We started with a glass of sparkling wine, of course, and our amuse-bouche, a pre-appetizer meant to amuse your mouth:
Crisp Squash Blossom with House-made Ricotta
Charred Scallion Pesto
Our first course:
Newspaper Cucumber Slices with Tomato, Picked Red Onion
Pickled Snaps, Lemon Vinaigrette
Pork Fries with aïoli
Black Squid Ink Tagliatelle with Brinkley Farms English Peas
Farmhand Foods Pied de Cochon with Brinkley Farms Arugula
Roasted Peach and Mustard Creme
Porcini Dusted Pork Tenderloin
Roasted Shiitake Salad (aka Sweet Mushroom Love)
Fifth course (aka dessert):
Martha's Birthday Crème Brûlée
Vanilla, Black Pepper, and Ginger
Seth matched wines to the dishes and even one his beers, Honorable Bell's Big Brown Ale, with the pork. The beer is named for our mayor, Bill Bell, a name I am partial to since it is my maiden name. Mayor Bell would be proud of this marriage of flavors.
We had an amazing meal. A truly lovely celebration. Thank you so much, Seth and Zach. I will eat for you anytime.
The week after the BFF's birthday, I found myself at home all alone (the Ex-Ex and high school grad son both at the beach) so I invited her over for dinner. It was also the night of the Country Music Awards and since we both have a soft spot for handsome country singers, it seemed great timing for a girls' night. Keeping with the mushroom theme, I made mushroom risotto. When we were in Cinque Terre, Italy in 2008, she ordered this dish one night and hasn't stopped talking about it since. I doubt mine held up to that memory, but I tried. I chose (with help, of course!) Stephanini Il Selese Soave from Wine Authorities to go with the risotto.
We started with roasted vegetable tapenade and an ash-ripened goat cheese made by vermont creamery named bonne bouche.
I also made fried eggplant. A friend in Asheville had it in a restaurant and asked the chef for his recipe. It turned out quite good. Slice the eggplant. Soak it in milk overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the slices from the milk, roll them in cornmeal (I used panko breadcrumbs instead), fry them in olive oil just until golden, throw on a dash of salt and serve warm.
We had a lovely evening. The CMA fellows took a backseat to a girls' evening and good food. Sorry, Blake. I still love you.
And for my final mushroom endeavor, I made a fettucini dish with the leftovers. I cooked them up in butter and olive oil and served them over the pasta with shredded parmesan-reggiano, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Delicious. With a glass of Le P'tit Martin Côtes du Rhône red, I was very pleased with my experiment with the last of the mushrooms.
Sweet mushroom love.
Fresh Mushroom Risotto
(from Risotto: More Than 100 Recipes for the Classic Rice Dish of Northern Italy by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 oz. shiitake or other wild mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (about 2 c.)
4 oz. cultivated white mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (about 1 c.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. Mascarpone cheese or heavy cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
5 c. basic broth (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 c. dry white wine or broth
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. oil
1/3 c. finely minced onion
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
Heat the butter in a small skillet over moderate heat. When it begins to foam, add the mushrooms and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and set aside.
Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on top of the stove.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4-qt. casserole over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes, until it begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.
Add the rice to the soffritto; using a wooden spoon, stir for 1 minute, making sure all the grains are well coated. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed. Begin to add the simmering broth, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 c., reserving about 1/4 c. at add at the end. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
After approximately 18 minutes, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the reserved broth and the condimenti-- mushrooms, Mascarpone, Parmesan, and parsley-- and stir vigorously until the cheeses are melted and combined with the rice. Serve immediately.
Bon appétit, les champignons!