Monday, May 31, 2010

These Are My Confessions

Well, really just the one: I kind of, maybe, just a little, but only in some respects, like Martha Stewart. Not like-like, and not like, want-to-be-"BFFs" -like, but one really has to admire the woman. If spending time in jail doesn't cause your massive domestic empire to fold up and hide in a corner, and you pretty much built all that yourself, well.. would that I may someday be so successful (sans the imprisonment thing).

I've been hunting for the book that started it all (according to Amazon, anyway): Entertaining, the 1982 guide to all things party, from hiring help to setting the table and making a bazillion dishes for the guests. For some reason none of the used bookstores I've scoured (a significant number, both in Brattleboro, Vermont and Washington, DC. The links are to my favourites) have it in stock. I think everyone else wants to hang on to it as well. For one thing, it's an emblem of a bygone era, the 1980s. In hindsight (and I'll grant you, I wasn't alive for most of that decade) everything was bright and hopeful, exuberant and jubilant and full of optimism. Nostalgia aside, the book brings that back to us, and gives denizens of this decade and century an opportunity to modify and modernize some very classy parties to fit our own characterless era.

I did find my own copy of Hors d'Oeuvres, which is equally sumptuous and dreamy. I think juxtaposing that style of opulence in decor and food presentation with a contemporary minimalism could be very gratifying. The best part of this book is not that Martha presents themed party menus or very tasty and precise recipes, but that everything is a bit mix and match. Because my guests are so often vegetarian or vegan, I need to be on my toes with modifications. Miniature tarts and sandwiches, small bites of fruit and cheese, roasted tortellini (the pictures in Hors d'Oeuvres inspired me to make my first tortellini from scratch) are all conveniently alterable. There's usually two parts to a recipe: the filling and the base. If, for example, I really like the salmon mousse tartlets, but can't serve salmon, I can replace it with herb mayonnaise and cucumbers, a sprig of dill on top. The first menu even begins with highly interchangeable tea sandwiches (p. 19).

This is also the book that led me to discover how few people in the States know what a pain de mie pan is. I even made a bet with a friend that Sur La Table wouldn't have one, or know what it was. Someone still owes me a cookie.

All of this is actually leading up to the fact that I made a recipe from Martha Stewart Living (May 2009) for dinner last night and it was very tasty. It did, however, fulfill my butter limit for the week, so I guess I'll be having dry toast for a while. The recipe was Brioche French Toast with Roasted Asparagus and Orange Beurre Blanc (image and recipe from MarthaStewart.com). As usual, I had about half the required ingredients, but I think it came out just as well anyway. I substituted smaller amounts of vermouth, soymilk, blood orange juice and onions for dry white wine, heavy cream (which I also left out of the beurre blanc altogether), more orange juice and shallots. And I made the brioche from scratch that morning, from a recipe in my new Beard's Bread Book for brioche loaf (not to be confused with little brioche buns). Very tasty bread, and it adds to the egginess of the dish without oversoaking the slices. Plus it smelled great in the pan as it was cooking. And I like asparagus.

2 comments:

  1. ah, thought you might like the asparagus/brioche. too bad i didn't get a sample bite! v well-written blog btw...

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  2. I do want to be like Martha Stewart, I've always dreamed of having my own bees and harvesting my own honey. I confess... I want to be Martha Stewart. In culinary school it was my nick name "Martha"... those pancakes? we had them for dinner too :)

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