Monday, February 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to ME!!

by Xani

First of all, I want to say THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH to all my friends, family, etc who made my birthday this year super-special and fun! Twenty-nine is definitely one for the record books, celebration-wise. The grand finale was the traditional "birthday girl's choice" Sunday dinner at BCD Mom and Dad's house. And boy, did we do it up this time!! The menu:

  • Cocktails
  • Indian-style Mussel soup
  • Aged Prime Steak
  • Risotto with Roasted Garlic, Mascarpone Cheese, Toasted Bread Crumbs and Almonds
  • Peas Two Ways
  • Pear Tart
  • Espresso

What a spread! Is your mouth watering? Mine is!

For starters, this is what the kitchen looks like as we prepare for battle: organized chaos.

EP whipped up a fabulous batch of cosmopolitans (and a whiskey for Dad) to kick the evening off right (We discussed drinking champagne but I believe my exact words were "Eh, I drank champagne ALL WEEKEND"). Then we swung into action! First, the soup:

Dad prepared this dish early in the day and finished it just before service. No pictures of the prep, but check out the recipe which he compiled from a couple of online recipes and his own great ideas and thoughtfully wrote up for us to post on the blog. Thanks Dad! Its especially great that he wrote up the recipe because this soup was AWESOME. The creamy broth had a very intense mussel flavor that worked really well with the saffron, garam masala and other flavors. It was really a fantastic dish and we were all licking the bowls clean despite the promise of so much more delicious food! What a way to start the meal... especially with a chilled glass of Gewurztraminer.

With quite an act to follow we moved onto the main course. Dad was in charge of the GIANT steak, as usual, and as usual it came out perfectly! I took over the risotto, a Jamie Oliver recipe which was prepared in the traditional manner, with a few delicious additions. First of all, right before you begin adding the stock to the rice you throw in some roasted garlic and fresh thyme. Then you continue adding the stock, stirring constantly (my arm is sore today!) until all the broth is incorporated and the rice is cooked the to proper done-ness. Then you add in some softened butter and grated Parmesan and (this is a Jamie Oliver trick-- he says it creates the perfect creamy texture) cover the pan for 2 minutes before serving. I'm not sure how much this step really improves the risotto, but the next step definitely does: you serve the risotto with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a sprinkling of toasted fresh bread crumbs and almonds. Talk about gilding the lily! But it was amazingly delicious, rich, and flavorful, with a pleasant crunch from the almonds and breadcrumbs (and NOT because the rice was under-done, right EP??!!)

The vegetable dish required a LOT of prep (shelling all those fresh peas!) and Mom took care of this as well as the final cooking, which was fairly straightforward. After toasting some sesame seeds, she sauteed the peas and snow pea pods in hot oil, then added water and covered the pan to allow them to steam. After a couple minutes they were tender crisp and she dressed them with a little sesame oil and the toasted sesame seeds. Simple and delicious!

And with the steak expertly cooked, rested and carved...

It was time to eat! Here's final plate, along with a glass (or three) of quality Bordeaux:

Everything was delicious. I could not have asked for a better dinner to celebrate my 29th!

For dessert we let the folks over at Bonaparte Breads in the Savage Mill in Savage, MD do the heavy lifting. This gorgeous pear tart was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. It went perfectly with some seriously strong espresso we made in our brand-new stove-top espresso maker!

It's a Bird!

After dessert we watched some nail-biting ACC basketball, did some finishing touches on a fabulous food/craft project (stay tuned for a post on this later this week) and I opened some great presents!! Here is me posing with one my awesome gifts from EP (a Hayden-Harnett cuff bracelet that I have wanted for months) and a representation of another fantastic gift from my parents-- a KitchenAid mixer!!

Bracelet on my right wrist, towel still over my left shoulder, post-cooking!

It was a fantastic meal and a absolutely fabulous birthday. Thank you again to everyone for making me feel so special and loved. Love you all!



  1. Yes, the risotto was the PERFECT doneness! What a great meal - I'm so glad you had a great birthday!!

  2. happy BD Xani! We expect great things from that Kitchen-Aid.

  3. mmmm. That soup looks AMAZING, as does the rest of your fabulous dinner. Ah the kitchenaid- every girl needs one! I would be lost without mine.

  4. PS. Happiest of birthdays! To you and BCD Mom!

  5. Happy, Happy birthday. Ingredients question...Are those dog biscuits on the table?

  6. They are dog treats. When the dog is almost as big as you, you do what you must to keep him happy!!

  7. Happy birthday, Xani! I missed meeting you on Sunday, but we heard about your birthday present (the mixer). I'm sure you're going to LOVE it!

    See you on the 23rd!

  8. Both the soup and the steak look spectacular. Happy Birthday.


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