Last night I hosted seven strangers for dinner in my home as part of a project for the Food and Performance class I am taking this semester. The menu had a distinct New Orleans flavor:
Creole Fromage Fort, Mushroom Pâté, Olives & Cornichons
Asparagus & Ramp Remoulade
Duck, Oyster & Andouille Gumbo over Rice
Vanilla Gelato Topped with Goat Milk Cajeta & Spicy Pralined Pecans
While it is going to take me a while to piece the evening together, I’m willing to call A Strange Dinner Party a success. The conversation flowed. Food and drink were consumed. Connections were discovered and forged. The highlight may have been after dessert when everyone pitched in to change a lightbulb–a task I don’t do when alone because it requires standing literally on top of the sticker on the ladder that says “Do Not Stand at or above this level. The Sazeracs and stimulating conversation left me so amped up that I managed to plow through nearly all of the dishes before collapsing into bed.
I woke up inexplicably early, having slept a sum total of 10 hours over the past two nights. Sleep deprivation and weekend cocktailing had me feeling a little worse for the wear. I needed a hearty breakfast to fortify me for this afternoon’s New York Abortion Access Fund Bowl-a-Thon. My bleary eyes scanned the kitchen and alit on the now stale bread that my guests had apparently refrained from using to soak up their gumbo.
The Morning After Savory Bread Pudding
- Pour yourself a big glass of water and set the oven to 350.
- Grab those stale baguette slices and roughly cut them into 1″ chunks. Spread them on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven to toast until just turning golden.
- If you’ve got some leftover cooked veggies on hand, you’re almost home free. If, on the other hand, you polished off the last of the asparagus while doing the dishes last night, heat a cast iron skillet up to medium-low with a little olive oil. Add some sliced garlic (or onions or whatever) and a nice pinch of red pepper flakes. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add a big pile of broccoli rabe (or mushrooms or spinach or whatever vegetable(s) you have on hand). Season with salt and pepper and sauté until cooked through. If you happen to have a bunch of scallions you forgot to serve with last night’s gumbo, throw these in toward the end.
- Crack four eggs into a medium mixing bowl. Add a cup or so of milk or cream, salt, pepper and a pinch of two of nutmeg. Now stir in that cheese that you hastily packed up at the end of the night. This is a particularly nice way to recycle your already recycled fromage fort.
- Mix your toasted bread cubes in with the sautéed veggies and scoop this into a small baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the top and pop your bread pudding in the oven.
- Cook until the eggs are set and the bread on top is nicely toasted–about 25 minutes, which should be ample time to fix yourself a much-needed cup of coffee.
After a three and a half hour drive in bumper to bumper traffic followed by a rainy walk home laden with bags, I was in no mood to cook last Thursday. Apparently I was not the only one seeking the comforts of delivery. My chana masala and chicken tikka took well over an hour to arrive. On Saturday I ate the leftover chickpeas, with a liberal helping of goat milk yogurt, for breakfast. By 4:00 I was hungry again. Luckily, I still had a few hunks of chicken and some mango chutney left, along with plenty of fresh vegetables.
Leftover Chicken Tikka Salad
Combine 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon of mango chutney, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, some black pepper, and 4 thinly sliced scallions. Let the dressing sit while you prep the salad. Wash and dry a small head of romaine and slice into ribbons. Peel and slice one very large cucumber. Slice your leftover chicken. Combine all of the ingredients along with any crispy onion bits left in the takeout container in a bowl, tossing to combine.
This hit the same pleasure center as a curried chicken salad sandwich. And the dressing held up well against what were arguably some rather toothsome lettuce leaves. All around a great use of leftovers.
Saturday night was an unexpectedly festive one–so much so that I was still recovering by the time I met a friend for dinner on Monday. I found my comfort in some barbecued chicken. Hungry as I was, I still took home a quarter of what must have been a very hefty bird. The leg went to my new feline companion and the breast appeared the next night on a bed of romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, and a homemade ranch dressing–which is a whole different thing from the gelatinous stuff served alongside lackluster crudité.
Yesterday was the longest day of the year–and a glorious one at that. A classmate, neighbor and new friend joined me for a wine-soaked celebration of the season’s bounty. Turns out we have even more in common than expected. This includes an inability to pass up a farmers market. Between our mutual addiction and our individual CSA shares, we had quite a few vegetables on hand. We also had some lovely pork chops thanks to Lewis Waite Farm.
Several glasses of wine and a couple of hours of gossip later, we sat down to a bulgur-kale pilaf with garlic scapes, green onions and parsley; coriander, cumin and fennel-crusted pork chops; and a green salad with celery, carrots, turnips and a goat milk yogurt vinaigrette.
We rounded the night out with a little rum and some armchair astrology circa 1980.
This morning found me downing a cup of coffee before dashing out to run errands. A friend was in the area with her dog, which led to more coffee (iced this time) and a little too much sun. Naturally, I had to swing by the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket for yet more vegetables. By the time I arrived home, it was after 1:00 and I was in serious need of some food to cushion all of that caffeine.
Luckily, in my tipsy state, I had still managed to pack up the leftover bulgur-kale pilaf. (Even better, Sara had done ALL of the dishes.) I replicated last night’s vinaigrette, using two tablespoons of goat milk yogurt, one tablespoon of white wine vinegar, one tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly-ground black pepper. I tossed this in a bowl with some green leaf lettuce, the leftover pilaf and an ounce or so of crumbled feta. You could do the same with leftover rice, quinoa, or pretty much any grain and whatever vegetables you have on hand. This makes an ideal light summer lunch that you can whip together in minutes.