Some time ago, we had auctioned our Monday Night Dining crew, to help raise Monday for our performance of Elgar’s The Apostles, by offering a 3 course dinner for up to 6 people, prepared and served in your own home. The bidding went so well, we decided to offer 2 meals. It turns out both of the winners were buying the dinner to celebrate their wives birthdays, so I think cake is in order.
Our first dinner was for Tom and Anne, whose house we have been to on a few occasions. This did take a little pressure off, since we had a good idea of the layout, and the fact that they have a primo stove. After setting out a menu and prepping as much as we could ahead of time, we arrived early to set up and prep. Turns out we were so well prepared, that we had time to join our hosts for a cocktail, before the last guests arrived. After the guests had assembled and had a chance to decompress, they gathered around the table to enjoy a butternut squash tortellini, with sage and brown butter.
The homemade tortellini have a rich yet delicate flavour, which does not get overpowered by the buttery sauce. The fried sage leaves and a lovely fragrant note, and a bit of a crunch to the dish.
The next dish has a bit of a story to it….. Although Shawn has become quite adept at deboning poultry, quails are rather finicky. While searching for some supplies we needed, online he found out that one of the large butchers at St Lawrence Market carries semi-boneless quails. This could be a real time and swear jar saver. After perusing the market and finding some wonderful ingredients (see previous post) we found out the quails are only carried at certain times, unless special ordered. With a little more research we did find a specialty grocer, that would bring them it, just in time for our dinner. When the arrived, Shawn realized that they had been spatchcocked, or cut open down the backbone. Luckily we had backup quails (well who doesn’t?) Shawn set off deboning the quails and the new arrivals would be for a Monday Night Dinner. After our little adventures procuring quails, we served semibonless quail stuffed with veal, pork, porcini mushrooms and chestnuts, over celeriac.parsnip puree and sautéed spinach.
It’s amazing what you can stuff into a quail…. The sauce was made from boiling down the tiny quail bones, to make a quail stock, which was flavoured with a little veal demi-glace (which just happened to be in the freezer). Someone recently told me about a product called bone broth powder, to add to soups and things, because no one has time to boil down bones….. It seems we are always fighting over who gets to take the bones or carcass home. There’s always time to make broth… If not today, freeze your bones for another day.
For dessert, we made one of our favorites, the Persian Love Cake.
I always tell people this cake is more about fragrance than taste. If you like overly sweet in your face desserts, this is not it, but the subtle flavours of rose-water and cardamom, with the fragrance of candied rose petals and a crunch from the pistachios are a true combination of flavour, texture and fragrance, but when you bite into a crushed cardamom seed and get that burst of aroma in your nose, it is a revelation. Yes, as I said, this is one of our favorites.
Now normally about this time, we are finishing the clean up and quietly exiting, but since we know most of the guests so well, we were “encouraged” to join in for dessert, a move they may have regretted, as it left less cake for second helpings. With the first of our dinners done we wish a happy birthday to Anne.
A few weeks later, we had our second of the charity dinners, for Bruce and Jan, in honour of Jan’s birthday. The layout of this kitchen was a joy to work in, with space to prep and serve, and an amazing stove to work with. Once the prep was complete, we were ready for guests. Luckily, we had practiced the first course already, so we had the butternut squash torellini for the first course, but added crushed amoretti cookies this time, for a bit of texture.
The main for this meal had a few changes, along the way, when we found out one of the guests was a pesactarian, we came up with something quite special…. and tricky. The main was a potato crusted sea bass, with pomme puree, green pea puree and sage vinaigrette.
The difficulty here, is to get the potato “scales” crisp, and to get the fish cooked, at the same time. The pea puree added a nice vibrant background for the fish and Shawn’s sage vinaigrette gave a fresh zing overall.
For the dessert, since it was a birthday, we needed a birthday cake. After perusing the blog, our host decided on the 12 layer mocha Marjolaine.
Fine-textured sponge-cake, soaked in espresso syrup, plays off of crisp hazelnut meringue, while the coffee and mocha buttercreams intensify the richness of a collapsed chocolate soufflé. When complete, the cake looks heavy, but is really quite light and rich. A special cake for a special occasion.
As the guests settled in with dessert, we packed up and made our way home. This was truly another successful fundraising dinner, with a delightful group of people to cook for, and of course happy birthday to Jan…