Scenes from a Birthday Party. Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, a bottle of cognac and a gentleman's portable umbrella were among the gifts for Tuck's 68th, frosting on the cake of a Cold Turkey Cookbook Birthday Eleganza computerside last evening. First course (not pictured), a Tucker favorite we hadn't served in years, steamed artichokes with butter dip.
Checking in at the California Artichoke Advisory Board website for how long to steam the 'chokes — 25-45 minutes, till center petal pulls out easily — we came upon this showstopper, Artichoke Benedict. Look to the animals, and look to the plants.
First among equals, most exclaimed-over gift of the night was The Daily Carrot. We present a carrot to our hubby each afternoon before supper, trying to outdo ourselves from day to day by surprising him with ever more creative contexts. One memorable presentation involved laying the carrot in the arms of the SpongeBob atop his computer. Another had the carrot hidden in plain sight amidst the finger foods of a Friday Puzzle Date doib plate. This time we raised the bar, setting the bright orange taproot — as one would a precious jewel — inside an acetate teabox, wrapped and ribboned to blend in with the other gifts, most of which he knew about ahead of time, having helped us pick them out. "Do I know what this is?" he asked. "Not really," we began, adding after a pregnant pause "Well, you SHOULD know." The lightbulb went off, a moment of pure pleasure as he realized he'd been fooled again.
Second course: French Onion Soup. We melted some butter and sweated down the sliced onions an hour in our fave old-fashioned Revere Ware stainless steel pan — a faithful servant of decades when fancier, trendier pans came and went — turning them occasionally till they turned "dark mahogany." Then you add white vermouth to the pan, turn up the heat and reduce liquid to a "syrup consistency." Add broth and cider and simmer 15 minutes. Full recipe here. Note: We made Pillsbury French bread, used Gruyere cheese and followed the Food Network's suggestion of an "optional" splash of cognac. Tuck said it was the best soup ever. 'Wish we'd taken more pictures, but we were too busy savoring the moment.
The rest of the menu, served in classic Cold Turkey "Petit Fours" mindful-eating style:
Baked Stuffed Potatoes (Recipe to come)
"Broccoli Moose" (Recipe to come)
Candied Carrot Coins (Recipe to come)
Great presents, great food, great company. An evening to remember, and infinitely more soul-nourishing than tuning in to Red-Diaper Baby Barry Obama's "Sally Struthers of our national conscience" infomercial, the one that delayed the start of the World Series broadcast last night.