I must say, that having a big lunch is much healthier than going to sleep on a full stomach, and I can postpone doing the dishes until dinnertime when it all has to get done anyway. There is no stress or panic on my part, as I know that they are aware that these lunches are only a test. And if worse comes to worse, a re-hash of last night’s dinner or a ham sandwich are great solutions.
The men who lunch at my house are not the green salad/tuna fish type. They expect, and even ask for a full meal and dessert. And I am noticing that lately they seem to come to the house earlier and earlier to find out what’s for lunch, or to peek over my shoulder as I am stirring a sauce or finishing dessert. I take this as a great compliment and I know that if they like something I have made, they will talk about it all afternoon, and request it again a few days later. These bacchanalian lunches are great help to me. After all, I cook to please other people, and I know that if the boys like the meal, it’s a winner.
It is great fun to have their attention at lunchtime, when we discuss the benefits of marinating beef and the best way to slice ginger. They actually have opinions on the right texture of the vichyssoise and know how many eggs go into a soufflé. We talk about the difficulty of making proper crème brûlée (hot on top, cold in the bottom) and the best way to make a Bloody Mary (shaken not stirred). They have theories of good menus as long as it involves some kind of meat and potatoes (I have been frowned upon when I try to slip them a light vegetarian lunch) and the beauty of peeled tomatoes. I am amazed at their “knowledge” of food and its technical preparations. I guess, the kitchen is the heart of a home, and whether by osmosis or simply by liking to eat, we are all infused with knowledge, like it or not.
There have been some extraordinary dishes that I will share with you and some disasters that I won’t. But all in all, it has been quite successful. And just in case you are starting a new relationship or wish to re-kindle your current one, here is my list of what men who lunch liked:
1. Meat in any form, shape or size
2. Potatoes in any form, shape or size
3. Anything with mayonnaise
4. Hot Chocolate Sauce
Granted, this wish list is not terribly extensive, in fact it is extremely limiting, but if you really think about it is quite simple and easy to please gentlemen…for lunch.
The recipe is called “Patatas con Importancia,” a gypsy dish typical of Seville, but at home we have nicknamed it “Important Potatoes.” The potatoes are not cooked on the first go around; they are just made “important”. I make them in the Spanish cazuela, as it goes from stove to table, keeping its rustic characteristic, but a large sauté pan would work just as well.
4 medium size potatoes, peeled and sliced into one half inch pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
2 eggs beaten
½ cup flour
1 cup white wine or more depending on the pan
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying
In a cazuela or a large frying pan, sauté the onions, garlic and tomato until soft, add salt and pepper; set aside. In a separate frying pan, add some olive oil. Working in batches, dredge the potato slices first in the egg and then in the flour, and fry in a frying pan until golden on both sides. Once the onion and tomato mixture is soft, place the fried potatoes flat on top, barely cover with white wine and cook, over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the wine has evaporated and the potatoes are soft. Serve hot.
Roast pork with root vegetables & Sherry
This can also be made with a larger piece of pork, but it will need a much longer cooking time. So for lunch, or when time is of the essence, tenderloin works beautifully. I slice the meat and serve it surrounded with the puree accompanied by the “Important Potatoes.”
2 pieces of trimmed pork tenderloin
2 carrots sliced
1 leek sliced
1 onion chopped
4 celery sticks chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
In a pot, large enough to fit all the ingredients comfortably, add the olive oil and brown the pork on all sides, season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped vegetables, bay leaf, chicken stock and wine. Bring to a boil and then simmer over very low heat for about one hour or until the vegetables are soft. Place the meat on a cutting board and let rest. Remove the bay leaf and puree the vegetables in the blender or food processor. Slice the meat into half-inch slices and place on a serving dish with the puree. Serve hot.
Vanilla Ice cream
Making vanilla ice cream is really quite easy and the basis of all the other flavored ice creams. You can add mango, peaches or strawberry puree and use all those aromatic fruits so much in season. Ice cream is one of those things that I am still not sure it’s essential to make from scratch, after all store bought ice creams are perfect, but if you are really trying to impress someone, give it a try, you will be amazed.
4 large egg yolks
¾ cups fine sugar
Dash of salt
1.5 cup of milk
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
In a small pan, gently scald the milk and the vanilla bean and set aside for the vanilla to infuse the milk. In a double boiler, mix the egg yolks, sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts. Add the scalded milk little by little, removing the vanilla bean, and continue stirring until the custard becomes thick and it coats the back of a spoon, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir the heavy cream. Pour in a container and cover with plastic wrap, touching the surface of the custard, and chill. Pour the custard in the ice cream churner and mix for about half an hour. Pour into the prepared mold and freeze for 2 to 3 hours, or until totally set.
[Makes 1 ½ cups]
16 oz. dark bitter chocolate cut into squares
¼ cup heavy cream
In a double boiler, place the chocolate to melt. Stir to make sure there are no hard pieces and slowly add the cream. Mix well and serve hot. ■