Eating The Unthinkable: Adam To Cook For His Family

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It’s been settled: this Wednesday night (or will it be Thursday?) I, The Amateur Gourmet, will–for the very first time–cook dinner for my hard-to-please nervous-to-eat-my-food family. What will I cook? How will I cook considering that my mom doesn’t own a WOODEN SPOON? All her roasting pans are aluminum and disposable. She doesn’t have a baking sheet. My mom, you see, doesn’t cook. I enter this kitchen with great trepidation.

I will be cooking for mom, dad, my brother, grandmother and grandfather. Michael (my brother) says: “Don’t make lemon chicken. I hate lemon chicken.” Mom says, “Turkey’s nice–it makes the house smell good.” Dad says, “Don’t cook anything too weird.” Grandma will want something not too fatty and grandpa will be happy, I think, if there’s a Beefeater martini served with it.

One idea is The Barefoot Contessa’s roast salmon with fennel that’s in her Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Unfortunately, I don’t have that book handy—can someone type up the recipe in the comments? Also, if anyone has any ideas, any suggestions for a picky Jewish family (latkes and brisket have been mentioned) I’m all ears!

This should be exciting and highly nerve-wracking. But will it be worth it? Or will I be cut off from my family forever? TO BE CONTINUED…

21 comments

  1. Since you posted the recipe for that FABULOUS almond cake (which I made for Thanksgiving and will be making again for Christmas) it would be a pleasure to help you out…

    BFC Salmon w/ Fennel

    1 10lb. fresh salmon

    5 cups sliced yellow onions 1/4 inch thick (3lbs.)

    5 cups sliced fennel bulbs 1/4 inch thick (3lbs.)

    1/2 cup good olive oil

    3 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves coarsely chopped

    2 Tbsp. coarsly chopped fennel fronds

    Zest of one orange

    2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice

    2 tsp. kosher salt

    1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

    Instructions to follow…

  2. Cooking instructions for Salmon with Fennel (serves 10 to 15)

    Have the fishmonger cut the head and tail off the salmon and butterfly it, removing all the bones. You should have about 7 lbs. of salmon.

    Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

    Saute the onions and fennel with the olive oil for 10 minutes on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the thyme leaves, fennel fronds, orange zest, orange juice, salt, and pepper and saute for 5 more minutes, until the onions and fennel are tender. Taste for salt and pepper.

    Lay the salmon, skin side down, on a cutting board and sprinkle both sides generously with salt and pepper. Spread the fennel filling over half of the salmon. Pull the other half up and over the filling, enclosing it. Tie the salmon every 2 inches with kitchen string to secure the stuffing.

    Place a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in the oven for 5 minutes to heat it. Carefully transfer the salmon to the hot baking sheet and bake it for exactly 30 minutes. Do not overbake!

    Allow to cool slightly, then remove the strings. To serve, cut into thick slices with a very sharp knife. This salmon is delicious hot or at room temperature.

    And there you have it.

    I haven’t made this recipe yet but it sounds really good. Let us know how your dinner turns out…

  3. Roast beef tenderloin (with horshrdish sauce), southern style green beans, scalloped oysters, fresh fruit salad with a drizzle of Kirsch over it and homemade yeast rolls.

    Oh, and lots of champagne.

  4. The almond cake really is awesome. It reminded me of the pastries that I had when I was in Sicily this past spring. If you’re an almond fan you’ll love it :)

  5. Well I’m glad that I was directed to your link through Accidental Hedonist because you should definitely win for Best Humor! The added plus is getting to copy that salmon recipe above because I had to give up my Contessa cookbook when I moved. :-(

  6. I made BFC’s Cheddar Corn Chowder (From The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook) this weekend, and it was delicious… I did, however, end up using much much more cheese than she suggested. Wisconsin represent!

  7. Thanks Coco for taking the time to type that out! And thanks everyone else for your suggestions… I’m going to peruse the cookbook section today at B&N to figure out the plan… noodle kugel sounds good too…

  8. Great minds think alike! Instead of the usual ham, turkey or roat beef, I also will be serving salmon for Christams dinner. I think I will poach it. Havent yet decided the herbs and sauce.

  9. Are you sure you want to go with Salmon and fennel for a picky family? I am going off the wall this year and making a Timpano…I am excited about the new adventure.

  10. Here’s Joan Nathan’s Sauerbraten recipe with some potential modifications at the bottom (a friend who’s not a vinegar fan… though I love the recipe as is)… a real crowd pleaser. Great with any starch really, though I’m a fan of mashed potatoes.

    Sauerbraten

    2 teaspoons salt

    3 tablespoons brown sugar

    1 cup chili sauce

    1 1/2 cups white vinegar

    1(5) pound brisket of beef, shoulder roast of beef, chuck roast, or end of steak

    1 cup chopped celery leaves

    2 onions, sliced

    4 carrots, sliced

    2 cups water

    Mix salt, brown sugar, chili sauce, and vinegar together. Pour over meat and let stand overnight in the refrigerator.

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the meat in an ovenproof casserole, pouring marinade over meat. Cover with the celery leaves, onions, and carrots and water.

    Cover and bake for about 2 hours, basting often with marinade. Remove cover for 1 more hour. (Allow approximately 1/2 hour per pound for roasting.)

    This dish is best prepared in advance so that fat can be easily skimmed from the surface. When ready to serve, slice and reheat in the strained pan marinade.

    Modifications:

    Add 1 can tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes with juice for part of the vinegar.

    Substitute 1 bottle beer (any kind, really) for an equal amount of the vinegar. Or drop the vinegar altogether and use a combo of beer and either water or beef broth.

  11. Noodle Kugel…

    This recipe absolutely rocks.

    Noodle Kugel

    16 oz cottage cheese

    16 oz sour cream

    4 eggs

    2 teaspoons vanilla

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 cup sugar

    1 stick butter

    8 ounces egg noodles

    1 can peaches

    Preheat oven to 350.

    Combine the following:

    cottage cheese

    sour cream

    eggs

    vanilla

    salt

    sugar

    in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer for five minutes

    Meanwhile, boil the noodles. Drain them and add them, still hot, to the cheese mixture. Melt a stick of butter. Pour half the butter into a 9×13 pan and stir the rest into the noodles and cheese. Drain a can of peaches, (discard juice) chop them, and add them to the noodle mixture. Pour it all into the 9×13 pan and bake for one hour or until set in center and golden on edges. Call your cardiologist and enjoy…

  12. The most delicious lasagne ever.

    lasagne verdi al forno

    4Tbsp butter

    4Tbsp flour

    2 2/3c milk

    salt

    pepper

    nutmeg

    fresh spinach pasta or dried imported pasta (get the thinnest dried you can find)

    country style ragu

    1c parmigiano reggiano cheese

    ragu alla contadina

    3 tbsp olive oil

    2 oz pancetta finely chopped

    1 med onion minced

    1 med celery stalk with leaves minced

    1 sm carrot minced

    4 oz boneless veal shoulder or round

    4 oz boneless pork loin trimmed of fat or 4 oz mild ital sausage (made w/o fennel)

    8 oz beef skirt steak

    1 oz thinly sliced prosciutto

    2/3c dry red wine

    1 1/2c chicken stock

    2c milk

    3 canned plum toms, drained (not 3 cans!)

    salt and pep

    saute pancetta, minced veg in olive oil, 10 min or until onions barely begin to colour. coarse grind meats and prosciutto together in food processor or meat grinder. stir into pan and slowly brown over med heat. lower heat when browning starts cook 15 min or until deep brown. drain fat, turn into 4 to 5 quart saucepan set over med heat. add wine to skillet, lower heat, cook until wine reduced by half, deglazing pan as wine bubbles. Add wine to saucepan. Add 1/2c stock let bubble until evaporated, 10 min, repeat, stir in last 1/2c stock and milk. simmer covered over low heat 1 hour stirring frequently to prevent sticking. crush and add toms. cook, low heat, uncovered 45 min until resembles thick meaty stew. season.

    bechamel

    melt butter in 3 to 5 qt saucepan over med low. wisk in flour, stir without stopping 3 min. wisk in milk slowly. bring to bubble, stir 3 to 4 min or until thickens. cook, stirring 5 min or until raw flour taste disappears. season w/ salt pepper hint of nutmeg.

    preheat over to 350. butter 3 qt shallow baking dish.

    cook pasta four pieces at a time 2 min for fresh 4 for dry. fish out, slip in bowl of cold water, dry on paper towels.

    assembly

    spread thin film of bechamel, arrange four overlapping sheets of pasta, thin film of bechamel, thin film of ragu, sprinkle cheese. repeat. reserve 1/3c each of bechamel and cheese for top. spread sauce to completely cover last layer of pasta, then cheese.

    cover with foil, bake 40 min, remove foil, bake 10 until knife inserted in center comes out very warm. cheese should be creamy/golden not brown. let rest ten min in turned off oven with door ajar. serve immediately, get loud and cranky if family dosn’t come to table immediately.

  13. We need a place where everyone can post their favorite recipe. . . maybe catagorized by holiday, everyday, etc. Upper right hand corner perhaps?

  14. it may be good to serve them familiar items, so it won’t be so intimidating. they’ll recognize and trust the food, but understand that your cooking skills are far superior to the neighborhood delis. kugel is always delicious, but its not a full meal.

    Some other ideas: matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish (but it takes a lot of cooking utensils…), chicken liver, homemade bagels (with store bought lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, etc), cheese blintzes. Good luck!

  15. If you want salmon, the recipe in Barefoot Contessa Parties! is really delicious. It calls for a grill, but I broiled the fish and it was perfect. It’s a lighter glaze and maybe not as objectionable as fennel (which some of us have tried to like, but can’t!) I’d also recommend the caramelized onion salad in the same cookbook.

  16. Whatever you do, make fabulous mashed potatoes….

    Years ago I cooked for my Brooklyn Jewish in-laws for the first time – and I went vegetarian. Needless to say, it was not a hit. On their last visit I went all out with kosher meals consisting of recipes from the Healthy Jewish Cooking Cookbook by Seteven Raichlen.

    One dinner consisted of meatloaf, veggies and mashed potatoes, and it was a hit. My Rabbi father-in-law, particularly loved the mashed potatoes, and said that I cooked them just like his mom. I didn’t use butter or milk of course, so for flavor I added carmelized onions and vegetable broth. They were delicious and I guess very Eastern European!

    Another dish that I made was Charmoula Grilled Salmon, a Moroccan Jewish recipe that is grilled and has a wonderful cumin, parsley, cilantro sauce. Since my father-in-law lived in Israel for a few years, this also went over well.

    Good luck! It’s so exciting to cook for our families, especially when they are picky!

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