Envy is one of the big ones, one of the seven deadly sins. One of the meanings I found for it is "sadness at another's good fortune." Let's get this straight-- I am not sad at other people's good fortune. I just wish I had a little more of it for myself sometimes. (I am only human, after all.) I am not trying to take it away from them. Au contraire. I wish to share! And this time, envy brought me my very own chef's coat. Pretty fancy, isn't it? Chef Doug gave one to me and one to the BFF for cooking with him a couple of weeks ago. He was wearing one in the kitchen and we expressed our admiration for it. So now we have our own. What a thoughtful gift!
It is has my name in red.
I didn't wear it Saturday night at my latest Sabbatical Chef dinner. I don't want to get it dirty... and I am a rather messy cook. For now, I am just admiring it.
Saturday night's dinner was fun. It was the second annual Sabbatical Chef dinner offered through the auction at Durham Academy. Chef Amy, also known as the Nameless Chef, offered to host it at her home in Chapel Hill. Three couples were dining with us. I shopped the Durham farmers' market, Harris Teeter, Costco and Whole Foods to find my provisions. I spent last week practicing crusts and variations on my tarte aux tomates (that was my dinner for three nights... I didn't even have to share because neither high school-age son nor the Ex-Ex are fond of "hot tomatoes"). I just hadn't been able to get the crust to hold up to the tomatoes. But, thanks to Signora, I discovered a new crust recipe and it worked very well. The tarte was un succès fou, a big hit.
And I have two more crusts in the freezer, just waiting for tomatoes or caramelized onions.
By all accounts, the evening was a success. Chef Amy has a fabulous house and more importantly, a great kitchen. Two ovens, one a convection oven. Lots of counter space. Several sinks. A great Cuisinart food processor that dates back to 1982 (it is smart to buy quality appliances). We served our guests on her porch, just off the kitchen.
We could hear them chatting and laughing. That is a satisfying sound when you are working in the kitchen. Our guests didn't know each other very well before, but I think they do now. Chef Amy's husband played wine steward. The wines, recommended by Craig, the Grand Poobah Wine Swami at Wine Authorities, were perfect. I nibbled a bit -- a little tapenade, a few bites of lamb, but one of these days I am going to prepare this meal and actually sit down and eat it myself.
Here's our menu:
Tarte aux tomates
Haricots verts à la persillade
Salade de chèvre chaud
And here are the happy chefs--
(I thought about having a bowl for breakfast... luckily, though, Señor, my next door neighbor at school took care of breakfast-- he brought me a lovely slice of the pavlova he made yesterday. More about that later. I didn't stop long enough to even take a photo. Shame on hungry little old me. Imagine a meringue crust filled with fluffy whipped cream, topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries. Can you blame me?)
Chef Amy's Best Mac and Cheese
3 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
2 c. Colby Jack, shredded
2 c. Velveeta cheese, shredded
1 16-oz. box elbow macaroni noodles
4 c. half and half
1/4 c. melted butter
1 roll Ritz crackers, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a 9x13 glass baking dish. Cook noodles until al dente, drain and rinse. Mix cheeses together in a large bowl. Mix eggs and cream until well-blended. Pour half the liquid mixture on bottom of baking dish. Add a layer of 1/3 of the noodles. Add a layer of the cheese and mix it up with the noodles. Add another layer of noodles and cheese. Repeat layers, ending with a cheese layer on top. Pour the rest of the liquid mixture over the noodles and cheese, after poking holes in the top to let the mixture seep through. Mix Ritz crackers with butter and sprinkle over top. Cover dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes covered. Remove cover and bake for another 10 minutes or so until golden. Remove and let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.
Vinegar Pie Crust
(from Even More Special, Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties)
Makes four 9- inch pie crusts
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. shortening (I used butter)
1/2 c. water
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 425˚ if pie shells are to be baked.
2. In large bowl, mix flour, salt, and sugar together. Cut in shortening (butter) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3. Combine water, vinegar, and egg. Beat mixture with a fork. Gradually pour egg mixture into dry ingredients. Mix until pastry holds together; dough will be slightly sticky (mine wasn't).
4. Divide into four flat disks and dust lightly with flour. Wrap in waxed paper. Chill at least one hour.
5. Roll out on floured surface to fit four 9-inch pie pans.
6. Place dough in pans. For baked shell, prick crust and bake for 10 minutes. Leave unpricked for filled pies and bake as directed in recipes.
Unused crust may be frozen until ready for use.
Bon appétit, Chef Amy who is not Nameless! It was a pleasure to cook with you!