Friday, August 17, 2007

Dinner Party Part Two…Size does Matter!

Wow what a night!! So got the car all packed up with equipment and food and headed over to the clients house.

**Side Note – client lives 2 houses down the street. While these folks are my neighbor and I know both their first names I knew nothing about them. Boy I do now…**

My daughter and I unload all the items. The reason for taking the car was the heat was so miserable I didn’t want to make 6 trips walking back and forth and get all hot and sweaty. As I’m unpacking I realize I needed a few additional things. Hubby instantly brings the items down. (what a support group!)

Ok so I get out my notebook with my time line and I confirm with the client “Ok so appetizers at 6 and dinner at 7 correct?” She replies “Oh we decided to do appetizers at 6:30 instead…*shrugs* I guess I should have mentioned that huh? That’s not going to mess you up to much is it?” I paused already recalculating items in my head while out of my mouth is “Not a problem.”

I begin setting up my equipment and my daughter checks the place settings and get herself familiar with where everything is should she need it.

I get my 2 big pots of water to boil seeing as I need to cook 36 ravioli at once. The front two burners I have medium sized fry pans ready to start browning the chicken breasts.

What the heck? The back right pot is boiling after 7 minutes but the other one isn’t! As I’m searing the chicken breasts off the left front is browning great, but the right one is taking a bit longer. **is baffled** I check the exhaust fan to see if it’s putting too much of a draft on the flames. That’s when I lift the pan and look. I am so used to my stove top, while I have a lot of burners they all burn the same. Not so with her stove. The left rear is a small burner and right rear is a large burner. Well that explains why the water on the right rear was boiling so much faster. Twice the BTU’s will do that.

**ponders the movement outside the kitchen window, but being so dark outside can’t really see what it is…but it’s big!**

Chicken is all seared off and time to get the cream sauce started, but the only burner available is small one, since my chicken white wine reduction is on the large front burner.

I was 30 minutes behind schedule while trying to adjust for the different burners. You can bet that goes into my notes of what to check when I visit the client’s house.

Time for service! Ravioli are done and the cream sauce complete. Everything starts to fall into place…I plate 4 and my daughter starts taking out 2 at a time. She was phenomenal! I was so proud of her. I plated and she did the garnish for me. As the last plate is handed out I pull the chicken to rest for a bit. I’m going on blind faith. I am not going to second guess myself on the chicken. I made an extra one, one that was a bit, not much, plumper than the others. I slice into it…Perfection!! Oh and I wish I could send a sample of my white wine sauce to everyone. Wow it was so good.

**movement again outside..what the heck is that?!**

As my daughter clears the ravioli plates they were clean. I think one guy actually licked his clean because he loved the sauce. I begin slicing all the chicken and fanning them on the plate and drizzle with the sauce. A small green salad with pomegranate vinaigrette topped with candied walnuts. As she sets the last plate down one yahoo looks up at me and says “hey chef! This is almost as good as KFC!” no one at the table even chuckled. I just smiled and wiped the counters down. Then my daughter and I slipped into the back to rest for a bit and let them enjoy their dinner in peace.

We went back about 10 minutes later, my daughter checked water goblets and I started some light clean up. I couldn’t see the plates till she started clearing them. The first few plates come back and they were clean. The next set and the set after that and none of them had anything left. I was thrilled!

So the last thing to serve was the birthday cake. Thank goodness she went to a bakery for this because I just could not do it justice. As the cake is being serve is when I hear “So Dave tell us a joke! One of your good ones!” My first instinct is to blurt out “let’s keep it clean folks my 17 year old daughter is still serving” but at the same time my professional side of “don’t listen to conversation just do my job and only listen for things like ‘chef’ or ‘excuse me could I get some more of..’ and what not.” So the joke is told and while I didn’t hear the entire thing I knew the gist of it was a racial joke. That was when my daughter stopped smiling and did that grit your teeth and make it look like I’m smiling face. That ‘joke’ prompted a political discussion. Now we’ve all had or been part of a political discussion. But when you have a daughter in high school, who’s history class is current events and pulled over a 4.0 and nailed a panel discussion group, she’s going to know when you have no clue what you’re talking about. And she’s of that age that tact isn’t a forte. However she did bite her tongue and keep her demeanor professional.

Time to clean up. I did remember to take plenty of towels and paper towels, however neglected to take any cleaning supplies. 48 plates, 48 water/wine goblets and an assortment of silverware, counter tops, stove tops, 2 sinks and the floor. As for the cookware I brought all my own and merely rinsed them out and took them home in bus tubs to be washed there. It would have been much nicer to use my own dishes that I have for such events, however I only have service for 8, not 16.

Lessons learned – When grocery shopping put your list in order of the store. Don’t write down a few veggie/fruit items, then paper items, meat items and then more veggie/fruit items. You’ll be walking all over the store.

Look at your recipes and while you think you know them by heart, write out all the ingredients. You’ll be amazed at what you can forget.

Check all equipment to be used at the client’s house. Make sure they have fridge space to. Thank goodness my client had the forethought to clear out some space for me.

Check your own equipment. Let’s not have a repeat of the big basil frost of 2007.

When you see movement outside chances are it’s your hubby trying to peek in and see how things are going J

And above all, remember that I really do love this!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Dinner Party Part One... the menu is a compilation of my dishes and some things she wanted.

Appetizers - Stuffed mushrooms, with ricotta, herbs and bread crumbs. Also stuff cherry tomatoes with crab and cream cheese.

Starter - my lobster ravioli with a basil cream sauce

Main course - Pan seared chicken breasts (finished in oven) with a white wine sauce made with the pan drippings and a cold salad with pomegranate vinaigrette, sliced pears and candied walnuts.

So yesterday I did all my shopping and made the stuffing for the tomatoes and the mushrooms. Also wrote out a time line. Client calls me at 8pm to inform me that another will be joining the party and is that a problem? (thank goodness I planned for 2 extra)

Wednesday morning. Up bright and early to get a jump on a few things. Wanted to get my pasta made....but first a hearty breakfast for my family. Ok now to the pasta...oh my god..I did not just do that?! I did..seems I used all my eggs. Now I can't make the pasta. Hubby to the rescue! He jumps on his motorcycle and heads to the store to get eggs. Hubby pulls up and runs in with the eggs and not one broken! Ok let's make pasta...oh my god you are kidding me!!! How can I be out of flour?!?!?! Is this someones idea of a sick a joke!? (oh this whole thing gets so much better)My daughter is heading out the door to go to Target and offers to get the flour. Ok…breathing…I’ll clean the tomatoes and mushrooms and start the lobster filling. Every big dinner is going to have a few mishaps..just roll with have plenty of time. Daughter’s home and hands me the bag with the flour in it. I put it to the side since I’m working on the lobster stuffing. Ok…lobster stuffing made, tomatoes cleaned and mushrooms are ready. Let’s make some pasta….**begins to cry this just cannot be happening** while my daughter was so gracious in going to the store she bought the wrong kind of flour. I told her I needed just plain AP flour. So now I’m off to the store to get that exchanged. I was in and out in a flash and back home before you knew it. Pasta time…oh no…ha! Actually it was pasta time and got my batches all made and they are currently resting in the fridge.

That’s when the next tragedy hit. My hubby in all his concern for the fridge being open and closed so much, in our 104 degree heat (with humidity so bad I feel like I’m breathing under water), decided to put our big industrial fridge on what is called Holiday setting. This makes it cold…real cold…so cold it has frozen and ruined all of the basil I bought. Worst part is I bought out all the basil the store had. The other grocery store in our area closed.

I’m actually pondering when I should I start drinking at this point. It’s either vodka or a stroke.

I have to go to 3 other stores in the outlaying areas to get the basil I need.

Back home with the basil. Quick check of email and to update you all. It’s the only way I can sit and breathe calmly. It’s time for me to head back in and roll out the pasta and stuff the ravioli.I’ll update you later tonight at how the cooking part went. I sincerely hope all the mishaps were here at home and not more to come.