Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Simple Menu looking forward to Spring

I love to cook, as you know, dear readers, but I'm all for finding short cuts and cooking supper for friends that doesn't take too long and doesn't have me in the kitchen all day. One of the most intimidating things is cooking for a cook. For example, the night Jum brought Neal Fraser home for dinner. Last night, my lovely friends Kay & Fred were here from London and we had a little celebratory supper. Only thing is, Kay is a cook, and a very good one. (See her website here.) So, what to do? There were 9 people coming for dinner by my estimate (which turned out to be wrong. Just as we were sitting down I realized we were 11. Yikes.) I asked Jum (the ex, who seems to be the go-to resource nowadays) "what would you cook for 9 people?" "A whole fish" he said, "with potato & fennel gratin and a butter lettuce salad". And so it was.

We found this guy

Vermillion Rock Cod
at Whole Foods on Fairfax & 3rd (the best Whole Foods in LA and the most impressive fish counter). And once he was cleaned and de-scaled, we stuffed him with sorrel, thyme and fennel, and rubbed olive oil and salt into his skin.

Rock cod, oven-ready with fennel on a bed of fennel and potato

He was then baked at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Two slashes in his skin were an excellent way of seeing whether he was cooked.

With him, we had a gratin of waxy yellow potato and fennel, both sliced paper thin on the mandolin, layered with nobs of butter and salt & pepper, with a heavy glug of cream. (I also, brilliantly sliced the tip of my finger off). Bake for an hour at 350.

A butter lettuce & baby arugula salad with sweet onion and meyer lemon zest was dressed with a dijon/lemon/redwine/olive oil vinaigrette. Could not be easier.

Pudding? A scoop of proper vanilla bean ice cream, a sprig of redcurrants & a glorious pizelle cookie. Voila! And for a savory, a tiny smear of goat rouille (supplied by Reza) and a small glass of Chateau D'Avocat pudding wine.

The table was filled with yellow crysanthemums (because it is, after all, the year of the horse).

yellow crysanthemums

A very easy menu to make you think of spring:

To start: Lucques olives, marcona almonds, a little salami, shrimps & cocktail sauce (I know, so retro)
A signature cocktail (hilarious): Ketel One vodka, pink grapefruit juice, slice of lemon, sprig of thyme, over ice.

Main course: Baked rock cod with fennel. Gratin of potatoes and fennel. Butter lettuce salad with lemon zest.

Pudding: Vanilla bean ice cream with red currants and a pizzelle cookie.

Savory: Goat cheese rouille on a good cracker.

A few pieces of advice:
- Lay your table the day before. It's fun to do, and it will make you feel ready. Be as creative as you want to be. I bring in all kinds of things from outside: pepper tree branches, sprigs of mimosa, green apples, satsumas with leaves, small Chinese figurines, and so on.
- Try to shop the day before. It gives you the illusion of being organized.
- When friends ask what to bring or how they can help, tell them. They love to help. It turns out that my friend Reza can assemble a killer shrimp-on-chipped-ice plate with dill while I'm in the shower (because I'm always late). If someone says, "can I bring dessert?" say yes. Why not?
- Do not seat husbands and wives, or partners together in the American way: it makes for fabulously boring conversation. Mix it up and keep it interesting.
- Remember to put on your lipstick.
- Breathe.
- Oooh, and try to have a friend like my friend Michaela who quietly puts things in the dishwasher and organizes a table plan while you are cooking (she also give very good advice on lerv)

1 comment:

Marcheline said...

This makes me wish I had a dining room. I can never invite any more than two, because I only have a small eat-in kitchen with a table that snugly seats 4. Oh, for a great long dining table with leaves in it! Sigh.