Thus said my husband Kurt this morning. I totally forgot that he was getting up early (for a Sunday) to go hiking out by Front Royal. Oops. The moms were here really late last night…even Ken said he expected “to see some of them asleep at the dining room table,” because we were still going strong when the guys went to bed.
The Mommy Dinner was a success! Of course, I didn’t get as many dishes made on Friday night as I had planned, but I got through all the spice prep so everything was done Saturday morning. I initially took pictures, but soon realized that it is difficult to manage your camera when there are multiple pans and simultaneously occurring processes– spices sputtering, high temp frying, bubbling liquids. Next time, I’ll just do a single dish for the family and solicit Ken’s help if needed (he’s easily bribed).
We started the evening with pineapple martinis and baked samosas; I like the samosas better baked because they aren’t so heavy from the deep fry. Mine were filled with a spicy mixture of peas and potatoes. Then we sat down to dinner; in the end, I selected a Gewurtztraminer which was a good balance to the heat in the dishes. Fortunately, one of the moms, Tamara, took some food shots on her iPhone. She and her husband finally upgraded; she said her last phone was very basic and definitely non-SMART. You can tell it’s her new techie toy! Here’s the one of her plate– she even artfully arranged the dishes around her rice!
Starting at the top (12 o’clock), we had Jacki’s dahl, homemade garlic naan, Nigella’s Mughlai chicken, lamb Rogan Josh, and palak paneer. I threw some Indian spices into my rice cooker along with some pre-soaked basmati; it was fragrant, mouth-watering and perfectly cooked! Nicki, a new member to our group, asked me what was the hardest thing I’ve ever cooked. In terms of technique, it’s definitely artisan bread because of the rising, handling, and spraying to form a good crust (which then led me to ask another mom, Susie, whose company renovated my first floor, if she knew of any home steam ovens– evidently Miele has a good one).
In terms of complexity and time, it’s definitely Indian cuisine that challenges me. I made lots of pastes and curries over the last few days and am planning to spend some time reading about the different regional cuisines of that country. I also noticed that when I used strained yogurt, the sauces were thicker; regular yogurt resulted in thinner sauces that Kurt and I both decided needed to reduce more to resemble the dishes we’ve had in restaurants. (I’d be interested to hear any insights on this from those proficient in Indian cuisine; also, if you know of any good regional Indian cookbooks, please let me know in the comments).
I was surprised by the number of ladies who had never eaten Indian cuisine! Living in and around DC, we have a wealth of international dining options at our fingertips. What I heard most frequently was that they didn’t know what to order. So I told them that not all Indian food is spicy; some kormas, like the Nigella dish, are warm, but also sweet and creamy. Kashmiri dishes like the Rogan Josh can have more heat. Neither the palak paneer (Indian cheese in a spinach sauce) nor Jacki’s dahl were in-your-face fiery, but had a low, underlying warmth. I’m glad they trusted me enough to try everything. Personally, my favorite wasI was the garlic naan recipe; the bread was chewy and pungent with the garlic kneaded into the dough. I am definitely making it again, even if just for snacking!
Then came the ladies’ birthday surprise. I am not one for surprises; I’m too much of a control freak for that kind of spontaneous, focused attention. Ditto for my husband. When he turned 40 last year, the one thing he said was that he did NOT want any kind of “surprise” party. Lordy. I arranged a small dinner at an Italian restaurant and let him pick the guests. In my own case, I considered a big bash to celebrate my turning 50 this year, but decided it was too much of an organizational nightmare coming just after the Christmas holidays; I opted for a family dinner at a fancy French restaurant.
Linda made a birthday cake (banana walnut with cream cheese frosting– I’m sure to try it soon since the guys loved it). She and the girls also conspired to give me one of those fancy Pandora charm bracelets, and each lady picked out a charm for me. I was so surprised and touched by this gesture– as I opened each charm, I heard the story of why it was purchased for me. Kimberly’s rose for Kappa Delta because we met through our local alumnae association, Adel’s September sapphire because that’s when we are on marathon emails about how our sons, who are best friends, are managing with classes and teachers, Tamara’s cupcake because of the ton of cupcakes I made for Sara’s fundraiser this summer. Ten charms with ten stories. The small details that they notice and remember over time were reflected in each charm. It made me feel very special, more so since I’m hitting a milestone birthday this month. But these are special ladies. They never to cease to amaze and inspire me.
So began our first dinner of 2013; I hope to cherish the memory for another 50 years.