Friday, March 5, 2010

Celebrate, We Did

Hi everyone. The Berry Patch reading audience is growing, and I couldn't be more excited about it. I do apologize for not posting about last weekend's cooking experiences, but this week has been a whirlwind.

Last weekend was all about celebrating. I managed to travel and prepare four more recipes.

On Saturday night we surprised our good friend Melanie with a 30th birthday party with her closest friends at Marriott Shoals. It was officially the first surprise party I had ever attended or helped organize. Melanie was truly surprised and had a great time.

I must show off the decoration. It was so fun and easy to do!

It was sweet to see Melanie and Nick's little Cole join the party for a short time. This was only Nick and Melanie's second time to spend the night without Cole, so we needed to give her a good night out.

Of course I had packed the cookbook in my suitcase (because doesn't everyone take a cookbook with them for a weekend getaway?) just in case the perfect opportunity presented itself...and it did. After most everyone left and a handful of us were left, we needed a special toast to Melanie's birthday. "Hold on everyone. Let's find just the right drink in my cookbook." Now if these were not close friends, they would have probably been surprised that I had a cookbook with drink recipes readily available. But they know me, so this seemed normal.

Stephanie suggested Kir Royale, and we agreed because it just sounded so festive and fancy - just like us. Forty minutes until the hotel bar closed, so off to the bar we went with cookbook in hand.
Todd, Stephanie's husband, entertained us on the elevator ride to the lobby bar.

I wonder what people thought when we walked in carrying the cookbook. We got some looks, and the bartender was surprised but played along. She even allowed us to take pictures of her preparing the recipe.

Side note - Doug, who was once at The Peabody Memphis, is now in Florence at Marriott! It was fun catching up with him. We go way back...paint ball in the snow at The Peabody's retreat a couple years ago.

Unfortunately for us, the Kir Royale doesn't taste nearly as good as its name. The champagne and raspberry chambord concoction tasted like drinking cough medicine out of a champagne glass. We all agreed it was pretty hard to mess up champagne but this did it.

When we gave the guys a chance to taste, one of Nick's staff thought it was just the grandest thing and drank the remaining. So for the record,  Commander's cocktails are 0-2.

Sunday morning, I was on to the next celebration. My mom's 55th birthday was Monday, so I stayed in Corinth with her Sunday night and Monday during the day to have mother/daughter time. My mom is one of the most wonderful women I know. Of course, I'm biased because she's mine, but she continues to overcome and endure such hardships and manage to stay so humble and loving. During the USA vs Canada Olympic hockey game, we started talking about cooking out came the cookbook again. If this was going to work, I needed to find a simple recipe. No chicken stock required as it was in Memphis, no seafood because I didn't know where to get fresh seafood in the quaint town of Corinth, MS on a Sunday evening, and something my mom would enjoy because this meal was for her.

I landed on Crepes Claire, named after Ella & Dick Brennan's brother's wife Claire. Fresh crepes are filled with diced cooked chicken breast, crisp crumbled bacon, mushrooms, and green onions blended in a béchamel sauce. I've been intrigued by the idea of making crepes for a while now.

First up, crepe making. Do you know how easy these things are to make? It obviously doesn't take much to intrigue me, because all they consist of is eggs, butter, vanilla extract, water, salt, and flour. Yep, that's it.
Get the consistency thick enough to lightly cover a spoon.

Now, how to actually make the crepe itself. The recipe didn't insist on using a special crepe maker and were limited directions using a skillet with hot oil. The recipe says it prepares 18 - 20 crepes. I obviously did something wrong because I only managed to get 10. I added water along the way to thin the mixture and that helped with the last few. Out of 10, I managed to be pleased with four of them.
Not the prettiest crepes, but they will do. They actually look like they are leprosy crepes.

Next, béchamel sauce. I looked up a description online to get an idea of what I was about to create. Béchamel is a creamy white sauce known as one of the mother sauces of French cuisine and named after Louis de Bechameil (1630 - 1703). Bechameil was a financier who held the honorary post of chief steward to Loius XIV. The sauce first appeared in Le Cuisinier Francois published in 1651. How interesting, my mom and I were preparing something that originated so long ago. I was proud of us. My mom was putting in the dash of nutmeg and hot sauce, I was stirring, we were doing this together.

Crepes were made, chicken boiled, bacon cooked and crumbled, mushrooms and green onions sauteed, and bechamel sauce to a perfect consistency. All that was left to do was assemble. Broil a fresh tomato sprinkled with parmesan and voila.

It was time for my mom to enjoy her first crepe ever while we celebrated a mother/daughter dinner in our jammies. We both loved them and thought they were perfect. I highly recommend this recipe, just as the Brennan's do, for a ladies' luncheon because of yummy flavor and the ability to prepare in advance and assemble right before time to eat. I give this recipe a 9 out of 10.

Before I go, I must set the record straight about Mr. Bechameil and this creamy sauce. I started thinking, why would a financier for Louis XIV create a sauce. Did he have a knack for cooking? With a little more research, I found there are four theories of different people originating the sauce. Supposedly Bechameil perfected an existing form of the sauce and it was dedicated to him as a form of flattery after a comment made by the Duke of Escars.
"That fellow Béchameil has all the luck! I was serving breast of chicken à la crème more than 20 years before he was born, but I have never had the chance of giving my name to even the most modest sauce."
I'm not so sure Bechameil should receive the credit, but it is more fun to pronounce his name than the other three!

Tata for now.

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Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio
Brad and me in Florence, Italy