Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Dinner Party

I love to entertain.

I really do.

Then why do I freak out so much when I finally have the opportunity to throw a dinner party? I think my anxiety about dinner parties stems from my innate fear of displeasing people. What if I make something my guests will not like? What if I accidentally make something they are allergic to and one of them collapses on the floor due to anaphylactic shock? Or...and perhaps even more likely....what if I burn the house down in my attempts to present a fancy, company-worthy dish?

You may think my fear is not stemmed in some sort of reality - but really, it is. There actually was one occasion where the hubby and I almost rendered ourselves homeless as we set out to recreate our favorite Chicken Tikka Masala dish from a local Indian restaurant. While broiling our yogurt-marinated chicken breasts in our tiny kitchen, we carefully monitored the internal temperature of the bird with a thermometer with a rubber cord that enabled us to keep the oven door closed. Both of us were science majors at the prestigious University of Notre Dame and graduated with honors in our respective concentrations...yet, we both managed to forget the simple, commonly-known fact that rubber is flammable. So yes, the cord of our thermometer burst into flames and quickly ignited the chicken followed by the pan drippings and the rest of the oven. We opened the oven door quickly only to allow a huge, dark cloud of smoke to escape and large yellow flames to dance in our faces, as if mocking us for our stupidity.

Luckily, we keep a fire extinguisher under our sink for just such an emergency. My husband quickly grabbed it and prepared to aim it at our flaming oven as I rushed outside with the child, yelling behind: "Save the chicken!" I did not see what happened next, but apparently Paul managed to reach inside the oven with some barbecue tongs and grab out each piece of flaming chicken before putting out the fire with the extinguisher. His act of bravery saved our dinner. We managed to clear the rest of the smoke out of the house, spray some air freshener about, and happily arrange our chicken on a beautiful serving platter right before our guests arrived. And you know what? It was delicious! And the extra char on the chicken was divine.

Even though that situation worked out for the better, my anxiety about dinner parties continues. Tonight, we are hosting my old boss for the night. He loves fine food, good wine, and friendly conversation. Basically, a casserole does not cut it. Not that I would ever serve a casserole. I decided for this dinner to set about making Boeuf Bourguignon, the famous French stew immortalized by Julia Child. I planned to serve this with a souffle of garlic mashed potatoes, some crusty rolls, and a fall salad. Dessert would be a Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Cake served with fresh raspberries.

I made most of the stew as well as the dessert last night so that I am free tonight to focus on the side dishes tonight. This afternoon, I put the finishing touches on the salad I plan to serve and I am super excited with the dressing I just made. I am making a Harvest Salad with pears, Honeycrisp apples, dried cranberries, pecans, blue cheese, and a Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette.

Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
1/4 Maple Syrup
1/4 Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
3/4 Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Whisk all ingredients together! Be sure to whisk the mixture enough to completely emulsify the oil. It should be a pale yellow color.

Hopefully the rest of dinner tastes as good...

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