We spent last week with some friends (our quarantine pod) in Santa Barbara to ride out the election. And what a week it was! We thought we might be celebrating on Tuesday night as the results rolled in, but, as we all know, Tuesday’s uncertainty led to Wednesday’s uncertainty as the votes were slowly and meticulously counted.
How best to get our mind off of election stress? The ghost of Julia Child visited us one evening and told us to go visit La Super-Rica. The place is legendary — Isodoro Gonzalez opened it in 1996 — and Julia Child counted it as one of her favorite places to eat Mexican food. So off we went.
I had a very good Cyber Monday, if I do say so myself. My KitchenAid mixer has been in decline every since that time, years ago, that I was using it to knead bread dough and heard a giant BOOM in the kitchen, only to discover it had toppled on to the floor, cracking a tile in the process. Now it looks like Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, its whole back exposed to reveal stray wires and coils (the cover won’t stay on). The other day I accidentally put my hand on one of those wires and it zapped me. The thing is ten years old and so when I saw Jason Kottke link to a KitchenAid mixer deal on Amazon yesterday, it was if the food gods were smiling down upon me. I got the six-quart, professional series in Aqua Sky for $220 less than the normal price. It arrives tomorrow.
I may have also purchased a new food processor, a fire extinguisher (you never know!), and two mid-century serving platters on Etsy that weren’t discounted for Cyber Monday, but I was on a roll, so I just went with it. And then, one of L.A.’s most celebrated restaurants, Trois Mec, posted this on its Twitter feed: “We’re celebrating cyber Monday with a deal of our own! Buy for 2 and eat for 4, or buy for 1 and eat for 2! Valid for today only! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details!”
A year or two ago, I got rid of my roasting pan. Not because I’m anti-roasting pan, or because I needed the space, but because I realized that my roasting pan had a non-stick surface and that I’d been scratching it up with a metal spatula over the years and that there was a teensy, tiny chance I’d been exposing myself and my loved ones to carcinogens whenever I roasted a chicken and that we’re all going to die and it’s all my fault.
So these days, when I roast a chicken, I rely on my largest cast iron skillet. Frankly, I think it works better. And I riff on the beloved Thomas Keller roast chicken recipe, the one I’ve been making for the past eight years, combining assorted root vegetables and potatoes and garlic in the bottom of the pan with a splash of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper, and then topping it with a chicken that I stuff with thyme and garlic, also rub with vegetable oil, before sprinkling with lots of salt and pepper. Only, I’ve been much bolder with a certain ingredient to really make my roast chicken shine. Can you guess what it is?
My friend Ryan O’Connell is one of my favorite people. If you don’t know who he is, hop on to Amazon now and check out his book, I’m Special, and come back here once you’ve bought it and read it. Not only did he write that book, but now he’s writing for fall’s most anticipated TV show: the reboot of Will & Grace. So Ryan’s a talented guy who has great taste in wine and even better taste in dinner parties: he loves my cooking. For his birthday, I told him I’d make him a dinner and he could choose the menu. He thought on it and came back with “spaghetti and meatballs, because I know you’ll do it really, really well.” His boyfriend Jonathan loves my Caesar salad, so we added that to the menu. Later I e-mailed to query about his favorite desserts and he wrote back: “My fave desserts are chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, and strawberry shortcake.” I combined a little from Column A and a little from Column B and chose my favorite dinner party staple, this flourless chocolate cake.
Everyone (Ryan, Jonathan, and our mutual friends Lara, Graydon, and Kyle) were all set to come over on Saturday night at 7:30 PM. So on Saturday morning, I set out for Gelson’s to get started on my food shopping when I had an idea: what if I documented the whole thing, from the food shopping in the morning to the moment everyone leaves at the end of the night? Sort of a timeline of how I pull off a dinner party? Wouldn’t that be an epic, potentially useful post for people who want to pull off similar dinner parties? Well, either way, I did it, so without further ado, I present: a timeline of how I pulled off Ryan’s Birthday Dinner.