Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What I've been doing

First, we did this

And then we did this

And then we did this

  There were these

And a lot of this

And then we went here

 And ate this

And we became this

Cutest. Merged Family. Ever.

Now I am frantically working on the new book, which is due August 1 so that I can get it in your hot little hands in July 2012. 

More news as I have it.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wedding ceremony at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Club
Flowers by Cornelia McNamara http://www.corneliamcnamara.com/
Pictures by Zhao Photography http://www.zhaophotography.com/
Cake by TipsyCake http://www.tipsycakechicago.com/
Embroidered handkerchiefs by http://www.sewcrazyinchicago.com/
Wedding dinner in the private room at MK http://www.mkchicago.com/
Menus and other custom printing by With Grace  http://www.withgraceshop.com/
Dress designed by Mark Botelho, information available upon request

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Wedding Dinner and a Recipe

When Charming Suitor and I planned our wedding, the one word that kept coming up was intimate.  We are both blessed with large extended family, and oodles and oodles of friends, and we knew that we only had two options, a wedding for 50 or a wedding for 350.  There would be no way to find anything in between.  And since we only had 4 months from engagement to wedding date, not to mention that neither of us wanted a huge unwieldy event, not to mention a limited budget, 50 it was.  And we knew right away that we weren't going to do a traditional party.  All we wanted was a ceremony, followed by cake and champagne.  No dancing, no sit down meal, no receiving line. I kept saying "All Bread, No Circus."

We also knew that we wanted our newly combined family to celebrate later that evening with a truly spectacular meal.  After all, food and wine were the things that intially bonded us, and continue to bring us much joy.  We cook well and easily together. Even a basic weeknight dinner becomes a delight to prepare and share.  Our entertaining sensibilities are in sync, and when we have people over we are a great team. 

When CS agreed to turn my place into OUR place, I offered him the back room as a home office.  He smiled and said that he didn't want a home office and was delighted for us to go ahead on the Kitchen Library project that New York Penny and I had envisioned and dreamt of.

I never get tired of looking at this room.
When we got engaged, my mom had booked a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants, MK.  Michael Kornick's fine dining place has never let us down, I have celebrated birthdays there, entertained out of town guests, and always have had delicious meals and amazing service.  It was only a little disappointing, but mostly hilarious when we arrived, having been engaged for less than 20 minutes, to discover the place overrun with firemen.  There had been a glitch in the fire system in the kitchen, which had gone off accidentally, spraying the whole kitchen with chemical foam, and rendering the place finished for the night.  We walked up the block to Kiki's Bistro for a lovely celebration.  

But when we started thinking about our wedding dinner, we returned to MK. They have a private room upstairs, and since we were going to only be 16 for dinner, we decided to book that room so that we could have everyone at one big table.

We knew we wanted a tasting dinner, small plates of wonderful tastes, which would mean going a little off the beaten path for the restaurant.  They stepped up immediately, and we had so much fun making all the plans.

The menu, which we were able to work on with dreamy Exec Chef Erick Williams, fell out as follows:

Amuse Bouche:  Espresso cup of chilled creamy Spring Pea soup with confit lemon
Salad:  Roasted golden and chiogga beets, frisee, orange segments, goat cheese with an orange-walnut vinaigrette
Fish:  Seared diver sea scallops on a bed of celery root horseadish puree, with sauteed black trumpet mushrooms and diced celery root and parsley coulis
Pasta:  House-made fettucine in a light lemony butter sauce with fresh asparagus, fava beans, and peas with chile and pecorino
Game:  Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast over minted artchoke farro with an orange-black pepper duck sauce
Meat: Veal stip loins over creamy polenta, with sauteed tuscan kale, caramelized cippoline onions and saba
Sides:  Roasted asparagus with lemon, and sauteed seasonal mushrooms
Desserts:  Alternated around the table were two different duos, so that every couple could taste four desserts!  Duo 1 was a small vanilla creme brulee and a small lemon tart, and duo 2 was a small chocolate caramel tart with a small banana souffle cake.  Everyone was served a tiny 2 oz. vanilla malted milkshake with their dessert.

Since gougeres had been a discussion in our first e-mail exchanges, we requested them in the bread basket, and they accommodated us deliciously.  We also asked for 3 non-alcoholic mocktails, since five of our guests were not drinkers, and for them to add hot chocolate to the coffee/tea service options, because Little Sister is a big hot chocolate fan.  The whole thing was very personal and very us, and every mouthful was perfect. 

Let the festival of delicious begin!
We couldn't have asked for a better evening, our newly merged family all at one table having a very special meal.  We want to publically thank the entire team at MK, especially their event coordinator Kate and Chef Williams for making it exceed our not insignificant expectations.  We look forward to many more celebrations with them over the years, and plan on having a standing reservation for our anniversaries!  (And before you ask, no, we did not get any discounts or special deals because I am writing about them on this blog, in fact, when I send this to them it will be the first they will know of the existence of the blog at all.) 

In honor of the meal, I thought I would share a recipe that is near and dear to my heart, Gougeres.  Gougeres are a small French cheese puff, very easy to make and addictive to eat.  In one of our earliest e-mail exchanges, I asked CS about what he might make for a dinner party, and one of the first things he said was gougeres.  Since they are one of my faves, I immediately complimented him on his choice, and it really began our discussion of food and entertaining and travel which has continued to this day. 

When he asked me to be his date for New Year's Eve a few weeks later, joining him at the home of Hostess with the Mostest and Big John, two of his dearest friends whom I had yet to meet, I was a little nervous, but excited.  He asked HM about the menu, and when he found out her appetizer was going to be a Spicy Tuna tartare, which he already knew was on my No-Fly List, he asked if he could also bring an appetizer.  And he made Gougeres, so that I would have something to nibble on.  He didn't make a big deal about it, he just quietly made sure I was taken care of, that I would be comfortable.  I think that might be the moment I fully realized that I was falling in love with him. 

Make these for your family, or your sweetie, or just for yourself.  They are little nuggets of love and yummy.

Charming Suitor Gougères

1 cup water
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces grated Gruyère, cheddar, emmenthal, or other nutty full-flavored cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees if you plan to make the gougères right away.

Bring water, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Place the flour in the bowl of a mixer, add the boiling water mixture and mix with a paddle, if available (not a whisk), or use a wooden spoon in a bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until the dough is very smooth. Add in the cheese and mix well until dough is thick and cheese has pretty much melted into the dough. Place the dough in a large Ziploc bag. I find this easier than the traditional pastry bag method. You can just cut off the corner of the bag, pipe the gougères, and then throw it away. If you prefer to use a pastry bag, feel free, just use a medium plain tip.

Line 2 large baking sheets with either silicone baking mats or parchment paper, and pipe the dough in small mounds onto them, about 1 inch rounds, leaving an inch and a half of space between them. Sprinkle each with a few flakes of kosher salt, and if you want, some extra grated cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and puffed about 3 times their original size. Don’t open the oven door for for the first 10-12 minutes or they may deflate upon themselves. They will still be delicious, but not as pretty. Serve and eat IMMEDIATELY! Best when hot out of the oven.

If you want to freeze them to bake later, pipe the gougères a directed, sprinkles them with grated cheese (will help them not stick to each other during storage) and freeze them overnight. You can then store in a bag for when you want them. To serve: Let the frozen gougères thaw at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees (about 15-20 minutes). Sprinkle the thawed or refrigerated gougères with salt and bake 25-30 minutes, until golden and puffed.

These invite experimentation, not only with cheese, but also add ins.  Try adding a tablespoon of minced fresh herbs to the dough, or crispy bacon bits.  Sauteed shallots are delicious, as is cooked fresh corn off the cob.  They also invite filling!  A suprisingly tasty bite is to make the gougeres with cheddar and pop in a classic sweet and sour meatball.  It makes for an amazing one-bite slider.

If you have a recipe of something that bonds you to someone special, share with the class.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Little bits of joy

Hello Chickens!  As many of you know, last Sunday, May 1, my Charming Suitor and I said I Do. 

Cookin' in the kitchen!
There was a lot of crazy leading up to a perfect weekend of family and friends and love and laughter.  In one fell swoop I gained the very special gifts of a husband, another set of parents, a sister and brother, and even nieces!  When the wedding pics come back, I will share more, but for now, I wanted to share some of the little details and recommendations that came out of the experience, before they leave my head.

1.  GET THESE BAGS:  http://mymojuba.com/bride-mojuba/inside-bride

Full disclosure:  The creator of these is a longtime friend, and was a wedding planner for years.  She meticulously researched the best little "insurance policies" that everyone needs on hand on the big day.  Things like a top quality emergency stain remover kit, band aids, clear nail polish...even the things you wouldn't think of, like plastic straws for drinking without smudging lipstick!  Jackie's wedding present to Charming Suitor and I were these bags, and we both were SO glad we had them.  I had a tiny snag on my dress...in the bag?  Tiny scissors, it was gone in a flash without a trace.  Had forgotten my "something blue", a cool strand of blue suede peppered with little Turkish eveil eye beads for luck, wound it around my bouquet and we were back on the good luck train.  Charming Suitor used his like a briefcase, organizing all the checks to pay vendors, collecting gift envelopes, and keeping his wallet etc. in a safe place.  The best gift you can give to a bride or groom, or yourself if your big day is coming up.

2.  Flip Video

Someone you know has one.  Ask them to tape the ceremony if you aren't hiring a videographer.  We are so glad my mom handed hers to one of our friends, because we have been able to share the ceremony with some family and friends who were unable to attend.

3.  Don't be afraid to ask for unusual details.

We were able to make the day special and personal by working with our vendors on some details that were special to us.  Because the event was so small, and because we are well equipped for entertaining at home, we were able to use our own china, silver, linens and glassware for the reception.  It was very cool to see a friend eating our wedding cake off of my great-grandmother's china!  We asked the restaurant where we had our wedding dinner to put gougeres in the breadbasket, since they were an early funny bonding thing between CS and I.  Everyone will be honest about what they can and can't do for you, but it never hurts to ask.

4. Let go.

In the weeks leading up to the big day everyone around us kept remarking on how calm we were.  Our standard response was this:  We wanted to be husband and wife.  We didn't give a flying fig about being "bride and groom".  Of course we wanted the event to go well, for the guests to have a good time, for all the planning to result in events that go off without hitches.  But at the end of the day, the promise we made to each other was that the day was a lovely necessary step in getting us to our life together, and not the other way around.  So we made a conscious decision not to care about whether the cake fell off the table, or if it rained, or if we flubbed our lines.  And it worked.  By focusing on the big picture, and making sure that we genuinely felt that if anything went wrong it would be hilarious and not heartbreaking, we could be calm, cool and collected.  We had butterflies of excitement, not nervousness.  We were able to be fully present in the moment, because we weren't thinking about how the event was moving along.  I'm not saying you shouldn't embrace the fun of being the center of attention for a day, we planned the heck out of this wedding weekend, and loved being on the receiving end of such love and warmth.  I'm just saying that the day is the "amuse bouche" of your partnership, the tasty little mouthful that starts the meal off right, and that the rest of your lives together is the meat and potatoes. 

Any other marrieds with good advice for getting through your big day?

Stay tuned for more details, some in depth discussion of a spectacular wedding dinner, and pics as we get them.

Yours in Good Taste,
Mrs. Polymath