Our daughter came over for dinner tonight. I didn’t really expect her to make it because as a new college professor, she’s as busy as can be so…to be honest, I didn’t expect her to actually make it. No reflection on her, but our dinner conversation revealed how totally busy she was.

But the immediate concern for me was– how do you prepare a nice dinner that appears casual but is a step above? As ever, you start with some basics, so live and learn about my process. I’ve done this before.

Start with what’s available. As it turned out, I had four perfectly cooked legs of duck confit. Using that as a base protein, so to speak, I decided to add to this basic plate.

The duck leg was fully cooked– it simply needed the skin to be seared and browned, a matter of about ten minutes. Very often, potatoes cooked in duck fat is a natural accompaniment but I planned a baked strawberry galette dessert which required the oven–no, I needed an alternative way to cook the potatoes, and if making Pommes Anna wouldn’t work at the same time as the galette cooking in the oven, as it would need time in the oven. No.

An alternative was to simply roast the potatoes, cut a bit smaller so that they could cook at a lower temperature at the same time as the dessert, a strawberry galette in a chocolate tart crust. The potatoes stayed in at 350F for about 25 minutes while the dessert stayed in for another additional 25 minutes.

Often when planning dinner, I find that dessert should be prepared first. Once that is out of the way, it’s easier to concentrate on the dinner components. Here it is:

-strawberry galette with chocolate crust
Made first, and gotten out of the way.
duck leg confit
Made some days earlier and ready, all it needed was to be taken out of the refrigerator and seared in the skillet. A matter of ten minutes at most.
roast potatoes
Simply done, roasted at 350F for about 25 minutes.
sautéed baby spinach with garlic
About five minutes, tops. Done quickly, the easiest and simplest done.

So all in all, a fairly simple provincial French meal. From start to finish, about an hour to 75 minutes to complete.

High points? The duck was perfectly done, skin nicely crisped, and the meat succulent. The potatoes and the spinach was simple, not complicated, and serviceable.

Low point? The dessert was a bit off. The crust was a bit too thick, a little more sugar wouldn’t have hurt, so the proportions of crust to filling was off, and the addition of unsweetened chocolate powder was inadequate. My guests were moderately impressed, but I saw room for improvement. Live and learn.

Overall, the meal was good–better than the average weeknight meal, so satisfying overall–at least by my own standards. The company, as ever, was exemplary–our daughter is interesting and interested–a perfect dinner guest.

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