Next, the bird. I hadn't trussed a chicken since culinary school, when I'd had to prop the chicken up on its drumsticks and walk it across the cutting board to make sure I knew where the breast was. I ended up using two pieces of twine to get the legs nice and tight (quel catastrophe! I could hear my culinary instructor whispering, in disbelief), but it looked good enough. A friend of mine swears by Thomas Keller's simple chicken recipe (lots of salt, in the oven on high heat, take it out an hour later and voila), so I decided to mix 'n' match from the two recipes, and off it went into the oven, next to the Brussels sprouts, which I cook following my own, foolproof recipe, tweaked over the years to make the sprouts taste like popcorn. I know. You've gotta try it.
I par-cooked the risotto, a trick I learned in the restaurant: you cook it three-quarters of the way through, then let it hang out; when you're ready to serve, you stir in the last bit of stock, add your cheese and butter, and you're good to go. The doorbell rang.
I'd invited four humans and one canine.
1.) E, one of my oldest friends--We met each other in seventh grade and we've seen each other through the ups and downs of high school, college, and beyond.
2.) A, E's boyfriend--A is a real estate developer. I rarely have a clue as to what people do for a living if it isn't simple (lawyer, doctor, cook, actor), so whenever I picture him at work, he's wearing a construction hat. He has confirmed that this happens rarely.
3.) Georgie, A and E's dog --A havanese-yorkie mix whom A rescued from the pound, Georgie looks uncannily like Anna Wintour after her monthly fluff n' cut. (We she arrived, she quietly pooped in the corner, something I imagine her doppelganger rarely does at social engagements.)
4.) D, my boyfriend--We met the last week of college and he happily eats anything I put down in front of him and asks for seconds, even in the case of the infamous "mush stew" (I cut everything too small and cooked it way too long).
5.) F, D's friend, also from college--F is a successful venture capitalist. (When I picture him at work, he's shuffling piles of money around his desk and yelling into a phone.) Extremely meticulous, he makes his bed every morning and dresses in business attire--now, at least. At one college club party, I looked down from the balcony to see F working the room in his skivvies. Apparently he'd gotten bored.
After 45 minutes of wine and discussion, the chicken was done. While it rested, I added the last bit of stock, stirred in mushrooms, Parmesan, and a dash of mascarpone (I find this makes the risotto creamier, and gives it more body than just adding a "knob of butter"). E carved the bird and we sat down to eat.
The chicken was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, the risotto had just the right bite, the Brussels tasted like popcorn, and the apple crumble tasted like apple crumble. Next time, I may swap out the risotto for another starch. Even using my shortcut, it's just a tedious dish to make, or, as F put it after taking a risotto class with his immigrant parents (he's full of surprises), "It's a nightmare." Perhaps polenta? But all the pre-dinner stirring paid off: there was none left over.
Thus, I pronounce this inaugural dinner a success. Or, as Jamie would say, pukka.
Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Recipe: Mushroom Risotto
Recipe: Sophie's Pancake-y Fruit Crumble