Friday, January 30, 2009

Cooking Afternoon

I spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen getting ready for a dinner party tomorrow night. I have a get together with some friends from my old, old company tomorrow afternoon so I had to get ahead of the curve. We have managed to get together once a year since we all were downsized ten years ago. Unfortunately, two of the old crowd passed this last year so they will be missed.

It is just a simple spaghetti and meatballs thing but it still takes work and planning to get it done correctly. Got the tomato sauce done this afternoon. I will reheat and add the fresh basil and thyme tomorrow. This is a basic Southern Italian sauce. Onions, garlic, olive oil, crushed red pepper, and tomatoes simmered in the oven for four hours. I have decided that simple is better when it comes to pasta sauce. No meat or other veges to hide the taste of the tomatoes. The meatballs are all made and and just need to be baked tomorrow.

The starter is going to be sliced pear and arugula wrapped in prosciutto with a toasted Parmigiano-Reggiano wafer. Dessert will be creme caramel which is next on the cooking agenda. It's Madam's favorite dessert so I have had a lot of practice.

If you have never made little toasted Parmigiano-Reggiano wafers you are missing a great treat. They are simple to make and are glorious little snacks. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment and place a 1/4 cup of grated cheese in a round cookie cutter or tuna can with both ends cut out and spread the cheese evenly within the circle. Separate them by about an inch. You can do them free form but you need to make sure the cheese is no more than about 1/8" thick or so. Pop them in a 400F oven for about ten minutes or until they are bubbly and just start to brown. Careful or they will scorch pretty quickly. Take them out of the oven and while they are still hot put them on a flat surface to cool. When cool they are crisp and are great as a little lagniappe with salad or with an appetizer. I imagine you can use another Parmesan cheese, if you have to, but make sure you grate it yourself otherwise they won't behave in the oven as the cheese will be to dry if it is pre-grated. While they are hot you can shape them over the bottom of a small glass or bowl if you want and make little baskets to hold some savory treat. You'll either hate me or love me for giving you this recipe. Good Parmesan cheese is expensive and these suckers are addictive.

Off to the caramel.

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