Difficulty Level Easy
The thing to remember when you are having a dinner party is, don't panic, everything will be fine. You've planned your menu carefully, and you've been organized and made your lists and now you just have to calmly work your way through things. Be methodical and finish one recipe at a time to avoid making mistakes. Oh, and don't open any wine until your guests come, that will help you avoid making mistakes too.
Occasionally bad stuff happens and I've certainly had my share of interesting and unexpected things happen at dinner parties over the years. I've burnt things, I forgot to put sugar in an otherwise beautiful pumpkin pie rendering it inedible. I once slid an entire plate of meat to the floor (it was still delicious). My husband once invited people for dinner and then forgot to tell me and they showed up expecting a fabulous meal. I've discovered whole courses the next morning that I forgot to serve. According to Nigel Slater, if you make a mess of something, apologize once and then shut up about it. I agree. If it's a real disaster, say sorry, pour a glass of wine and order a pizza. It won't be funny to you then, but it will be great fodder for conversation at future dinner parties.
As it turned out, my dinner party was a huge success. My husband went into the evening with a little trepidation, because we were entertaining four strangers, but our guests turned out to be fascinating, talkative people and we had a delightful evening. I had planned the meal carefully and nothing went awry. I was a bit nervous because one of the guests didn't care for lamb and she was eating it to be polite, but it turned out that she enjoyed it enough to come back for seconds. I was also pleased to be able to introduce them to Jerusalem artichokes which I had pickled and everyone seemed to really enjoy. I had decided to serve everything at room temperature so that I could make and plate everything ahead of time, but given the fact that it hit 32C the day of the party, it looked like a stroke of genius.
We ended up with a meal made with all Ontario meats, fruits, vegetables and all of the wines were from Ontario. With the appetizers I served a Henry of Pelham Cabernet Sauvignon Rose, with the soup and tart course a Sauvignon Blanc from Chateau des Charmes. I served a Cabernet Merlot from Mike Weir Winery with the lamb and a Gewurztraminer from Cave Spring Winery with the cheese at dessert. None of our guests were Ontario wine drinkers, but I think we made some converts.
|Local Asparagus Tart with Organic Bacon, Morels, Ramps and Fifth Town Goat's Cheese|
|12||spears green asparagus|
|1/4 pound||morel mushrooms|
|6 pieces||ramps, or spring onions|
|2 cups||arugula leaves|
|1||log Fifth Town Ash-Covered Goat's Cheese|
|6 slices||maple-cured bacon|
|½ pound||puff pastry|
- Roll the puff pastry out to ½-inch thick rectangle. Prick the surface with a fork. Place the pastry on a sheet pan, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil or a sheet of parchment paper and another sheet pan. Weigh the top sheet pan down, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for baking the pastry. I baked mine at 400F for 15 minutes.
- If using dried morels, soak in warm water for 15-20 minutes.
- Blanch the green asparagus in well-seasoned boiling water until knife-tender. Drain in a colander and run cold water over the asparagus to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- Fry the bacon in a skillet until cooked to desired crispness. Drain on paper towels. Remove excess bacon fat from the pan.
- Add the ramps to the skillet and cook until tender. Add a little olive oil to the pan if it is too dry.
- Drain the morels and squeeze out any excess water. Saute the morels whole or chopped, your choice, until soft.
- Slice the goat's cheese into ¼-inch thick rounds.
- Place the puff pastry on your serving platter. Scatter the arugula over the tart shell. Place the rest of the vegetables as you see fit on top of the arugula. Finish the tart with the slices of maple-cured bacon and goat's cheese. Garnish with some freshly ground black pepper.
Adapted from Chef David Lee in The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, May 28, 2008.