guest who threw a tantrum right at her dinner table. The conversation involved politics (might well happen this year, beware!) Said guest lost his cool and bolted. If this happens to you, there is a positive -- people will never forget the evening. To keep things from following suit, simply pretend like nothing happened. The rest of the guests are waiting to see what you do. Guests take their cue from their captain.

*Luckily behavior this bad is a reality on reality shows only and not likely to occur at any real life dinner party. 

Spring on the Table

Suzanne Pollak

What is the color of money, of envy, of Spring? 

The answer: a perfect party theme!

Antique soup plates...

Antique soup plates...

antique dinner plates...

antique dinner plates...

Ted Mueling salad plates (complete with bugs!)

Ted Mueling salad plates (complete with bugs!)

& a silver chalice, to reflect it all.

& a silver chalice, to reflect it all.

The Dean decided to give an all-green dinner party in honor of both the weather and the surname of an esteemed invitee. So, green plates, green cocktails, green foods became the theme of the night. Luckily the guest of honor was amused. His eyes twinkled when he heard that a theme was involved, and twinkled even more when he heard that the theme was no doubt his favorite color.

Generally themes are too silly to be discussed (with the exception of Halloween), but a green theme is not too serious. Maybe a little silly, but so what? It’s fun! Anything to please a guest, and any excuse to serve margaritas at cocktail hour.

MENU

  • Middle Eastern Watercress soup
  • Roasted King Salmon, with chive sauce, spring onions & sautéed asparagus
  • Micro-green salad with tiny croutons
  • Roasted pears with crunchy pistachios, saffron and green cardamon sauce

The centerpiece? Greens snipped from the public park across the street. Shhh...