Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dinner Party Day

I learned much from this type of cooking magazine, and hauled this 20-year-old issue out for yesterday's main course, Corsican veal stew with olives 

I had a farm in Africa....

Well, no. But I had a cooking blog. 

It is still floating around, bereft of its custom design and many of its photos. I'm not sure what I'll end up doing with it, but for the moment it is a nagging reminder of a time when cooking was not just something I had to do, but a true hobby.

I think I burned out, or maybe I just started working full-time plus. But cooking hasn't been any more than a duty for a while. Not an unpleasant duty, but a duty nonetheless.

Yesterday, though, I pulled out the stops and did the whole French Saturday night dinner party thing: poring over recipes Friday evening, shopping all morning on Saturday, cooking all afternoon, then sprucing up the house a bit before hosting guests from 8pm to a bit past midnight.

I get by with a little help from my friend Picard

The food and company were great, bien sûr, but I also really enjoyed the whole process. 

One fantastic new element of this whole process is that in my circles, it is now deemed legitimate to have one course of your meal come from Picard , the amazing French frozen food chain that makes so many's lives a bit easier. 

More than one Picard dish would be a bit tacky, but a lot of people turn to ami Picard for before-dinner snacks, a starter, or a dessert.   

My Picard choice was before-dinner snacks

Just put these fancy-dancy little canapés in the fridge to thaw for four hours, and voilà! Who could ask for anything more?

And who could complain about smoked salmon with savory lemon cream on a poppyseed blini?

On the left -- source for my 90s Apple Crisp recipe
On the right -- source for yesterday's Apple Crumble recipe 

When I first moved to France, I liked to surprise guests with making "American food." I must have made Betty Crocker's apple crisp recipe for every other dinner party I gave in the early-to-mid 90s -- provided I could find oatmeal, of course.

Now "crumbles" are so prevalent that I wonder if young people even know they are an Anglo specialty. I made an apple one last night, but glazed it with tangerine marmelade and crushed up Breton butter cookies for the crumbly part. 

That original take on the crumble got oohs and aahs, but (the other) Betty C.'s version would just be a standard here now.


Susan said...

Our closest Picard is a bit over an hour away, so I've never even stepped inside the shop. Anyway, your menu sounded delicious. I hope you get your mojo back for cooking. It's a great way to share with others.

Betty Carlson said...

Oh I do still cook, but it's mainly old favorites or improvised variations on my basic themes (soups, salads, quiches, pasta, vegetable gratins...) Having people over is a great way to share, but I can't seem to muster up all of the requisite time and energy for French-style entertaining anymore.

When I tell my American friends about everything that goes into doing a dinner party "à la française," as well as the late hours, they are usually either impressed or aghast!

Sarah said...

Not sure the last time I went to Picard.

I prefer supper parties because they are more relaxed. My friends know they won't get the French style dinner party chez moi, and I'm glad to say they come anyway. :)

We eat, drink and be merry. :)

Betty Carlson said...

Sarah, how do you distinguish between the "supper party" and dinner party? I'm American and have never heard the term "supper party," although we do use the term supper as kind of an old-fashioned synonym for dinner.

Sarah said...

Well, supper is casual, dinner is smarter.

I would put out the wedding china and cutlery for dinner, but everyday stuff for supper. I'm not good on presentation, so I prefer to be casual. The food tastes good, but it's not 'presented'. :)

Betty Carlson said...

And how do you translate that to your French friends, Sarah?

Katie Zeller said...

I have that Betty Crocker cook book but I think it's an earlier version. Where I grew up in the midwest dinner is at noon and supper in the evening, regardless of formality and food served. In Andorra noon was always lunch and evening was dinner, again regardless of food and formality.Supper was reserved for very late, after another event. Here it's all over the place LOL

Katie Zeller said...

And I've never been in a Picard either... But we do have a Thierry not too far away that I get to once or twice a year.

Betty Carlson said...

Katie -- I think that would be Thiriet? I have never been in one of those as there aren't any in our region that I know of.

Betty Carlson said...

Katie -- I had no idea of that dinner/supper distinction in the mid-west. Apparently there are a lot of differences in regional American English, which is something I would like to learn more about someday.