Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How the Internet Saved My Dinner Party

This is the ideal. My version's yet to come.

I'm planning a dinner party for friends visiting from out of state. The party part is easy because they're the kind of people who bring the celebration with them. It's dinner that's tricky. Know the feeling?

Are you wondering why I don't pull out one of my three tried-and-true menus for company? Alas, these friends know the first names and nicknames of my old standards. It's possible they left Texas to get away from my Artichoke 'n' Chicken Alfredo over Wilted Spinach. (It's an easy yet impressive recipe from Southern Living, but I've lost count of the number of times I prepared it.) 

Because my pals spent ten weeks in France last summer, I decided on French food but not as a theme. Instead, I want to pay homage to their grand adventure. 

I rifled through my cookbooks, but nothing looked right AND easy. What to do? I called on Monsieur Google, who came to my aide with the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon

Who doesn't like Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa? On her cooking show, she exudes calm and friendliness. Alas, I am a worrier and a big believer in Murphy's Law, so I asked Monsieur Google for examples of real people who had made the Barefoot Contessa's Boeuf Bourguignon. He did not disappoint. Indeed, he ushered me into the world of food bloggers.

Mon dieu! I've long been a fan of The Pioneer Woman and appreciate the photos that accompany her step-by-step recipes. I've seen Julie and Julia and read the memoir by Julie Powell that inspired the movie. Yet, did I know there are thousands of camera-wielding food bloggers out there? I did not. Nevertheless, they exist and form America's test kitchen.

These food bloggers tweak and modify recipes--just as I do. Of course, I tweak in the privacy of my own kitchen and hate to admit I left out a certain ingredient because my kids won't eat it or went without something else because it cost the earth. Food bloggers, bless 'em, tell all. And because they do, I am going to use The Amateur Gourmet's trick for lighting cognac and Confessions of a Chocoholic's tweak of tossing in the onions earlier in the process. (Confessions of a Chocoholic wanted to make sure the onions cooked. I want to be able to talk to my guests without the distraction of running into the kitchen to add an ingredient late in the cooking.)

Whew! With an appetizer, salad, and some crusty French bread, I'm home free. Wait! I forgot the best part.

Monsieur Google, s'il vous plait, find me a fast and easy French dessert.

Your turn: Who or what saves your bacon when you plan a meal for company? Recommend a food blogger to me, won't you? I need kitchen inspiration.


Ginger Calem said...

You're dinner sounds lovely! When I have company over, I usually opt for a big pot of hearty soup so it feeds a crowd. For recipes, I look up Rachael Ray, or Food TV or one of the many paleo cooking blogs out there.

Marcy Kennedy said...

I have three go-to cookbooks that have rarely let me down. (I have writing all over the pages, including how my husband and I each rated the meal and what changes I made to make it suit us.) I haven't tried using food bloggers for my recipe search, but I will be next time thanks to this post!

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I'm not much of a cook - my bacon is usually saved by my husband, my daughter, or Papa John's, all of whom are much better cooks than me! My daughter could probably point out some good food bloggers, in the meantime, I'll be vacuumi.g. :)

Coleen Patrick said...

At last count I have almost 50 food blogs in my Google reader. Mostly I just like to look at the pretty pictures :). I do enjoy watching Ina. You are right, she makes cooking seem very zen-like--something I aspire to. Your menu sounds yum though--hope it's fun Pat. :)

Lark Howard said...

A French dinner? How can you go wrong?

My go-to (and Steve's) is Rozanne Gold's "lo carb 1-2-3" book. The recipes are simple, delicious and my DH lost 50 lbs when he started cooking from it. Very healthy and not diet food or a compromise. She also has a blog of sorts- http://rozannegold.wordpress.com/

Check her out!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Ginger! Do you know how many times I've made your pulled chicken? For those not familiar with it, here's the link: http://gingercalem.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/writersbutt-recipe-wednesday/

It's soup weather. Got a recipe for your tortilla soup?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Marcy,
The food-blogging world is like Oz to me, and the step-by-step directions and accompanying photos are great.

Thanks to the notes in the margins, your cookbooks will be family heirlooms.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,
We also serve who vacuum. (And those of us with pets vacuum a lot.)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

You've got fifty food blogs bookmarked, Coleen?! Are they all as beautiful as Barbara Bamber's Just a Smidgen? Here's the link: http://justasmidgen.com Thanks for introducing me to that one.

I've entered a new-to-me world and intend to explore it.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark! It's great to see you here. Yay, you're here! Sniff, you're visiting.

Thanks for the tip about Rozanne Gold. You sold me with "not diet food."

I'll let you know how the dinner goes. Fingers crossed I don't drop the Dutch oven or burn my eyebrows when I ignite the cognac.

Ginger Calem said...

Yes, I do, Pat. Not sure I have it written down but I can get it for you. As it turns out, I'm posting a fantastic soup recipe tomorrow on my blog. It was a huge hit last week at Book Club.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Ooh, I look forward to Book Club Soup, Ginger.

Karen McFarland said...

Now that I've read your new post I am hungry! Oh, but then it's also time for dinner. "Who doesn't like Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa?" Hello! She makes the best recipes Pat. Did you make the Boeuf Bourguignon? How did it come out? Was it a hit? You can't go wrong with french food Pat. Oui, oui! :)

aroseisarose said...

You could always take a cue from your daughter and claim Central Market's already-prepared (and delicious) Boeuf Bourguignon as your own. I had Dad fooled!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Non, non, I have not made the recipe yet, Karen. I'll let you know how it turns out. Wish me luck!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Thanks for reminding me about that excellent meal, Arose. Will you be inviting your parents over for dinner anytime soon? We like everything!

Louise Behiel said...

sounds great, Pat. I only use google for recipes...i've stopped buying cookbooks (not that I use them very often) since it's so much easier on the net. the meal sounds lovely.