Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sabbatical Chef Dinner 2015

Since returning from my 2008 sabbatical in France (and becoming the Sabbatical Chef), I have offered a dinner for four as part of the annual auction at my school, Durham Academy.  I enjoy this tremendously.  I usually attend the auction although the Ex-Ex does not go with me.  Not his thing and I understand this about him the second time around.  But I have trouble passing up a party with good food and wine.  I always sit with other faculty members and we have some fun.  This year, the theme had to do with Emerald City and The Land of Oz.  I bought a new dress.

Went to see Tom, the best manicurist in Durham, for red nails (instead of my usual almost natural color).

I bought some red lipstick since I had none (I do have many shades of pale pink, however).  Estée Lauder's Scarlet Siren Lasting Creme. Oh là là.

The evening of the auction, I donned my dress, painted my lips, and pulled on my red cowboy boots.  The theme was Dorothy after all and my boots are my only red shoes.  My friend and colleague Ms. Cuteness, made her own glittery shoes from a pair she found at a thrift shop.  Of course she did.

We had fun.  I sat with these gals.  JL, our librarian was with us, too, but she took the photo.  Should have thought to have the one husband at the table take the photo of all of us...  Next time.

There is a silent auction, as well as a live auction at this event.  Then music and dancing.  The live auction is at the end of dinner.  Tickets to the upcoming Taylor Swift concert were up for grabs.  Our upper school director helped with the bidding and decided to get his Taylor on.

 At the last minute, I decided to buy into the raffle for a trip.  The Ex-Ex did tell me to spend some money if I wanted to as I was on my way out the door.  When the winner was announced, I wasn't even listening to the auctioneer.  I was going on and on about something to Librarian.  She is the one who punched me in the arm to let me know that my name had been called.  Oui, I actually won.  (Tom says that red is the color of good luck in his native Vietnam and he says it is my nails that did it.)

I have chosen New York City and we will celebrate our second 6th anniversary and my birthday in La Grosse Pomme in July.  More about that later.  (Have I ever mentioned the fact that I consider myself a very lucky girl?)

After the silent auction was over, I was thrilled to learn that a woman I am very fond of bought my dinner.  She has offered up her home and kitchen for the dinner in the past, but this time she was to be the hostess.  I have known JB for a while, having taught her son, and I am always completely at ease with her.  We discussed the menu and settled upon the following:

Dinner with The Sabbatical Chef
Chez Jean
Friday, June 12, 2015

photo:  Fanny, Pujaut, France 2015
Terrine de Chevreuil
Rillettes au Foie de Canard Gras


Salade de chèvre chaud

Gigot d’agneau
Gratin dauphinois
Haricots verts à l’ail
Tomates provençales

Fromages assortis

Mousse au chocolat à la Fanny

Bon appétit!

My sous-chef, The BFF, was unavailable so I had to carry on without her.  Hélas. I did most of the cooking at home, saving only a few details for Chez Jean.  The ladies arrived right on time and the evening began.

One of the gals brought a lovely bottle of rosé champagne to start the festivities.  It was délicieux. (Oui, the Sabbatical Chef always gets to sample, too!)

I didn't photograph everything, but here's what I did capture.

David Lebovitz' Pissaladière (recipe follows)-- It is a Provençal speciality, caramelized onions, anchovies, and black olives.

Salade de chèvre chaud-- my favorite salad when in France.  Rosé Venus de Pinchinat accompanied the pissaladière and salade.  

Leg of lamb stuffed with garlic slivers and anchovies-- the rosemary is from my little herb garden. So proud.  The lamb came from Whole Foods and was perfect.  

With the lamb, we had two different red wines.   DC, bringer of the champagne and a wine aficionado, brought a Vacqueyras red (but silly me, I did not take a picture of it-- help, DC?) and I supplied a bottle of Mas de Libian Côtes du Rhône 2013.  It is a biodynamic wine of 65% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 15% Mouvèdre, truly the perfect blend, in my humble opinion.  My buddies at Wine Authorities never steer me wrong.

Fanny's Mousse au chocolat was a huge hit, as you can see.  I served it with raspberries on top.

Craig, the owner of Wine Authorities, suggested a wine to accompany the mousse.

And Craig, comme d'habitude, you hit the nail on the head with this one.  The ladies loved it and there was nary a drop left.  It is a 2011 Grenache-Carignan blend from Roussillon.

(The BFF and I got to be in Wine Authorities advertisement.  The photo is also on the back of the Enomatic wine card.  So proud to be a frequent drinker of the amazing wines from this shop.)

It was a great evening.  Merci, Jean!  

At the end of this school year, in honor of my 35 years of service (How did that happen?), the Parents Association gave me a book.  It took me about 3 seconds to choose which book I wanted.  I gave a copy to a dear friend for Christmas and have lusted after it since.  Now I have my very own.

(I also have a new Hermès scarf, given to me by an 8th grader.  I sure hope that his grandmom, mom or sister don't come hunting me down looking for their scarf.  Way too generous, but I will wear it proudly.  C'est promis!  I have two others-- one given to me by a dear, dear friend and my mentor and one that I found at a local consignment store... for $5.  I was shocked and snapped it up really fast. Lucky girl?  Oh yes, most definitely.)

Pissaladière – Provençale Onion Tart
from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

¾ cup (180ml) tepid water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

4 tablespoons (60ml) olive oil, plus more if needed
3 pounds (1.25kg) onions, peeled and thinly sliced
10 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
30 Niçoise olives or 20 larger olives, pitted or unpitted
16 good-quality oil-packed anchovy fillets

To make the crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or in a large bowl, by hand), combine the water, yeast, and ½ cup (70g) of the flour.  Let stand 15 minutes, until little bubbles appear on the surface.

Stir in the remaining 1 ½ cups (210g) of flour, the olive oil, and the salt.  Knead on medium speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is a smooth ball.  Oil a bowl, drop in the dough, and turn it so the oiled side is up.  Drape a kitchen towel over the top, and let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in volume.

Meanwhile, make the topping by heating 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions, thyme, garlic, salt, and sugar.  Cook, stirring infrequently during the first half hour, then, as the onions cook down, stir more often, until the onions are deep golden-brown, about 1 hour. (If they start to burn on the bottom, add more olive oil.)  Stir in a few grinds of pepper and remove from the heat.  Once cool, pluck out the thyme.

To assemble and bake the pissaladière, preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C) and line a 13 x 18-inch/33 x 45cm) baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and stretch the dough with your hands into an oval about 12 inches (30cm) long.  Let rest for 15 minutes.

Transfer the dough to the baking sheet.  Pat the dough with your hands until it reaches the sides of the pan.  Spread the caramelized onions over the dough, leaving a very narrow rim around the edges. Dot with the olives, lay the anchovies over the top either haphazardly or in a decorative crisscross pattern, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and slide the tart off the baking sheet and parchment paper onto a cooling rack.  Brush a little olive oil over the crust and cut into squares or rectangles.  Serve warm or at room temperature with glasses of iced rosé, of course.

Bon appétit, auction gals, dinner ladies, and merci beaucoup to Chef Érick Vedel for taking me on and teaching me so much about eating and cooking.  I am forever indebted to you, mon cher.

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