On this Saturday morning in May, the weather is pretty crummy. It is cloudy and way too cool. We can’t take a drive to the beach yet. And I fear purchasing Geraniums for the deck because we could still get a frost.
Last year’s flowers were already “decked” out at this time!
And at some point, the hot weather will arrive in earnest. In a few weeks, our Saturdays will be filled with outdoor activities. We will be beaching it and doing day trips.
And today, I will spend a good part of the day doing what I normally do on a Saturday during cold and cool weather times.
Preparing our Saturday Evening Feast.
OK. So it isn’t Thanksgiving. But I enjoy whipping up a feast for any ocassion. Even if just for two!
It’s funny because as I age, I find that I enjoy this “routine” more and more.
When the house was filled with kids and their friends, and the hustle-bustle of every activity under the sun, there wasn’t much room for dining routines. It seemed that we were eating on the run and when we did manage to have dinner as a family, it was rushed because a game or practice would be starting within moments of that final bite.
This was a typical saying at the Atypical60 household when I was in my atypical30’s, 40’s and 50’s! “Hurry up and eat–gotta go!”
Don’t get me wrong. I actually miss those busy days. I miss the enormous amount of fun that I had when the kids were younger. I miss being a stay-at-home mom. But, I have great, great memories that I can play over and over in the theater of my mind!
And with age comes a certain appreciation that you have when you do get the time to spend with your better half.
Our Saturday evening dinners together are now a ritual. It is the time when Bonaparte and I can just unwind and enjoy each other’s company! During summer months, we will dine on quick meals served on the deck.
Summer dinners are out on the deck and extremely casual. I don’t like to turn the oven on in the heat..but I do like the aperitif!
Tonight, we will dine indoors at the dining room table.
As I write, the dining room table is my office, but toward evening it will be transformed into a lovely setting for mature audiences only. No. I won’t be performing a lap dance. Nor will I serve myself to Bonaparte on a plate.
Ahhh. The dining room table as office. When the kids were younger the dining room table was the homework area, the project area, the sewing area…but only for dining durinig holidays! Am I the only one???
Instead, this table will be set with good china (well, as good as it gets), table linens and we will enjoy the setting and partake in mature conversation—that is until I go into a rant about the current healthcare vote. But Bonaparte will calm me down by pouring wine in my glass!
Still casual but with a touch of chic and Provence! Empty nesters–treat yourself to a beautifully set table and you will feel as though the evening is special!
This is one of the perks of being an empty-nester. There is no time for baby-talk or having to clean up spilled milk (although I am prone to spilling wine). It is merely two older, wiser and mature people enjoying an aperitif, a starter, the main plate and because I’m trying to drop a few pounds, no dessert.
No cheese either. After consuming two cheese quesadillas this week, I’m on the wagon until we get to France!
It’s a lazy-day routine that lends itself to working leisurely to achieve a delicious result!
How did I do it? Here you go:
First of all, I wore a new wig to run errands! But–had to take her off when I started cooking because…
Synthetic hair will melt and I certainly did not want melted fake hair all over me or our food! I’m clumsy enough!
We loaded up on the fresh flowers while running our errands. We always have fresh flowers in the house–it’s an inexpensive way to add color and beauty!
On the menu this evening was: Fresh Baked Bread and Country Pate, Tomato & Hard Cooked Eggs with Parsley and Basil, Cornish Game Hen, Spatchcocked with herbal butter, cherries and Rosemary, Cognac Cherry Sauce , Cubed Potatoes sauteed in Duck Fat and Wilted Spinach. Bonaparte policed my bread intake which meant I had one small piece so he could eat the rest!
First things first. Making the bread. While the yeast (above) is blooming, I gather the dry ingredients. Bonaparte loves home made bread. I bake a Pullman loaf every weekend: The recipe I use is from an article in the Chicago Tribune. Check out the link-but be warned there’s a ton of ads before you get to the recipe–it’s worth it though: Pullman Bread Recipe
And I must say, the bread was a great batch!
Next step is the preparation of the potatoes. Trust me. Preparing well in advance makes it easier when the time to cook the dinner comes around. I call it preventative dining stress.
I’ve written about these potatoes before but they are so freakin’ good! They are inspired by the potatoes at restaurant Chez Paul on Place Dauphine in Paris. Bonaparte assists me. He peels the potatoes because I hate doing that chore! I use butter potatoes because they are nice and creamy. I cube the peeled potatoes and par boil them for 9 minutes. Then I drain, cover in paper towels and place in the fridge until I’m ready to cook them. When ready to cook, I saute in duck fat-about 20 minutes until the outside is browned and crispy!
Next step: Preparing the hen.
I use a blend of Rosemary that I’ve ground with mortar and pestle, and stalks of Rosemary and a bit cut up with a scissor. I can’t get enough of this stuff!
I grind Herbes de Provence into softened butter. Hey. Anyone going to Paris anytime soon? If you do, drop by E. Dehillerin –it’s a treasure chest of cooking supplies! I purchased this little grinder for next to nothing and it has become an invaluable tool in my kitchen. It grinds very well!
The skin of the hen is lifted and the herbed butter smeared under the skin and atop the skin. Covered with stalks of Rosemary. Cherries soaked in Cognac come later. Into the fridge with these two until it’s time to cook!
Sauce prep comes next. Dried cherries are soaked in Remy Martin Champagne Cognac (top right). Shallots are sweated in butter then chicken broth is added and reduced to less than half. Then more cognac is added. Then reduced. Then the cherries are added with Rosemary. It all cooks down. Then heavy cream is added. Notice the photo on the bottom right. The sauce hasn’t emulsified yet. This is brought to a boil and stirred and babysat and simmered. It takes a while but I’m telling you a great sauce doesn’t need flour. In the end, I add a bit of frozen butter to make the sauce silky.
And the end result:
And tonight–for your dining pleasure I bring you..
Fresh-baked bread and country pate..
…a few toasted slices..
Tomato and egg –very healthy…
Cornish Game Hen, roasted to perfection...
A silky Cognac and Cherry creme sauce…
Some good red wine….
…and let’s not forget the spinach!
Here’s the thing. I really have to watch what I eat. I didn’t have sauce. I ate only a portion of my hen. I didn’t have potatoes. I did have a half slice of bread.
And even though it was cooking for two, the leftovers will be used for Bonaparte during the week. The potatoes reheat very well and can be saved for up to five days. The leftover hen can be transformed into salad. The bread can be frozen or slices can be cut up into thick chunks and made into croutons. The sauce will last over a week–the Cognac is a natural preservative.
It’s all good!
After dinner, we watched one of our favorite movies. (Click on the link for some serious Cathe/Bonaparte entertainment): This was the first m0vie we saw together and it has something for everyone. It takes place during WW1 in France but it one of the greatest love stories ever and is a lesson in never giving up hope.
If you see this in a store, by all means grab it and run home to watch it!
A Very Long Engagement. Watch the trailer closely. You will see a fleeting moment of Marion Cotillard who has now become an Oscar-winning actress. The film is a visual beauty—but what else could you expect from the man who brought us Amelie? Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a great filmmaker and story teller. I was fortunate enough to see it on the big screen 14 years ago!