Dinner with the Wakemans (Jan 17, 2009)

The Event

Craig and I had had a wonderful gourmet dinner at Jim and Mollie Wakeman’s back in October, so we wanted to return the favor. Trying to coordinate schedules for 6 people is really tough, but finally we found an open date in January.

I like the Beef Wellington, but it takes 5 days to make (granted, some days don’t have that much effort, but still you have to work on it). I actually never enjoy it that much on the day I make the final dish, because I’m too tired. Hmmm … maybe I need to think of some more time-saving ways to make this.

I wonder if there’s a way to make these as individual portions. I’d like that. More puff pastry per bite!

Menu

  • Cheese gougeres (CI)
  • Chicken pate
  • Roasted shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce (Barefoot Contessa)
  • Tomato soup (recipe from Tante Tini)
  • Beef Wellington with a red wine sauce (CI)
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Creamy parsnip puree with shallots (CI)
  • Chocolate pots de creme (CI)
  • Coffee/espresso with homemade palmiers

Guests
  • Jim and Mollie Waken
  • Jeff Wakeman
  • Matt Wakeman

Food Notes
  • Cheese gougeres: In the directions, the paste should get to 175-180 degrees within 3 minutes. After 20+ minutes, I never, ever got to that temperature. I figured I was close enough. They tasted good, so I guess it was OK.
  • Red wine sauce: I’ve made this Beef Wellington dish 4 times now and each time I make the sauce, I get 4 times the amount of stock. The recipe calls for simmering for 3-4 hours. I simmered for over 5 and still had 8 cups of stock. So, I’m doing something wrong with the sauce. Maybe I simmer too low? Maybe it should bubble more, so that it reduces better. (I did make the sauce a 2nd time, to go with the leftovers. That worked out well!)
  • Duxelles: I should have let the mushrooms dry out a little more in the pan. I think I rushed it a bit.
  • Cream parsnips: The parsnips were not tender by 15 minutes. I ended up simmering for 30 minutes. It could probably have gone a smidge longer.
  • Chocolate pots de creme: Again, timing was an issue. To get to the 180 degrees took much longer than 8-12 minutes. Luckily I went with the temperature rather than time. The pots de creme were absolutely delicious!
  • Cook’s Illustrated: In general, I find their times for reducing and cooking to be short; I always have to increase the time to get to the same texture, etc. that is called for.
  • Palmiers: I used turbinado sugar to roll out and sprinkle on top, rather than baker’s sugar or regular sugar. I liked it a lot. It wasn’t as sweet as some palmiers can get. These were delicious.

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