Saturday, September 19, 2009
Mid-week Dinner Party
When we catch up with my good friend Adri, we usually end up somewhere like Glenny or Box Hill for dodgy dumplings and fried noodles. Last week, however, I felt like something altogether more special, so decided to cook dinner at my house.
I wanted to make something relaxed and simple (no spinning sugar or boning pheasants for me!), but still a bit different from what I've been cooking lately.
A relaxed, yet special mid-week supper for 3
Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken
Petits Pois à La Française
Heavenly Cheesecake with Balsamic strawberries
The chicken and potato recipe are from Tyler Florence's Dinner at My Place. I picked up a super-cheap (remaindered) copy at a discount bookstore the other day. I find it strange that Tyler never really took off here in Australia - his recipes are great! His shows are pretty good too, although he does talk a lot. And loudly.
The menu suggested in the book is entitled "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner", and contains a rotisserie roast chicken (I don't own a rotisserie, so a normal roast chicken it was), with roasted potatoes and a butter lettuce/pea salad. I wasn't too sure about the salad, so I ended up making the always-pleasing petits pois à la française.
For dessert, I took the opportunity to make a dessert I've wanted to for ages - Joanna Weinberg's deconstructed cheesecake from the book Relish. Like me, Adri is a big fan of crunchy cheesecake bases, so I knew it would be perfect.
It was all quite straightforward to make - I did the shopping the day before, and started cooking when I got home (luckily I had an early finish, and was home by 5!), and had time to set the table and have a shower before Adri arrived just after 8.
A tip from Joanna Weinberg - set the table first, so your guest(s) feel welcome even if the food is not ready. Work has been pretty stressful lately, so I wanted to create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere. (Placemats and napkins were a gift from my bro and Su for my birthday last year.)
But back to the food. I started in the arvo by making the cheesecake. The base is just crushed digestive biscuits (McVities rule!), mixed with melted butter. I always add a dash of cinnamon to cheesecake bases for a lovely homely aroma. You bake it for 10 minutes, and then let it cool and set in the fridge.
I made the topping at this time too - beating together equal weights of Greek yoghurt and cream cheese (the recipe calls for mascarpone, but that was way too expensive), and some castor sugar. I added the seeds of a vanilla bean as well. I waited 'til the last minute to assemble it though, to make sure the base stayed lovely and crisp.
For the fruity topping I chopped up a punnet of strawberries, added some balsamic vinegar and castor sugar, and let it sit in the fridge to enhance their glowing rubied shine.
The chicken, when not made on a rotisserie, is your regular roast chicken - stuffed with garlic, thyme, bay leaves and lemon, and roasted right on top of the potatoes. The potatoes themselves had rosemary, oil, thyme and a few lemon wedges added. After the 1.5 hours roasting (which gave me much-needed time to relax!), the potatoes that were sitting directly under the chicken were quite soggy, and there was a lot of fat in the bottom of the tray. So while the chicken was resting, I put the potatoes in a separate tray, and then back in the oven to crisp up.
Peas! Cooked with sliced lettuce, spring onions and stock. Yum yum.
And here we have the winner winner chicken dinner:
(Playing with the new SLR - focused at the front, fuzzy at the back - yay!)
After dinner and much chitchat we got up to prepare the cheesecake. Adri described the cheesecake as "heavenly", and I much preferred that description to the wanky "deconstructed cheesecake", hehe.
It does look quite heavenly, with the billowing clouds of vanilla cream.
We then piled the juicy strawberry pieces on top and dug in.
Wow, wow, wow! It was amazing! The crunchy base, the rich creamy topping, the sharp strawberries. I'm glad we assembled it at the last minute, as the strawberries started bleeding into the cream, making it look rather unattractive. It was so easy to make, and rather elegant, in a messy and relaxed kinda way.
All up the ingredients for the dinner cost $40, which was pretty good going considering we'd easily spend that much if the 3 of us were to go out for dinner.