By Gini Rainey
We just got through spending an action-packed week end in Arlington for the wedding of our granddaughter. The bride was lovely, the groom was handsome, the kids were amazing, and they are now all one big happy family. Our daughter knocked herself out and proved once again that she can throw a mighty good party. The reception was at their home and covered all of the bases, from the popcorn bar to the formal wedding cake. She admitted that today she feels like she is coming off an adrenaline high, and I’m not one bit surprised, everything was lovely and first-class.
Here’s the thing about entertaining, that I believe most hosts and hostesses forget – it’s a party! Everyone (including the host/hostess) should have a good time. If that means minimizing what you want to do, then do it! I said to my daughter at least 50 times over the past two days, “In a hundred years, it won’t matter!” and believe me, it won’t. In fact it probably won’t matter much sooner than that! Definitely hard advice to follow, but it’s true. Besides, who wants to be at a party where the host or hostess is a wreck? So, with that in mind, it’s always a good thing to have some yummy recipes in your arsenal that are easy yet stunning, and able to be prepared ahead. That way, most of the prep gets done ahead of time and the end result is, well, you get to enjoy yourself and your party!
Seeing as how it’s Sunday and all, a great book to have around is “The Cook’s Bible” by Christopher Kimball, founder and editor of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Published in 1996 by Little, Brown and Company, this 443 page cookbook is loaded with over 400 essential recipes, reviews of kitchen equipment and 200 step-by-step illustrations. With the opening remark “Good home cooking demands the hospitality of a farmer, the curiosity of a scientist, the affection of a mother, the hands of an artist, and the enthusiasm of a child,” this book gets you started off in the right direction to hone up your skills and make some magic in the kitchen.
One of my standard recipes is for spaghetti sauce, and while it really is a great sauce (if I do say so myself!) I have to admit that while in Mexico I fell in love with Spaghetti Bolognese. I can’t tell you what the difference is, but I have tried several recipes in an attempt to replicate the same taste – and failed. This cookbook has a recipe that I think I might give a shot. It starts with frying two strips of bacon in a large skillet and removing when done and reserving for another use. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the foam subsides, add 1 peeled and diced medium onion, and 1 diced rib of celery. Cook until the onion is soft but not browned. Add 1 peeled and minced clove of garlic and cook 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and add ½ pound ground beef and ¼ pound ground pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon . After 3 to 4 minutes, add ½ cup white wine and salt to taste – the meat should still be pink inside. Simmer for 5 minutes and then add 2/3 cup of milk, 2 teaspoons sugar, ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of mace. Cook for 15 minutes. Add 1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped, and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and ¼ cup heavy cream (optional) just before serving. Serve over pasta. Think about this: make the sauce a day or more ahead (it can be frozen), then serve when company comes, along with a pre-made green salad and garlic bread – oh and wine, red wine! Talk about looking like a hostess that has it all together!