About Last Saturday Night: Hosting an Apres-Theater Dinner

Whichever critic dissed “First Date” at the Royal George Theatre was wrong: we left last Saturday’s 5:30 pm performance with a smile on our faces, no small feat in a world short on good news. Dinner was at my house. As I warned my guests, I had a lot of recipes I wanted to try from books I’d never used.
The Books

“Simply Organic: A Cookbook for Sustainable, Seasonal, and Local Ingredients” (Chronicle Books, 2008) by Jesse Ziff Cool has been on my “must try” shelf for a while. Cool’s recipes are straightforward and relatively short, two plusses for a home cook. Cool, who has written multiple cookbooks, runs several restaurants in the San Francisco area.

The time line on Kerry Dunnington’s “Tasting the Seasons” (Artichoke Press, $19.95) is much shorter, since the book came out in 2014. A caterer, cookbook author and blogger, Dunnington focuses on “in-season cuisine that’s easy, healthy, fresh and fun.”

I reviewed “Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook” (Robert Rose, $24.95) by Camilla V. Saulsbury in February. “Joy of Cooking,” first published in 1931, is-of course-a classic. Author Irma Rombauer died in 1962, but her daughter Marion Rombauer Becker and grandson Ethan Becker continued the tradition. It’s my go-to cookbook.

The Menu
A cheese course is a great addition to any meal, whether you serve it before or after the entree. This time, I used it as a first course, taking the cheeses out of the refrigerator when we left for the theater to give them ample time to come to room temperature.

The clerk at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine (131 N. Clinton St. 312.454.2200) in the Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton Street 312.454.2200) helped me put together a flight of Goudas, a mix that included both aged and “fresh” Gouda cheeses, along with a Gouda made with goat’s milk. A cranberry sauce from Kerry Dunnington’s book accompanied the cheese, along with crackers and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Peruvian Quinoa and Sweet Potato Sopa from “Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook” (Robert Rose) by Camilla V. Saulsbury made an excellent first course. After testing-and tasting- the recipe for the book review I posted in February, I froze the leftovers. Just before we left for the play, I put the defrosted soup in the slow cooker with the heat turned to “low.” The soup was warm when we got home.

The frigid weather made a hearty beef dish a logical choice for the main course. Deciding between Cool’s slow cooked Harvest Pot Roast and the Pot Roast with Winter Vegetables was difficult. In the end, I went with the pot roast because I was using my slow cooker for the soup. Sweet potatoes were a major ingredient in both recipes, but the seasoning was so different that the repetition wasn’t a problem. I’ve included the recipes for both beef dishes.
Cooking the pot roast a day ahead meant I could slice it the next morning and then reheat it, either in the microwave or a slow oven. The salad was substantial, so I wound up taking a pass on the green beans I’d already prepped.

Dessert was a fruit crisp made with one pound packages of frozen peaches, strawberries and blueberries topped with a streusel from the 1997 edition of Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker’s “ Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, 1997 edition), a book that in contrast to the others, I’ve used countless times.
I took the crisp out of the oven just before we left for the theater. Next time, I’ll pop it into the oven when my guests arrive, so it’s warm- rather than room temperature- when I serve it. While I like the flavor the blueberries give to the mix, leave them out if you want to see the color of the peaches and strawberries. Vanilla ice cream is the perfect accompaniment.

Raspberry Orange Cranberry Sauce
12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup sugar
1 cup cranberry-raspberry juice
¼ cup orange marmalade
In a medium saucepan over medium –high heat, combine cranberries, sugar, cranberry raspberry juice and orange marmalade. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook mixture until berries pop open, about 8-10 minutes. Allow sauce to cool before serving.
About 2 ½ cups
Adapted from a recipe in “Tasting the Seasons” (Artichoke Press, $19.95) by Kerry Dunnington.

Pot Roast with Winter Vegetables
8 servings
1 chuck or bottom round roast (about 3 pounds)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable or beef broth
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
10 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 large leeks (white part only), sliced and washed thoroughly
12 dried apricot halves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 500-degrees F.
Put the roast in a large roasting pan and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, turning once.
Meanwhile, in a large measuring cup, combine the broth, mustard, garlic, and thyme.
Reduce the heat to 350-degrees F. Pour the broth mixture over the meat, cover, and roast for 1 hour.
Add the sweet potatoes, leeks and apricots. Roast for 2 hours, or until the meat is falling-apart tender when tested with a fork. Using tongs or a large spoon and fork, remove the roast to a cutting board. Slice or, with a fork, pull away pieces.
Spoon the sweet potato mixture onto a platter or individual plates. Top with the meat, and drizzle with juices from the pan.

Harvest Pot Roast
8 servings
1 large onion, cut into thick slices
2 carrots
12 ounces mushrooms, quartered
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14 ½-ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauces1 chuck roast (2 ½ to 3 pounds), trimmed of all visible fat
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the onion, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and tomatoes in a slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Top the vegetables with half of the ketchup mixture.
Place the roast over the vegetables and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spread the remaining ketchup mixture over the roast. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours, or until the meat is very tender.
Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Both beef recipes are adapted from recipes in “Simply Organic” by Jesse Ziff Cool

A Topping for Fruit Crisps
¾ cup all- purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Or do this with a mixer or in a food processor, taking care not to blend the butter too thoroughly. Scatter the topping evenly over the fruit. Tap the dish on the counter once or twice to settle in the crumbs. Bake until the topping is golden brown, and the juices are bubbling, 50-55 minutes.
Adapted from a recipe in “Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, 1997)

Filed under: Cooking the Books

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