A Dinner

Mister Sassy's boss is French.  Like from France, even.  It's a nice piece of information, but when hubby invites said boss home for dinner, well, then.

I didn't want to cook something French-y and risk looking foolish.  I did, however, see it as an opportunity to put on my big girl apron and make a meal that would be both interesting, delicious, and something I could put together in an afternoon while wrangling kids.

In my small world, there is nothing better than spending an afternoon in the kitchen.  I delight in the whole process of planning, shopping and cooking.  I let the kids clean the house, though :)  My plan was to have a nice dinner, a fresh and friendly hostess, and a relatively clean house and happy kids.  It worked out ok.

For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of the food with a guest here.  Which means you just get recipes.  And ideas.  Oh, and don't be afraid of the word "aoili" - it's just mayo with some flavor!

The Menu:

Chipotle-Maple Pecans and Almonds
Mixed Olives (purchased)

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts, Stuffed with Mushrooms, Shallots, Thyme and Fontina
Oven-Roasted Leeks and Fingerling Potatoes
Blanched Asparagus with Rosemary-Citrus Aoili
Baguettes (see my Daily Bread post, or buy some)

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Creme Anglaise and Fresh Raspberries

Our guest brought a delicious Spanish red wine to have with dinner, and we had Port with dessert. 

Chipotle-Maple Pecans and Almonds

1 egg white
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5-6 cups pecans and almonds (unsalted)

Mix egg white, syrup and water in a large bowl with a whisk until foamy.  Add salt, chipotle, sugar and cinnamon, stir until smooth.  Stir in nuts and toss until they are well-coated.  Spread on a lightly oiled and rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake at 250 for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes until toasty.  Let cool completely on the baking sheet, then break apart and store in an airtight container for several days.

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breasts

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
8 ounces crimini or white button mushrooms, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
salt and pepper
4 ounces fontina cheese, diced

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 slices thick cut bacon
salt and pepper

olive oil for the baking sheet

In a medium skillet, heat the butter over medium.  Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the thyme and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender.  Remove from heat, drain excess liquid, and cool completely.  Scrape into a bowl and add the diced cheese.

Cut a large slit into the thickets part of the chicken breast, going in as far as you can go without cutting all the way through.  Stuff tightly, and secure opening with one or two toothpicks.  Wrap with a slice of bacon, tucking in ends.  Season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with each chicken breast.

Placed on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes until chicken is cooked through but still moist.  (I cooked an extra breast and cut into it to test it, not a bad idea with company.)

Oven Roasted Leeks and Fingerling Potatoes

1 pound leeks, trimmed and washed, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 pounds fingerling or other small potatoes, scrubbed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
seasoned salt

Toss all together and spread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake in the oven at 375 for 45 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring twice during cooking.  This bakes along with the chicken above perfectly!

Rosemary Citrus Aoili
(this is enough for a pound of asparagus or other green vegetable)

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 peeled garlic cloves
3 fresh sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper
zest and juice of half an orange
zest and juice of one lemon

Put mayonnaise in a medium bowl.  In a food processor or blender, process the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and vinegar for 30 seconds.  Allow to stand 5 minutes.  Put this mixture through a strainer into the mayonnaise.  Stir in several grindings of black pepper, plus the citrus zest and juices.  Taste and correct seasoning.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave or in a  medium sauce pan.  Stir in the sugar, and then the eggs.  Sift and stir in the cocoa powder.  Pour into a buttered, 8-inch round baking pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Cool completely before turning cake out onto a plate.  Serve garnished with fresh raspberries and drizzled with Creme Anglaise (recipe follows).

Creme Anglaise
(From Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking")

1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 3/4 cup boiling whole milk or half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a mixing bowl, beat (with an hand-held electric mixer) the sugar and egg yolks for 2-3 minutes, until pale yellow, and when you lift the beaters, the mixture falls in ribbons.  Beat in the cornstarch.

VERY slowly add the boiling milk into the sugar-egg mixture, beating on low speed.

Pour into a medium saucepan and put over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring continually with a wooden spoon, until it thickens slightly.  It should coat the spoon like cream.  Do NOT let it boil or even simmer.

Remove from heat and stir for a few minutes to cool a bit.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Pour into a jar and cover, refrigerate until ready to use later that day.  Bring to room temperature or warm it slightly.