by Max Brantley
Joel DiPippa reports:
After an extended absence from Eat Arkansas, it is time to return. This weekend hatched impromptu plans for a dinner party last night (Tuesday, when ice was expected)(. Thankfully, the handful of guests were able to make it and there were no weather injuries or scares. More importantly, though, the weather with its chill and rain gave a great backdrop to the meal.
First course? French onion soup. I love French onion soup. Besides the fact that it is easy and tasty, it really gets back to French cuisine for me. Taking a few simple ingredients, and coaxing something completely unexpected out of it. As for a recipe? Slice an onion or two. Soften and carmelize with butter and olive oil. Add beef broth, some dry wine (I use vermouth), a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce and some black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer at least 20 minutes. Yes, the bread was put under the broiler with some Gruyere cheese. It really is that good.
Wine? A Chilean Carmenere for the soup and the main. Something different when we got to dessert! More after the jump.
The entree was cresti di gallo pasta, with its green and red components tossed with diced onions, greens, some anchovy paste, and a little bit of the capers brine. It was flavorful with the greens still just crunchy enough to have bite but with an earthiness and a sweetness from the anchovy and onions that really hit the spot.
On the side? Ah, the meatballs! Some ground pork, some ground beef, some bread crumbs, a bit of salt and one egg. I topped it with a picatta sauce to act as a counterpoint to the pasta's flavors. More vermouth (I buy it by the fifth for cooking; a different one for my martinis), lemon juice, butter, garlic, parsley, and capers. The leftovers are cooking right now for some lunch.
Dessert? Very simple. Vanilla ice cream drizzled with my homemade limoncello served with Prosecco (sparkling Italian white wine).
I have not gotten to cook for anybody in a while, so it was great to have company to really do just a little bit of stretching for the dinner. Party. And it was oh so good.