“Thank You” Dinner

On Sunday night, Dave and I had my friend (well, okay, “our friend” but he was my friend way before I knew Dave) Josh, his roommate Billy and his girlfriend Laura over for dinner. I called it a “thank you dinner” since Josh was nice enough to let us to stay at the beach with him and his parents over Memorial Day Weekend, and the crew that showed up for dinner was the exact same crew who we enjoyed spending time with at the beach that weekend, which was one of the best weekends we had all summer. I really hoped that this meal would say “thanks,” “you’re awesome,” “it’s hard to believe we’ve been friends since 2003 and that makes me feel pretty old,” “it’s good to have a friend like you whose name is attached to many stories from Auburn that I often share for humorous effect and some I will forever insist never happened,” and “remember when you & Billy capsized the sailboat, Laura & I freaked out, and Super Dave kayaked out to rescue you?” (all 100% truths, by the way). But I also wanted to make the meal even more special because this crew was coming all the way OTP (outside the perimeter, for those non-Atlantans) to our house, which is a trek most ITP (inside the perimeter) folks do not enjoy making.

And if there’s one meal I have in my repertoire that has not yet disappointed anyone (granted, I’ve only made it for Dave so far, but I swear it’s one of the reasons he wanted to marry me), it’s Giada’s filet with gorgonzola and porcini mushroom cream sauce, rosemary roasted potatoes, roasted asparagus, and for dessert, apple pastries with homemade caramel and ice cream. I knew this might work for tonight for several reasons: (a) while at the beach, Billy, Laura and I discussed blue cheese at least twice, (b) you can’t go wrong with steak for dinner, unless you’re having vegans or vegetarians over, and (c) Josh was one of the first people I knew who openly admitted to watching Giada for the pornographic nature of her show, sometimes putting her on mute just to watch her work. I figured making one of her signature dishes would probably be okay.

(sorry to do this to you, G. for those who are unfamiliar, gratuitous video of semi-pornographic Giada.)

To help document the occasion, Laura took several pictures at various points during the meal. She almost video recorded the whole thing, but I’m secretly glad she didn’t because at one point while I was searing the steaks, the smoke alarm went off and we had to open all the doors in the house to let out an intense amount of smoke. While I totally *meant* to do that, it might not have appeared that way on camera. So, instead, here are some lovely pics she took to help me tell the story of the meal.

First: I follow Giada’s filet recipe to the letter. It’s perfect. Really, it is. No substitutions are needed. I splurged on the filet and got really good quality gorgonzola, which makes all the difference, especially if you’re not totally crazy about blue cheese in the first place. I’m not crazy about blue cheese, but I love, love, love this dish, because I get good quality gorgonzola from the cheese case at Harry’s in Marietta. I swear it makes a difference.

Here’s a shot of me sautéing some shallots in white wine and adding my reconstituted porcini mushrooms. Mmmm. Shallots. Mushrooms. White wine.

The trickiest part about cooking steaks is figuring out exactly when they’re done perfectly. I’m not very good at it, so I just guessed. On Sunday, I seared the steaks (about 2″ thick) for 2-3 minutes on each side (all 4 sides, mind you), then popped them into a convection oven at 375 for 7 minutes. They rested for about 5, and they were all pretty close to medium. Here I am, showing off the goods!

Mmmm. Steaks.

Steaks are delicious, but that gorgonzola sauce was the true winner of the night. Here’s Josh attempting to drink the sauce through a straw.

Apparently, he liked the sauce. Mrs. Allen, if you’re reading this: I’m sorry I enabled this particular photograph. And I promise your son demonstrated more manners than this the rest of the night. He even led us in a discussion of proper manners earlier in the evening.

And, apparently, the sides were a hit, too. For the potatoes, all I did was take about 8 medium-sized red potatoes, dice them into 1″ cubes, toss them on a sheet pan with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and some fresh rosemary, and cooked them at 400 for about 25 minutes, tossing once.

For the asparagus, really I did the same thing… cleaned & trimmed the ends off, tossed in oil, salt & pepper, and roasted at 400 for about 15 minutes. The warmer drawer on my kick-ass stove kept them pretty toasty until we were ready to eat.

See? Clean plates & smiles all around!

Dave looks pretty happy… that’s Josh’s clean plate there front & center… I’m surprised he didn’t pick it up and lick it.

Showing this one because it’s not often I look tan. Whatever filter Josh has on his camera, I need it for all future pictures of me.

The dessert warrants its own post, so I’ll save that one for later. I swear, it’s delicious, and cheap.

So, it seems like “thank you dinner” was a success. The best part for me was having a house full of friends & an excuse to go a little crazy at the grocery store this week. This meal is a perfect way to easily impress people, or just say how much you appreciate them driving to the ‘burbs for dinner.