Thursday, July 1, 2010

Menu for a Friend's Surprise Engagement

My college roommate and her beau arrived from New York with a surprise: They had gotten engaged on the airplane! I was planning to cook a nice summer dinner anyway, but now we a had a reason to do something a little more special... and to drink tons of bubbly with the meal. (Not that I ever really need a reason.) The goat cheese crostini were my first thought: My herb garden in the backyard is overflowing like a fragrant jungle. Next, I decided on a meat entree; something summery but that wouldn't require firing up the grill (just wasn't in the mood). New York strip did the trick. It marinates for an hour in the fridge, giving you plenty of time to socialize---or bake chocolate tortes---and then it cooks in minutes on the pan. The juicy richness is perfect with a creamy-tangy buttermilk sauce enhanced with horseradish and some fresh chopped rosemary. It had been months and months since I cooked meat for a main course, since we've been eating less of it these days, but this reminded me how much fun and how satisfying it is to cook meat.

I've been reading a lot lately about recipe development and the balance of flavors, and I tried to put what I've learned to the test in the salad. It had a little bit of everything: bitter from the arugula, sweet and tart from the apricots, salty and umami from the prosciutto... and it all came together beautifully. I wish the chocolate torte had been as seamless. I am awful at socializing and cooking at the same time and can only really do one of them well at a time. And when your good friend is visiting from New York and has a brand spanking new diamond ring on her finger, well, the baking is going to take a backseat, right? So, I preheated the oven to 425. Instead of 375. Twenty minutes later, I'm rescuing a charred chocolate hazelnut torte from the oven. Luckily, the inside was still moist (it was only in there for 20 minutes, after all), and once it was slathered with chocolate glaze and served with some heavenly vanilla ice cream (from Ici in Berkeley), it was pretty freaking delicious anyway.

I'm so excited for my friend and her fiance and wish them a lifetime of wonderful meals together!

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