Saturday, February 11, 2012

Week 1 Donna Hay: Bistro Basics

Good morning from a grumpster. Well, I am not actually grumpy but I am miffed that I accidentally left my alarm clock on for Saturday morning and did not get to sleep in. By sleep in I mean wake up at 7am. Oh the life of a grownup. So since I am up so early I am posting just for you!

Last night marked the first night of my 2012 commitment. What commitment? Well you see I have been toying around with this idea for a while and decided to take the leap. I love cookbooks. I drool over cookbooks. I flip through them reading the recipes and dream up dinner parties and picnics. So consequently I have collected a few cookbooks as well. To be honest I have only actually cooked a few recipes from each book. Such a waste of wonderful ideas just sitting there begging me to give them a try. Well, I decided that in 2012 I am going to cook through one of my books starting with the very first one I purchased after sitting at the library for hours flipping through the pages. And surprise, surprise it is a Donna Hay book. The book I chose is called The Instant Cook. (Check it out here on The book is filled with 30 different meal ideas. Yes you read correctly, meals not recipes. Each meal has 3 different recipes which start with an appetizer then the entré and finally the desert.

All week I have meant to make a bistro type meal as the farmer's market finds I purchased were asparagus, portobello mushrooms, and a large sweet potato. Doesn't that yell bistro with a little steak fillet? Well Friday night I decided it was time to make the meal and just consulted Donna Hay and found a very close menu to what I wanted. Dying to hear it? Well here was the menu.

Starter: Asparagus With Simple Lemon Hollandaise
(toped with rocket or arugula)
Entre: Garlic Butter Steaks
(mustard garlic butter marinade used for the steak and whole portobello on a bed of wilted spinach)
Dessert: Molton Chocolate Cakes (accompanied by fresh raspberries)

Oh so many things were learned from this experience, as was expected. To start, making dinner always takes longer than you think. For instance, I went to make the dessert first and have it in the oven while I made dinner only to discover I had to bike over to the store for more chocolate as I had only purchase the filling amount for the cake. Darn it, mental note on that one. Next, I learned the choice cut of meat is imperative to the meal and that I need to become more familiar with the different cuts. I am not a big red meat eater/fan, in fact I make myself choke down protein because my body requires a lot of it and I would rather just have eggs. So consequently I had no idea what cut of meat to purchase. I ended up grabbing sirloin as it was package in 3 cuts and there were 3 of us for dinner. Perfect, I thought. Well luckily the people I had dinner with are big red meat eaters and seemed perfectly fine with my choice of meat. (I have a feeling any choice would have been fine with them.) I on the other hand have made a mental note to learn which cut of meat I like and don't like and sirloin is on my don't like list. Although I cooked it medium rare it was a bit chewy for me and a bit too thick. Also, red meat that is not marbled is just not as tasty. On the other hand the sauce I made to go with the meat and portobello mushroom was very good just needed more of it and a little more garlic. I made a sticky note note in my recipe book to make sure that I double the sauce recipe next time and that 1 garlic clove means 1 large clove or 2 small cloves. Next I noted that although I love the skinny asparagus that I think for this menu they needed to be a little thicker. The hollandaise sauce needed a bit more lemon juice.

Then there was dessert. I need to purchase ramekins to cook the dessert in as they were pretty puny and hard to dislodge from the cupcake tin. The almond meal needed to be ground down more to a finer texture. Also...I forgot the butter in the lava cake. (Paula Dean would disown me.) Don't you hate when you have something great and forget a key ingredient? I was suppose to measure out 2 servings of butter, one for the hollandaise sauce and one for the molton chocolate cake. Well I only portioned out one and forgot to put it in the cake. The cake still tasted great, but the texture was a bit off. Darn! But I did learn that fresh raspberries were the key as that dark chocolate and raspberries were a match made in Heaven.

I know you might be thinking I am such a Negative Nelly (phrase coined by my middle sister and I when jesting with our brother-in-law) but over all I thought the meal was a success. I just wanted to take these notes and put them on stickies in my cookbook for the next time to ensure the perfect dinner party.

Anyway, below are pics snapped by my guests on their iPhones. Thanks goodness they took pictures as I was scrambling and hardly remembered to turn the oven off.

One menu down, 29 to go!

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