Julia's Dinner Party: Wine, Sides and Dessert

This is the final installment in the Julia's Dinner Party Series. In case you missed the first three parts, be sure to check out the amuse-bouche, the salad and the entree.

So wine. Two great bottles of red and a bottle of white that my parents brought over added wonders to the enjoyment of the food. The names and specifics of the wines or details about their taste? Not my forte. Might want to wait for my Dad's own review of the dinner. He's the real "winey" one in the family. And he knows a lot about wine too! Couldn't resist.

The sides that I served with the stuffed peppers were a white wine mushroom medley and a winter vegetable mash. The medley was pretty simple. I chopped some white, shiitake and baby Portobello mushrooms and saut̩ed them in olive oil, salt, pepper and a lot of fresh thyme and parsley (roughly chopped) on medium heat for about 5 minutes. At this point, I added in 8 ounces of Chardonnay, stirred, cranked up the heat to high and covered it. I let it cook for another 8 minutes or so, but I was checking to make sure that I took it off right when all the liquid had been absorbed. I served them as is, and they were great Рtender, yet a little crispy from the saut̩, and very flavorful from all the herbs and wine. They added a nice flavorful vegetable that was not too heavy. Exactly what I wanted.

The winter mash consisted of three large white potatoes (peeled and chunked), three large yams (peeled and chunked), one medium head of cauliflower (de-leaved and chunked) and one thick, large carrot (peeled and chunked). I put them all in a large pot and filled it up as high as I could with cold water (without fearing bubbling over). With things like potatoes and carrots that you want to turn out fork tender, the key is to bring them up to boiling evenly as opposed to dunking them all in already-boiling water, which would lead to the outside cooking long before the inside. I also added a teaspoon of salt to the water and put the pot over high heat.

I let the veggies boil away for over 25 minutes, stirring them occasionally. I really wasn't timing, since they are done when you can break through a chunk of each type of veggie easily with a utensil. The carrots take the longest, but they get there. When everything was fork tender, I drained them and let them cool for 15 minutes right in the pot. I then used a little mashing utensil to carefully start breaking apart the veggies and combining them together. I continued doing this and folding the less mashed parts toward the top from the bottom until I had an even texture and color. It was a lovely light orange and mashed quite easily without cream, butter, oil or any fancy potato-masher machines. I was pleased, but wanted them to be richer for the occasion. So I drizzled in a small stream of cream as I mixed, until the mash was just a little smoother and creamier. It was only a couple of tablespoons into what had become a TON of mash. Finally I took a red onion and, after finely dicing it, put all the pieces in a frying pan with some hot canola oil and seasoning until all the little bits were golden and crispy (about 8 minutes). I poured the onions and a little of the now-onion-flavored oil over the mash and mixed them in. It added a smoky richness to the mash and really enhanced the flavor. I’m going to definitely keep that little idea in mind for the future. Bottom line, the mash was superb and was the dark horse favorite of the guests. Plus, there was so much that it made for great leftovers. My Mom even suggested reheating so with a poached egg on it. Yum!

Finally, we had dessert, a cake that none other than Julia herself baked (in honor of her Mom’s birthday). It was a double-layered, double-chocolate cake with a chocolate ganache filling and cinnamon butter cream frosting. It was a divine confection and one that had people running for seconds (and coming back the next day for thirds), despite such a large feast. She graduated early from University of Michigan, got a great job and even wowed the crowds at her own dinner party. What a gal! A gal well worth celebrating.

The Saturday group at Julia's next celebration on Sunday.

1 comment:

Glenn said...

Unfortunately, this comment comes too far after the delightful dinner party to remember the specific wines that we brought. However, the types of wines were easy to remember. The white was a California Chardonnay, not too oakey, but bright and acidic that matched up well with the amuse-bouche and salad. The reds were a Washington Pinot Noir, which had enough fullness to match the main course and sides; and an Italian Sangiovese. For those not familiar with this varietal, sangiovese is the primary grape in Chianti and many Italian blends. It goes perfectly with boldly-flavored courses such as peppers and tomatoe-based foods and sauces. However, the wine, no matter how fine, can only supplement the meal. With creative cooking this incredible, almost ANY wine would have worked, and nobody would have w(h)ined!! Dad.