Today the Mommy Dinner Group closed out its first year. For the big (food) blow-out, I decided to test a new Christmas menu on the ladies and solicit their feedback. Our family Christmas dinner menu doesn’t change much from year to year. There are the “must-haves” of standing rib roast and popovers, Kurt’s Christmas pasta and some kind of chocolate dessert. It’s not that I never change the menu; for several years, the must-have list included a sangria mold for Grace. However, it’s easier to make the same thing because there’s the lobbying. Serious lobbying (fortunately for me, via email vs. face-to-face). In fact, Grace and Tina start the holiday email exchange shortly after Halloween; I think they were delayed this year because I made Thanksgiving dinner and that threw them off schedule. This delay gave me the opportunity to propose a change of menu.
I announced (in an email, of course) that I was thinking of changing the menu. I threw out the following:
- Trio of soups (tomato basil, cream of mushroom, pean) served in demitasse cups
- Pate’ de campagne (from Epicurious, here)
- Kurt’s pasta (from M. Hazan, Essentials of Italian Cooking)
- Beef Wellington (several, primarily Epicurious, here, and Martha Stewart, here)
- Scalloped oysters ( from the book, Christmas 101)
- Leche flan (Filipino flan, family recipe)
I was very surprised when there were no massive email blow-ups (LIKE, ALL CAPS). I did nix the trio of soups as a starter because we’d have a ton of leftover soup, and switched to the sangria mold (from Christmas 101). For the new menu, the pate’, beef Wellington, scalloped oysters and leche flan were all dishes I had never before prepared. I was worried about how the pate’ would taste, if I could properly assemble and cook the beef, and if the scalloped oysters would appeal to anyone but me. The moms would be my taste-testers!
Many of the moms had never tried pate’ de campagne– I served it with slices of baguette, mustard and cornichons– and were pleasantly surprised to learn it didn’t’ have any liver in it. (It makes a ton, though, but I can cut the pate into slices and freeze them). A definite thumbs-up!
As for the beef Wellington and scalloped oysters, the moms really liked the oysters. They liked the beef, too, and said it was perfectly cooked. But the scalloped oysters! I had never had the dish, so couldn’t tell the ladies what it should taste like– no matter, it was fabulous– creamy and crunchy and fruit-of-the-sea-fresh. One mom who doesn’t like oysters (unbelievable to us at the table since she’s from Louisiana) said even she liked the dish!
Then there was the leche flan, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it when it’s well-made. It’s served at every Filipino party, special occasion and holiday. I was worried it would be over-cooked, but it came out great (despite the big crack that appeared 10 minutes after I unmolded it)! I think they were surprised when I told them the flan tiself was made from a dozen egg yolks, a can of evaporated milk, a can of condensed milk and vanilla; the tricky part is caramelizing the pan! It was especially yummy with a cup of coffee and shot of Irish cream…
The Mommy Dinner which started out as a way for me, now a SAH mom, to see my working-mom friends by giving them a night off from their usual schedule to enjoy some good food and wine, has become a monthly event that we all eagerly anticipate. I love the initial moments when everyone has walked through the door, grabbed a cocktail or glass of wine, and is catching up with one another or greeting a new attendee. At the table, it never ceases to amaze me to witness the three or four conversations running simultaneously with women, the masters of multi-tasking, weaving seamlessly in and out of conversations, adding their insights and advice.
These are clearly women who have become more than dining partners– they are friends with one another. We know the names of each other’s spouses and children; we share experiences on rearing children, the challenges at work, what we can do to make our married lives better. We chat about movies we’ve seen, books we’ve read, places where we’ve vacationed, what we’ll do when the kids are grown up. We celebrate one another’s victories and achievements, and empathize with the bumps in the road that inevitably occur to us all. In short, we care about one another.
As we celebrated our first year, I realized that what we all really look forward to is not so much the food, but the experience of being with one another.
Happy Holidays to my lovely Mommies!