The guests were our neighbors JoAn and Bill, and my parents-in-law, David and Mary, who are visiting from Boston. The two couples are going to swap houses in the fall and we thought a get-together was indicated. Topics of conversation: New England weather, Elizabeth Taylor's eyes, my adolescent adoration of Lady Di, Bill's childhood pet bantam rooster, neighbors not there to defend themselves. I cooked an all-Stir menu:
Brioche pizza with fried pistachios, fresh ricotta and honey. To me, probably the most tempting dish in the entire book. You make a soft, buttery dough, let it rise, roll out to pizza dimensions, top with garlic-infused olive oil, fresh ricotta, and fried pistachios. Bake. When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with honey. The crust was soft, supple and rich and it stopped me short. Not like pizza crust, which is chewy and lean; more like puff pastry. People loved this. I almost loved it but didn't quite.
Steaks with cheese sauce.
You sear thick sirloins, add butter and thyme for calories and flavor. Saute wild mushrooms and roast onions to serve on the side. Then make a decadent sauce with aged gouda and cream, which is very, very delicious poured over the meat, as fat on fat tends to be.
Roasted fennel and green beans. Fine. Plain. Forgettable.
Wild rice salad. Wild rice, chopped vegetables, pine nuts, feta. Delicious. Forgettable.
Peaches and cream. You poach peaches in white wine and sugar, then serve with mascarpone whipped with powdered sugar. Mascarpone whipped with powdered sugar: unforgettable. This was a spectacularly beautiful dish -- when poached, the peaches turned a radiant pink-gold. To go alongside, I served butter cookies.
Perfect cookies, if not innovative.
I was telling my husband afterwards that while I was proud of this meal, a lot of it -- steak and cheese sauce, in particular -- isn't my kind of food. I wasn't complaining. Like trying on a dress, it's how you figure out who you are.