Natural Light

The best part about surprise parties is getting the surprisee good and pissed off prior to the fête to ensure maximum hilarity when they realize they’ve been had. Such was the case this evening, when a team of experts conspired to make Debi good and cranky prior to being ambushed by her closest friends in our dining room. And there was food, surprisingly. I didn’t take pictures of any of the main dinner things, partly because potluck buffet-style dinners are not so photogenic and partly because I like to enjoy life rather more than I like to photograph it so that strangers may vicariously get off on it. Once the party gets going, I put down the camera. Sue me; I’m over 30. I also return phone calls rather than texting a misspelled sentence fragment. I’m a dinosaur. Moo.

I do have pictures of the first and last things we ate–the alpha and omega, if you will. To begin, as my Facebook chums already know, I made bread and rolls, originally planning to use the rolls for a first course kind of thing. But I changed my mind, since the rolls were too good to share (being ideal for family-pleasing lunchtime fare in coming days) and were also not overly conducive to crostinization, which was my intent. So I sliced up the big boule, grilling the slices in the bare iron skillet and then schmearing them with some ramp aioli I whipped up this afternoon, followed by a slice of the cured duck breast. I topped them all with a bit of chervil, which added a nice bright note above the luscious, complex fats.

Dinner was smoked chickens, plus curried lentils and raita, rice, a radicchio salad I made just like the other night, John’s leek and potato soup served in little cups with a dollop of ramp pesto, roasted roots from Phillipe, John’s roasted ramps and asparagus, and Liz and Duncan’s quinoa salad with fiddleheads. Brilliant food all around. There was wine, too, but I’d have to go downstairs and rummage through the recycling to give you all of the info right now. If you’re good, I’ll make some notes tomorrow and get back to you with them.

We had a nice local cheese assortment, then moved on to dessert: flourless chocolate cake from the local bakery, and a chocolate custard fruit tart I made. It’s important to remember here that I know how to make approximately three desserts, and that this one combines two of them; it’s basically my chocolate ice cream recipe (only not spun through the machine) on top of my Grandmother’s pie crust (which is as good as anything anybody has ever made) and then covered with non-local, out-of-season fruit since we’re in the Dark Times for fruit around here. Even the apples and pears are tired and pulpy, like they fell down the stairs. I made a quick glaze from apricot jam and local currant brandy to give the whole thing a luscious sheen. I added a bit of espresso to the mousse for extra chocolate-enhancement. Isn’t this picture sexy?

6 comments to Natural Light

  • The Spiteful Chef

    It's certainly glisten-y and lustrous. How do you make the chocolate custard stay in the tart if it's just ice cream base? Do you thicken it further?

    I text instead of calling, but I never misspell or use sentence fragments.

  • Heather

    You know how you can tell a potluck in Portland? Five kinds of hummus (and usually not even homemade). Sad, but true. One time I brought homemade pad thai to a potluck and I was a king.

    Btw, my shipment of duck prosciutto must've gotten lost in the mail.

  • Julia

    Gorgeous tart.

    I'm so old I don't even know how to text.

    I can't imagine why anyone would ever want a surprise party. Horrible.

  • The Short (dis)Order Cook

    I could totally go for those crostini, even if you didn't want to share the homemade bread. Love that duck prosciutto and envy your ramp aioli.

    It is a dark season for fruit indeed, but we will get strawberries soon. Hang in there!

  • butterface

    Theres also a lot of white people at a potluck in portland.

    Lovely tart. I'm using california raspberries on my menu right now and the Uptight Seattleite food police can just go ahead and burn me at the stake. They taste just fine with chocolate.

  • peter

    Kristie: Egg yolks. That's what makes it a custard. It sets up real nice in the fridge.

    Blanche: There are a lot of hummusexuals in Portland.

    Juila: It was funny because she was mad.

    SdOC: Ramp aioli is easy to make, and so very good.

    Huffin' Stuff: Once Clyde Drexler moved to Texas, I lost all interest.

    You could be a human fondue!

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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