One of my new year's resolutions (or as I prefer to call them, "goals") this year is to cook things I haven't ever cooked before. One of my possibilities on the list was duck. I love duck and have never made it before.
A month from tomorrow is my mother-in-law's birthday dinner. She and her friends will eat just about anything I cook and rave about it. This year I had a horrible fear of it becoming more complicated. Kevin's cousin David is also joining us. That struck a certain fear in my heart.
I'm not afraid of David himself. I like David. The problem is that David is probably the most religiously observant member of the family (which is like saying Rachael Ray is a better cook than Sandra Lee). At least he appears that way outwardly. In December he doesn't send generic holiday cards. He sends a Hanukah card and only a Hanukah card. (We don't see him that much, he talks more to Kevin than to me, and he didn't come to our wedding, so I'm not sure if he knows Kevin married a gentile). He calls on Rosh Hoshanna every year to wish us a happy new year (the only one of Kevin's familiy members to actually do this). I went to the cemetary with David and Kevin and Kevin's mother a couple of years ago to visit the graves of their grandparents and David's mother. David very reverentially donned a yarmulke and pulled out a prayer book at his mother's gravesite.
When Kevin invited him over for dinner, that panic set in. All I could think was, "Does he observe dietary laws?" It's not as if I cook a lot of pork in my household since Kevin's sensitive widdle tum-tum can't handle it, but I freely mix the meats and the dairy at every dinner party. When I had been planning a dinner party for the MIL, I had been thinking of starting the meal with risotto or serving a savory bread pudding as a side dish. My entrees are almost always chicken (the one food Kevin and I agree on). Dairy dairy everywhere! I knew that I could make a dairy-free appetizer and main course. I considered a first course of soup and found several great dairy-free (at least if you don't garnish it), soup recipes. I could make non-dairy entrees and side dishes without a problem. What sent me into a panic was dessert. How could I make a dairy-free dessert? What is cake without butter? I had three choices. I could make a fruit pie with a shortening crust, an angel food cake with fruit (BOR-ing), or bite the bullet and make a cake with *shudder* margarine.
But all that panic was for nothing. David said he had no dietary issues. I can make whatever I want. Phew. I considered making the totally non-kosher, dinner party standby of mine of Chicken in Port Wine.
That brings me to the next point. Yes, I'm that crazy that I like to plan menus a month in advance. I'll talk about the rest of the menu after I make it. But I came across an intereting idea that I'm exploring at the moment and it has to do with my New Year's Goal.
There is an amazing Italian deli on my block. They make their own dried sausages and some a couple of cheeses as well as carrying a dizzying array of Italian imports. I was in there this past Saturday just buying a sandwich when I noticed a woman on line ahead of me who was ordering a load of strange foods. I noticed that on the counter in front of her she had a package of quails.
I've had quail only twice in my life. Once was part of a mixed grill I enjoyed during a holiday dinner at Turnberry Isle . The second was at a Brazilian rodizio restaurant. Both times I enjoyed it, finding the flavor pleasingly similar to duck. I never tried making them though since they're not generally available at my local supermarket. I never knew they were available at the deli down the street. I asked the woman on line if they always sold quails at the deli and she answered in the affirmative. She pointed to the refrigerator case behind us that contained all of their fresh pastas. Suddenly I had a new inspiration for my next dinner party.
It's a good thing I'm planning this a month in advance because finding the right recipe seems to be the hard part. It seems that most recipes fall under one of three categories.
1. They are grilled. I have no use for grill recipes. I live in an apartment.
2. They are stuffed with or covered with things like bacon and sausage, which are no-nos for my husband.
3. They are just way too complicated and required lots of time commitments and ingredients. I don't want to spend my day boiling down my own stock to cook birds that are going to take 30 minutes to cook.
I found two that might be possibilities. There is this and there is this one. I'm sure I can come up with something in a month. If not, I'll be making that chicken in port wine, which has always been a winner. It won't be the same challenge though. This mene started out with a potential challenge and I am giving myself another one.
I know if I make quails my husband will be jokingly whining about the "poor little birds". He'll make me feel bad about eating Dan. (You should have heard him go on about that poor little guy when I put a whole turkey in the oven.)
Well, maybe I might like the idea of eating Dan!