Thursday, August 27, 2009

Extreme Summer Series: Summer Dinner Party

We had two of the world's finest ASH/BSI over for a summer dinner party recently, and decided unabashedly to show off our love for retro food stylings in honor of Susan and Mickey, who--unlike the more gastronomically cautious/sensible of our friends--have no problem with scooping up dollops of chicken liver mousse and sending it mouthward. Our devoted affection for our other friends notwithstanding, a couple of them are leery of the exotics--organ meats, soup that ain't hot. Shellfish. The menu was as follows, but we're only going to post the soup recipe, because we're lazy gadabouts who drink like it's summer and can no longer recall proportions.

The chicken liver mousse was excellent, and the recipe can be found here. We modified it thusly: rehydrate the apricots in Spanish brandy instead of water (water??), use Spanish brandy to marinate the livers, and replace the dried figs with a small amount of minced candied ginger. Then, if you're like us and you enjoy a nice terrine, send it mouthward. Also, if you like brilliant food photography and tasty comestibles from la belle France (who doesn't, apart from Bill O'Reilly?), you should regularly check out the rest of La Table de Nana. Gorgeous blog, and several of her recipes are translated from classic French cooking sites.


Chilled Radish Green Soup with Greek Yoghurt
Sugar Snap Pea Sal
ad with Ricotta Salata and Tarragon Vinaigrette

Terrine of Chicken Liver Mousse, Apricot, Candied Ginger, Hazelnut and Pistachio
Tomato, Garlic, and Olive Oil-Poached Shrimp w
ith Two Garden Basils

(both above items served with baguette)
Koltiska Liqueur-Glazed Nectarines with Basil and homemade Burnt Sugar Cardamom Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS (for radish greens soup):
greens, very thoroughly washed and then coarsely chopped, from 1 bunch radishes
8 large radishes, chopped
4 scallions, chopped, with white and green parts separated
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 handful chopped raw almonds
1 piece parmesan rind
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
rich vegetable stock to cover (about 6 cups)
Salt and pepper to taste

for garnish: sliced raw radish, chives, and Greek yoghurt

1) Bring vegetable stock to boil along with all the ingredients save for the radish greens and green portion of scallions. Simmer for 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
2) Discard bay leaves and parmesan rind.
3) Add chopped green portion of scallions and radish greens. Simmer until just cooked, about 5 minutes.
4) Blend thoroughly, either in a standing blender or with an immersion blender, until the texture is smooth and the almonds have created a creamy texture. Season to taste, with plenty of pepper.
5) Chill thoroughly.
6) Garnish with raw radishes, fresh chives, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
7) Open a beer. Enjoy together.*

*(We paired a beer with the main course. It was delicious. We cannot, however, remember what beer it might have been. We recollect a Belgian yeast strain and a nice, frothy champagne texture that paired wonderfully with the mousse. You'll never know what it was, with our apologies--but then again, neither will we. Such is the occasional nature of the beast known as the Dinner Party. When one begins a dinner party with Prohibition-style cocktails, once must be prepared to face the shameful public consequences.)

Food photography is a hilarious business. I'm going to say a word on the subject because we forgot the beer, and while the evening's conversational gambits ought to have been recorded for posterity, there are only so many Glenn Beck jokes that look tasteful when set in cold, hard print on the web.

We were first exposed to the utter hilarity of poor '50s and '60s food photography by the master: James Lileks, author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food. There is a living to be made excoriating the absolutely inedible quality of retro cookbooks' food photography. Or there is when you're clever enough for your headings to include phrases like "The Unbearable Sadness of Vegetables," or "Jello Confronts the Depression." A sample from the section titled "Meat! Meat! Meat!":

This would seem to be a segment of an intestine from some creature that ingested the fender from an old DeSoto. In any case, it's alarmingly aerodynamic, this meat; very modern and streamlined. Perhaps this recipe hails from the 1939 World's Fair.


Now, we try on Beer Meets Food never to offend the sensibilities of hapless internet food gawkers with such unfortunate food photography. But we made chicken liver mousse, of all things, and then we put it on my great-grandmother's china. And it was almost immediately...regrettable. I mean, the kitsch value was through the roof, like socks with ice cream sundaes printed on them, or a Thomas Kinkade print with specks of paint spackled onto it by one of his seven hundred Glowing Cottage Elves. would eat this, wouldn't you?

How about this, though?

We thought not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Geez. You can't remember what beer you were drinking? Pitiable. Or enviable, depending on whether or not you were quaffing a kind nepenthe and trying not to regret a lost Lenore.
Why no pate de fois gras pie? What kind of Sherlockians are you, anyway?
When are you coming up and teaching me how to grow vegetables? No, you can't sing to me from The Fantasticks while you do it.