Category Archives: Entertaining

Hello, Gougères, Where Have You Been All My Life?

We got an invitation to a wine dinner in California, but we were not going to be anywhere near California at that time and we didn’t want to pony up the cash to attend. (Side note–is it called an invitation if you are paying to attend?) But the menu looked intriguing and one thing stuck out. They were having Truffled Gougères. I had never heard of them, so I Googled them.

Baked cheesy dough.

How could that be bad?

I was having a party soon, so I pulled up a recipe (Alain Ducasse’s Recipe to be specific) and tried them, since I’m at least astute enough not to make a new recipe for a party without a pre-party trial.

And my taste buds said “Yay”.

Philip tasted them. More Yay!

These were a definite winner. Sort of like a savory cream puff, little hollow cheesy balls that people loved as an appetizer.  Easy to make, tasty, a traditional tidbit with wine, adaptable and wowed the crowd. While we used Gruyere cheese, which I believe is traditional, I have read several recipes that say you can switch flavorful cheeses, so I’m looking at trying it with a blue cheese and with a sharp cheddar. And I haven’t even begun thinking of filling ideas.

So, have you had these, and why didn’t you tell me about them?

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Cry Me a River

I like caramelized onions and onion jams and other savory condiments, but making caramelized onions always seemed like a lot of work for a little payoff. Then I had an “Aha!” moment and Googled “Crock pot Caramelized Onions” and hit the jackpot.There were dozens of pages with more or less the same recipe (if one can call what is involved a recipe). And I’m going to offer you the quick and dirty on a tasty tidbit that is easy to make and goes with many things.

My version requires very little – Onions, of course, a little salt, a little oil (your choice—could be butter could be olive oil, could be Wesson—you decide) and, if you want, a little balsamic vinegar and a little brown sugar.

I use as many onions as my crock pot will hold, usually between 3 and 4 lbs. I use about a half teaspoon of salt, but you can adjust for taste(we just don’t use much salt for various reasons). I use a tablespoon or so of oil or butter or a combination. Some recipes call for up to half a cup of oil, but I have not gone with that much—though really, more butter usually doesn’t hurt anything.
Peel the onions, slice them thin (I’ve just used a sharp knife (cried more)  and I’ve used a mandolin (cried less)—you could use a food processor if you prefer) pile them into the crock pot.

Add the salt and oil, toss a little put the lid on and cook all day while you are at work, or all night while you are in bed—10 hours on low works for me, but if you have a fast crock pot, maybe a little less time.

Then, check out your onions. They will be cooked down and yummy. I usually will stir in a little balsamic vinegar (a spoonful you choose the size of spoon ; 0) and maybe a soup spoon full of brown sugar.  I put the lid askew so steam can escape, and cook them down some more. The balsamic and brown sugar add a bit of richness and color. I have not tried adding them at the beginning, but that would probably be fine. I cook them down until I like the color–another hour or so– and there isn’t much liquid left. I drain what liquid there is to use in cooking (Yummy in rice) and store the onions in the fridge in jars. I hear they can be frozen in various serving sizes, but so far we have gone through them fast enough that just the jars work.

We’ve used these on burgers, with fajitas, with chicken, with steaks and on crackers with cream cheese. We’ve put them on sandwiches and beside omelets. I am thinking I’ll add beef stock this fall and make French onion soup to top with croutons and cheese under the broiler. People we’ve served them to have all asked how to make them. I may use them on occasion as a hostess gift!
Philip is a huge fan of these and believes our house should never be without them again. And, as easy as they are, that may turn out to be true.

A Good Time was Had by All

It was a nice evening, still too cool to spend much time outside, but the promise of spring was there. Our host made a perfect version of Julia Child’s Lamb Stew–and our hostess made a Buttermilk Lemon Panna Cotta. The wine flowed, the conversation carried the night, we got to know our hosts and the other couple they had invited better. After dinner there was coffee and conversation and friendly dogs wanting to be petted.

As much as I like to entertain, there is a different kind of pleasure in being the guest at a friend’s home. We go out so often with business associates–many of whom we are very friendly with–but there is a difference. No matter how friendly the relationship, when there is an ongoing business relationship in the mix there is always a bit of a shadow. I notice that when former clients have retired the relationship changes just a tiny bit, and becomes just slightly more comfortable.

Friends by choice instead of business colleagues just made for a more relaxing evening, and I can’t wait to try to make Panna Cotta at home!

Happy New Year!

I am back to work after a holiday break. My feet hurt from party prep on the 30th and then standing up with a few short times seated from about 7 AM til about 3PM doing final cooking and then hosting a brunch for 40 at my house yesterday. Up this morning at 4:30 AM to get my sister to the airport. Philip drove, for which I’m thankful because it was a bit snowy/icy and I hate driving in that.

I feel tired, over fed and behind at work to start the new year…. isn’t that exactly the opposite of how I’m supposed to feel?

This weekend I’ll finalize my annual goalsetting, which I’d say is the new term for New Year’s resolutions. Until then, I’m going to be trying to catch up with work and sleep and post holiday decor removal and cleanup. Decor removal should be easy as I didn’t decorate much.