Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ordinary Day?...... Then Make It Extraordinary!!!!!

Thursday, nothing special going on, just another day..... kind of in the doldrums and threatening to slide into a funk.... what do I need to snap out of it? One of my "projects" of course! While my guys are busy with their day's activities I am going to work on making this an extraordinary day for all of us!

I've already scoured my pantry and fridge and have come up with a truly inspiring menu for tonight. I'm downloading a great movie, have brought out the wine and what otherwise would have been just another weeknight will turn into a holiday celebration. What holiday are we celebrating? None! I don't need for it to be a holiday for us to celebrate and neither do you.....

What have I come up with? Let me see..... We'll start the evening with a great appetizer: Mussels First, an easy preparation that is always great. This will followed by a Warm Dandelion & Frisee Salad with Bacon, that will set the stage for our main dish of Stuffed Guinea Hens. I've also got some Baked Onions with Vinaigrette as a side dish. For desert, one of the easiest yet most delectable chocolate volcano cakes around- Moelleux au Chocolat..... MMMmmmm!

We are sure to have a celebratory evening, guaranteed! Let's bring on the bubbly! Here we go!

Mussels First.- A different take on this dish that we all love!

1 lb mussels
1/2 cup Pernod
3 tbl butter, softened
1 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp chopped tarragon
3 tbl fresh breadcrumbs
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 lemon

Heat the oven to broil with the rack near the top. Clean the mussels, discarding any that are open. Bring the Pernod to a boil in a large pot, add the mussels, cover, and cook three minutes, or until opened. Drain and discard any mussels that have remained closed.

Mash the butter with the chives and tarragon. Put a pinch of the herb butter on each mussel. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. Grind over some pepper. Broil until the crumbs are golden, about two minutes. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Warm Dandelion & Frisee Salad with Bacon.- A wonderful salad to introduce the main meal, full of flavor and offering contrast in textures you will appreciate.

1/4 cup trimmed frisée lettuce
1/4 cup young dandelion greens
4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
3 tbl red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tbl olive oil
Salt and pepper

Wash the greens and spin them dry. Fry the bacon in a pan until crisp, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and boil to reduce to about 2 teaspoons. Add enough oil to make a dressing. Whisk. Toss the greens in the pan for a few seconds just to coat– don’t let them wilt. Divide among four plates and season with fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper.
NOTE: If you like, make goat cheese croûtes to serve alongside. Simply smear goat cheese on slices of baguette. Drizzle over olive oil. Grind on pepper. Pop them in an oven at about 400F until the bread has toasted and the cheese is very hot. Top the salad with these.

Baked Onions with Vinaigrette.- A comforting side dish that will delight and surprise you!

4 organic, medium-sweet organic onions, unpeeled
4 handfuls coarse salt
1 egg yolk
1/2 clove garlic, finely mince
1 tsp tarragon vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grape seed oil
Lemon juice to taste
1 handful chopped fresh tarragon
1 handful chopped fresh thyme

Heat the oven to 425F. Cut barely a sliver off the bottom of each onion so they’ll sit without rolling over. Pierce them in a few places with a sharp knife so they won’t burst during cooking. Make four mounds of sea salt in a baking dish and place an onion in each. Bake 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 325F and continue baking until the insides are almost applesauce soft, about 1-1/2 hours, depending on the size of the onions.

Make the dressing: Whisk together the yolk, garlic and vinegar. Season. Beat in the oil, drop by drop, to make a thick dressing. Taste, and add lemon juice if needed. Check the salt and pepper. Stir in the herbs. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, set the onions on serving plates (leaving the salt mounds behind). Slit the onions open with a sharp knife and spoon some sauce into each until it starts bubbling up and out onto the plate. Serve.

Stuffed Guinea Hens.- Looks hard yet it's not. You'll love it! (Don't want to de-bone it? Ask your butcher to do it for you!)

2 guinea hens, about 2 lbs each, boned
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried baguette crumbs
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
3 tbl Cognac (more for after dinner drinks!)
1 tsp chopped thyme
6 slices Prosciutto, or bacon

Prepare the hens: Remove the dark meat from the legs and chop it very finely. Lay the main part of the bird flat, skin side down. There will be a rough rectangle of skin with the two breasts and their smaller fillets attached at the top. Remove one small fillet and lay it between the breasts to fill the indentation. Use the other to fill any other gaps. It will look like a rectangle. Lay a piece of plastic over top, and pound the whole thing flat. Remove the plastic. Push the meat around a little, if you need to, to achieve and even square of white meat, roughly centered on the skin. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the stuffing: Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic and fry for one minute. Remove to a bowl. Heat the remaining butter in the pan and toast the breadcrumbs. Add them to the onions. Stir in the figs, Cognac, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 325F. Lay the bacon or prosciutto slices on your worktable, slightly overlapping, on a piece of foil. Should be about the size of the meat. Lay the bird on top, and season with salt and pepper. Spread over the stuffing, then roll into a log. Wrap in foil, twisting the ends to make a tight cylinder. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil carefully and return to the oven 10 minutes longer. Remove. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Moelleux au Chocolat (Chocolate Cakes).- The translation of "moelleux" is soft, mellow, tender, moist, sweet.... exactly!

4 oz dark chocolate
2/3 cup butter
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour

Caramel Sauce
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup plus 2 tbl heavy cream
Squirt lemon juice, to taste

Cakes: Butter six ramekins or small molds, line the bottom with a disk of parchment, then butter the parchment. Very gently melt the chocolate and butter together over a water bath. Beat the eggs and sugar until thick, pale, and ribbon like. Beat in the flour, and finally the chocolate mixture. Pour into the molds and chill. Just before serving, heat the oven to 400F. Place the molds on a baking sheet and bake until the top is set, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove. Let sit five minutes, before unmolding onto plates. Serve with caramel sauce or a scoop of ice cream.

Caramel Sauce: Add a spoonful of water to the sugar and boil to caramel, about 5 minutes. (Be careful not to let it get too dark.) Stir in the butter to melt, then the cream. Add a squirt of lemon juice to taste.

There you go, a wonderful menu that's perfect for any celebration or holiday. All the dishes are easy to prepare and quick to make, plus they all deliver that little something "extra" that makes them special. I'm dressing the table so we can have candlelight with our dinner and will use our best China and Silverware. Had a bottle of Champagne that a friend gave us and it's chilling in the fridge; we can have that with those fantastic chocolate cakes we'll have for dessert! Sure to be a special evening and will give our week that holiday feeling..... No doldrums here anymore! Wishing you many special evenings..... talk soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment