Food with Friends

Saturday, I had  two couples over.  One couple we have known for many years, the other we have recently met.  The latter has lived in my neighborhood, but not 'near'.  So they are a "nye" neighbor.  There will be six of us, and that makes for a fun and intimate dinner.

My guests wanted to bring something.  I'm not a good appetizer planner, so I suggested appetizers. My menu is as follows:

Wine braised duck legs (with dried fruits)
Butternut squash ravioli with brocoli rabe
Pumpkin spoonbread
Apple/Kale Waldorf Salad, though I might substitute this for roasted pear and blue cheese salad.
Lemon Pie in a shortbread crust.

I think that any dessert with lemon is a nice ending for a rich dinner with duck--though this dessert was plenty rich.   I'm going to try my hand at making the ravioli.  I couldn't find it the last time that I made this dish and substituted cheese ravioli.  It was a sub-par substitute.

As I had to go to the Chinese market to get the duck legs, I found some wonton wrappers.  I roasted the butternut squash and added shallots and cream from an Emeril Lagasse recipe to fill them. It was easy to use the wontons.  I made a egg wash to seal, careful to press out the air.  I elected to freeze them thinking that would make them easier to handle.  I boiled them, but they became what I considered water logged.  I scooped them out and put them in a non-stick pan and dried them.  They were exceptional.

As I had more roasted Butternut squash than needed to process to filling, I substituted the squash for the pumpkin in the shortbread.  It was fantastic.

The Lemon Pie had Chef John Folse's filling from his Lemon Creme Brulee Tart coupled with a shortbread crust  (with ground almonds) v the one for his dessert.  Chef John has many wonderful recipes on his website, and they will be great arrows in your culinary quiver.  Make sure to take a look!  You will not be sorry.  His "Good Lovin'" brownies are stupendous.  One reason to be an intrepid cook is that you quickly learn how you can cobble together different recipes.  Often I'll substitute crusts for different tart/pie fillings.

I skipped the broiling of the top as I was going to served it with fresh raspberries and whipped cream (from my oh-so-handy whip cream dispenser.  I used lemon extract and confectioners sugar to flavor the cream.  It was a lovely and delicious ending to our meal.  I consider a meal like a job interview:  First impressions matter; last impressions linger.  I always like to have a Wow! dessert. Note that Wow desserts do not have to be difficult.  This dessert was easy (with the crust substitution); nevertheless it was elegant and delicious.

We had a great time.  One of my guests commented that he had worked at one of Williamsburg's finest restaurants for a short time, and that our meal rivaled anything that he had been a part of down there.  It was high praise.

Few things are as enjoyable as food with friends, and I'm grateful to have both.


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