Okay, cooking a 7 course meal is no joke. I was dead on my feet. Even with all the prep I did during the week prior to the dinner, I was cooking from about noon until 6pm. I was so tired I could barely eat. I was so tired that I rudely fell asleep while we still had guests, on the couch!
Overall, the dinner went pretty good. I screwed up one course, Pan Roasted Smelts. I was pretty sad to screw this dish up, because it’s traditional Feast of 7 Fishes food, but oh well. I realized that the difficulty of a 7 course meal is in the timing. My timing was PERFECT, except that I did not anticipate having half my party show up almost an hour late. In preparing to get the next courses out, I put the smelt in flour. They sat in the flour too long, and that, coupled with the fact that my large frying pan was in use and I piled up the smelt in a smaller pan, resulted in my smelt turning into complete mush. Buster, my dog, was pretty happy about the end result.
I think I will share some photo highlights from the dinner, and some simple reflections. Since all the recipes were followed closely, I am not going to retype them, but I will link them.
The appetizers ended up being the mussels recipe I tried a week or so ago, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I used a chardonnay this time (as opposed to pino griego), which I liked less. My Lobster & Cream in Filo Cups turned out wonderfully. My father-in-law was a big fan. I was happy that they turned out good after freezing them for a week. It made my prep a little less stressful to make them in advance. I also set out an olive tray, after selecting olives from the Whole Foods olive bar, which was well appreciated.
The soup turned out nicely. I was worried it might be too salty, but it was fine. It has a nice fish taste, without being fishy. My brother-in-law, who is a very picky eater, even liked it! I reference the recipe and the process of making it here.
The first of the dishes, the smelt, I messed up, as I explained above. It’s really sad,because I went through the labor intensive process of deheading and gutting the fish. Here are some pictures of the smelt!
The next dish was a winner. Everyone LOVED the Seared Swordfish and pasta. It turned out amazingly. The fish had a paste-like topping, which called for a seasoning I did not have, so I used dried red chile instead. My FIL loved the topping. I was very impressed with the quality of the swordfish, which I ended up getting at Whole Foods in their frozen section. It was vacuumed-packed, and tasted wonderful. Plus, this recipe was super-easy. I loved searing the fish. Also, tossing the pasta with fresh herbs, garlic, and other goodies was delicious and healthy!
At this point, everyone was stuffed. Unfortunately, we were rushing somewhat through dinner, with my MIL arriving an hour late, and my FIL needing to get home early (as he doesn’t like driving in the dark), so we didn’t rest between courses, as one would normally. The roasted cod was a little difficult for me to construct, I had some trouble with the pancetta, but I think it would have been enjoyed on a normal night. I particularly liked throwing my frying pan in the oven and the roasted tomatoes.
The last dish (excluding dessert) was probably the most neglected. Everyone, with the exception of my MIL who paced herself, was stuffed. My FIL skipped ahead to dessert, and everyone else was unable to eat a single bite more. The Salmon el Croute was quite a bit of fun to make, and it turned out delicious (though we didn’t fully appreciate it until Christmas day, I brought them up to my in-laws as part of the Christmas dinner). The only think I did differently than Rachael Ray was add a bit more dijon mustard. Love that stuff.
I was worried when I made the Coconut Creme Caramel, because it did not seem to be set enough when I pulled it from the oven. It was fine, after resting in the fridge. It tasted yummy, but the overall presentation of the dessert was embarrassing. I discovered I did not have any flat serving platters. Therefore, the ends of the creme caramel are turned up.
All in all, this was a pretty positive adventure. I messed up a couple things, namely the smelt and the caramel on the creme caramel (though my FIL said the goo on top tasted like caramel). I am pretty proud that I was able to manage a meal like this, with the majority of the food coming out good. After cooking with that level of intensity, I have to give major props to chefs and line cooks, how they maintain their cool for hours on end is impressive!