The tree is down. The decorations are all put away. The chateau is back to being the nest of the empties. With the exception of Chippy, naturally.
The only flora in the living room are the flowers adding a bit of color to the now bland interior! And that’s okay!
And with all the holiday cooking and activity that surrounded us, and made us feel—well, to tell you the truth, it made us feel needed, it takes a while to get back to feeling normal.
Okay. So THIS guy makes us feel needed. Chippy…
But there is also a calm in knowing that, when everyone leaves, the time belongs to you. It’s great for Bonaparte and I to spend time, just the two of us (with Chippy, naturally), enjoying each other’s company. Simple things, like watching a movie or TV show together. Or running those mundane errands like going to the hardware store for a battery for the smoke alarm or for light bulbs.
…or even just enjoying the ferry over to St. Tropez–it’s our time together!
And there is something very comforting in turning your home into a restaurant of sorts to enjoy an at-home date night. It’s fun to turn the nest into a cozy little bistro—just you and your better half.
Won’t you join us please?
Early preparations include setting the table for the starters.
For my Frenchman, the weekend meal plans start on Tuesday or Wednesday when he starts thinking about the easy Friday night meal into the more French-style Saturday night meal. (As I write this Monsieur Bonaparte has requested Fajitas for Friday evening’s dinner).
Hmmmm. If it’s Tuesday, it’s time to think about Saturday night’s dinner!
Friday night is usually something like home made pizza or fajitas..
Friday night’s pizza. HE ATE THE WHOLE THING!!!
We’ll discuss the little appetizers that’ll accompany our aperitif—presently we are on a Gougerès kick. I literally made a ton over Christmas, and replenished the supply when we ran out. These little nuggets freeze so well and only take minutes to reheat. They are the perfect appetizer to make-ahead.
We enjoyed the last of the frozen gougeres this weekend. I have to bake a new batch! For your pleasure, I’m re-linking the Alain Ducasse Gougeres Recipe!
TIP: Choose appetizers to make ahead and freeze them. Got a day when it’s snowing or you have some time on your hands–make those appetizers ahead and double-batch them. It’ll save so much time later on!
The starter to the meal is next. I like to keep it light. Bonaparte likes something a bit more substantial. Sometimes we’ll have a cucumber or red cabbage salad to keep me happy. Most of the time we’ll have escargot, pate, foie gras or the salmon rillettes that everyone has been known to love and request.
From pantry to fridge where this baby rested until it was time for the Saturday Night Starter!
TIP: Going on vacation? Pick up food items that are canned or that can legally be transported back home. You’ll have a reminder of your vacation months later! It’ll be a great conversation starter too!
The bread was baked early on in the day!
TIP: Baking bread or baking dessert can be done early on during the day! While you are out running errands, the dough can proof. It’s part of multitasking and time management!
The most difficult decision comes next. The main plate. We try to stick to something that’ll tie into the appetizer and starter. Then he’ll decide which wine to serve. For dessert, I’ll bake whatever Bonaparte wants. And since I don’t eat the desserts while I’m trying to lose weight (like now) the sweet treat during the week.
It’s quite the production—right? Well, not really. We both decided on an easy, healthy, and favorite choice–Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes and Olives. Here’s how last Saturday night’s dinner rolled:
My mise-en-place of sorts. Black olives, fresh basil, Roma tomatoes, white wine, garlic, crushed red pepper, the juice from the olives.
TIP: Always have the ingredients at the ready. It makes for less stress, knowing what’s on hand and a smoother cooking prep.
Don’t get rid of the olive juice!! It can be used to add flavor and as a salt substitute. I always save olive juice whenever canned olives are used!
My mallet. This little tool is crucial whenever I cook chicken breasts. Pounding the chicken thinner makes for a quicker cooking time and you can also increase the servings!
Chicken breasts–before and after pounding..
I’ll cook the tomatoes a few hours ahead. While the tomatoes are cooking, I can work on blog posts or send out resumes. I cook them in a touch of olive oil and about a half cup of white wine. When the wine reduces, I’ll add a bit of the olive juice. After the tomatoes soften and the juices are released, I take off the burner and put aside. The crushed red pepper is added while the tomatoes are cooking.
My microplane. I love microplaneing garlic for recipes. It’s better than chopping!
TIP: Need to use garlic? No need to chop if you have a microplane. It’s an easy way to get more of the garlic incorporated into your recipe. Remember, add garlic last because you don’t want to burn the garlic. It burns easily!
The secret ingredient to moist, juicy chicken breasts–a coating of rice flour! It’s gluten-free and doesn’t have the heaviness of flour!
TIP: To save calories–forego breading chicken breasts and coat with rice flour. It is gluten free. It isn’t heavy like flour and it keeps the juices within the chicken without the taste of a coating. I use this whenever I saute chicken breasts.
The chicken breasts are dredged lightly in rice flour..
…and sauteed in butter and olive oil. This can also be done about an hour ahead of when you sit down to enjoy your aperitif!
And before dinner, the chicken and olives are added to the tomatoes and heated. Basil is last.
With everything prepared, I can get dressed and we can sit down to our Kir Royals and appetizers. And after that, it’s to the table!
The bread I made is toasted and the Pate Foie Gras is ready to be spread and enjoyed!
We enjoy it with this Monbasillac 2012–it’s sweet and delicious. Y.U.M.!
The main plate–Chicken Breasts, Tomato, Olives and Basil. A dish for all seasons!
The chicken dish was accompanied by this 2008 Saint-Julien. It was really good because it smelled like dirt! I fell asleep shortly after.
And let’s not forget dessert. For a little something extra, I served the pound cake I baked with some home made Lemon Curd. Lemon Curd. So easy to make and lasts forever in the fridge! Got Lemons? Make Lemon Curd–here’s Martha Stewart’s Recipe.
TIP: Bake a pound cake! And double the recipe. Put one cake in the freezer and save for entertaining. Pound cake can be dressed up with a curd, with ice cream or a sweet sauce–the perfect end to an evening. It’s a simple, no stress cake that everyone loves. I made Ina Garten’s Perfect Pound Cake my own by cutting the heavy cream down to 1/2 cup and adding 1/2 cup of Cointreau. The orange liquor gives a great taste and makes the cake as moist as ever!
Life changes when the kids are gone. They have their lives but sometimes we fail to see that—I know I do!
But we are important now. We can prepare and cook and savor those special meals we may not have had the time to enjoy years ago. Have a go! Turn your dining room into your Bistro! And enjoy! Thank you for joining us!
As an aside. Today is my Ruby’s birthday. She was born on January 16, 1996 and would be 22 today. It’s hard to believe she left us five years ago at 17. I miss her terribly and am thinking about her and how happy she made my life, my children’s life, my ex-husband’s life and Bonaparte’s life. Everyone loved her. Here’s to you Ruby!
I think of Ruby every day–and today she’s been on my mind since I woke up. I miss you so much Miss Ruby–who was named after a favorite restaurant in New Orleans that is also gone!