Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Feeding the book club- Part II

It’s that time again- time to feed the book club! As I've said before, I look forward to it more than anything because I love cooking and serving groups. This time, I didn't spend that much time coming up with a specific dinner- it all just kind of happened randomly as I wandered around Kroger.

The first piece of the puzzle happened when I found some marked-down organic veal sirloin cuts. The price was too good to pass up, so I grabbed them. It’s been a while since I've cooked veal cutlets like that, and I didn't want to just do plain broiled or grilled. I ran a quick trial on some pork medallions to test three different methods and spices- broiled/chimichury, broiled/salt and pepper, lightly fried in olive oil with breadcrumbs and yellow curry. Lisa and I tried them all and settled on the fried variety. The trick was going to be A) not overcooking it and B) not having too much oil. This was going to be cooking without a net on the day of book club.



Sizzle sizzle!

The next piece of the puzzle was figuring out what to serve alongside the veal. I was thinking about doing a baked potato, but then changed my mind when I thought about what the veal sirloin looked like- mini steaks! So what would you have with a mini steak? Mini baked potatoes! I got some baby red jacket potatoes and cooked them like a regular baked potato, split them, and served them with the usual accouterments.

I forgot to get a picture of the potatoes, but they looked similar to these.

The last piece was the most difficult to conceptualize. I knew in my head what I wanted. Kind of. My doodles were the genesis of what became my crispy spinach salad, but it went through a couple of revisions before I had it right. 

Right in between interview questions and ERP implementation tasks. Where will YOU be when inspiration strikes?

It started with thinking about doing a spinach salad, but again, that’s a very expected side to go with veal and potatoes. I wanted to see if I would be able to make spinach crispy by either frying it or baking it. I decided to try baking it first- 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, single-layered on a baking pan. The spinach dried out and got crispy as I had hoped, but I ran into some problems with it sticking to the foil, so I tried again with a little spray of PAM. This time it worked great, and I was able to get the spinach off without any issue.

Baked and crispy spinach

The first pass was to stack spinach, provolone, and then more spinach, and top it with a bit of vinaigrette. It was, for lack of a better word, boring both visually and taste-wise. My second attempt added a tomato slice to the bottom, and this time I stacked the spinach, cheese and spinach on top of the slice of tomato and cooked it at a low temp on the stove top to melt the cheese and give the tomato a bit of a cooked flavor. I topped the finished product with Parmesan cheese and a drop or two of vinaigrette. This was miles better than the first try, but still was lacking…something. I wanted to have something that would add a savory flavor to the side. I went through my refrigerator and found exactly what I needed- Genoa salami!

Tomatoes on top of salami, waiting for the spinach and cheese

The final revision was the same as the second version, only this time the tomato/spinach/cheese was placed on top of a slice of salami and then cooked. A happy accident occurred when, as the salami heated up, it curled up and over the edge of the tomato slice, which looked really nice. I eliminated the vinaigrette, as the salami/tomato/cheese had enough intermingling flavors that it was no longer required.
Lid on to help melt the cheese

Fully assembled but not cooked

With the dinner planned, all that was left was to make it for everyone. One thing that I’ve always excelled at (even back to my days as head cook at Hoggy’s!) was getting everything to come up at the same time. It’s a strategy, to be certain, figuring out how long everything needs to cook and raising or lowering temperatures speed or slow things. This worked out great- the veal with the breadcrumbs and curry was flavorful, tender, juicy and crispy. The salami/tomato/spinach/cheese “salad” was as delicious as it was unique, and the baby baked potatoes were the perfect complement to the rest of the dish.  

Yes, I even created a menu for them!

In the end, this dish wasn't as impulsive as the rest of the meals I've blogged about, but it is interesting to follow the train of thought from idea to plate from time to time.

Until next time!

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