Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Dinner Party

Nothing is better than a group of good friends gathered around a feast. I recently had a few of my very best friends in the world visit me from Los Angeles, Ithaca, and Boston respectively. It was a long weekend to celebrate Columbus Day and a chance to catch up with one another. My apartment was so packed it felt like I was back in the hostel in Amsterdam, having to squeeze my way to the fridge in the morning to grab a glass of juice on my way to work. We had decided to cook dinner one night and spend the rest of the time enjoying New York food culture, trying some of my favorite places in like Momofuku, Momoya, and Dim Sum Go Go. The three are trendy and truly delicious Asian restaurants running the gamut from Korean Kimchi and Triggerfish sashimi to shrimp and chive dumplings. I thought my friends would enjoy the hip vibe and interesting usages of local seasonal produce prepared in traditional Asian fashion. All three were a big hit among my weekend guests, particularly Momofuku though I have yet to meet someone that has not genuinely loved the food David Chang has to offer.

My friends and I ate out quite a bit though we
ended up cooking a bit more than expected. Our lazy Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent preparing breakfast or brunch at home depending on what time we woke up and when the hangover relented. The first night, after everyone had landed and cabbed it over to the Walk, we cracked a few bottles of wine and began cooking. Thankfully I had sent out an email to my guests earlier that day urging them to buy groceries and Risher had the intuition to go to the Union Square farmer’s market. He came home with a big tote bag, which he mysteriously had packed in his suitcase, full of fresh produce including a massive head of purple cauliflower. Roth purchased some Gourmet Garage spicy Italian chicken sausages, a baguette, and some earthy smelling goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. I had a bag of lettuce and some burst tomatoes in the fridge, which added a touch of greenery to the spread. The highlight was the purple cauliflower gratin that I improvised though the butternut squash Risher roasted with a bit of maple syrup, brown sugar, and butter was out of this world. Roth’s tomato and romaine salad with Dijon vinaigrette and toasted pine nuts was not half bad either. I would highly recommend this creamy cauliflower dish that can easily be substituted with myriad vegetables with low water content. The purple cauliflower is just for show, the flavor is virtually the same as the yellow or white variety but the color is striking plated. Enjoy and as always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious foods and cooked meals with yourself and others!

Purple Cauliflower Gratin
1 large head of Cauliflower, in medium sized florets
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup grated cheese

salt and pepper to taste


Blanch the cauliflower florets in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes then shock with cold water to retain the bright color. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat then remove from heat and stir in flour with a whisk. Return to heat and cook for about two minutes, whisking steadily. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, return to heat and bring to a light boil. Add cream, a pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk continuously and cook until sauce comes together and achieves desired thickness. Layer a buttered baking dish with the Cauliflower and pour B├ęchamel sauce over to coat. Shower generously with grated cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes and then brown for 2-3 minutes under the broiler. Serves 4-6.

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