For any of you regular readers, you'll know that the words 'Chefette' and 'successful pastry' don't often go together in the same sentence. I did get a break last Friday, though-- I managed to crank out a pretty tasty batch of sablee biscuits. And not just me. The Scotsman said they were by far and away the most successful pastries we had made as a class.
The serious cooking, though, was on Saturday. And come to think of it, on Friday night as well! Anyway, what sparked this hive of activity chez Chefette was that the Husband's former boss was coming over to dinner with her boyfriend. She's one of those high-flying, high-achieving City gals who eats out a fair bit, and who knows her food. Not to mention being a natural born socialiser and networker-- it was she who got me the introduction to the head chef at Le Caprice. So, in thanks for her help with my getting the Caprice gig (and in the secret hope that she might hire me as a caterer or recommend me to friends at some point in the future), I obsessed about menus for a few days, and then dove headfirst into the kitchen, hoping to turn out some decent nosh that would knock her socks off.
Organization-wise it went pretty well. I managed to get the first course and dessert done on the Friday night, so all I had to do was the main course and my sauces/garnishes on Saturday. Took things at a relaxed pace, and was fairly in control. First course was a ballotine of salmon, garnished with keta (a sort of caviar made from salmon roe) and creme fraiche. Main course was a marinated, butterflied leg of lamb with bubble & squeak parcels and a red wine jus. Dessert was a hazelnut and espresso cake, served with cream. The Husband and I even managed to sneak in an impromptu cheese course before the dessert, when we remembered at the last minute that there was a wedge of flavourful, melty brie from Neal's Dairy Yard in the cheese drawer of the fridge. (Purely to do justice to the red wine that the guests had brought, you understand...)
The salmon ballotine came out really well, and I'd definitely make it again for a summer meal or a buffet. But the rest of the meal could have been better, if I'm honest. The lamb was meltingly tender, but it wasn't as pink as I would have liked. (Lesson learned-- don't get too chatty with your guests and forget the time!!) Also, the bubble & squeak parcels were a teensy bit overdone and the cake was ever so slightly underbaked. (At least on the cake, I don't think the High Flyer noticed, since she professed a love for it and asked me to send her the recipe.)
It's funny, but even though my cooking has been improving, it doesn't always seem that way. I suppose I'm starting to see the little niggles more and more. I read once that the mark of a truly top chef is that he'll cook everything the right way all the time, as a matter of routine. Even if he's only boiling a simple plate of green beans at home, he'll make sure they're all perfect. Contrast to Chefette's case, where she can get dishes 95% there, but can still make little mistakes. All I can hope is that I'm at least learning from them.