Friday, March 14, 2008

Austrians, Creme Brulee and A Quick Side Dish

Last week we entertained some Austrian business associates of Tim's. I forgot how much we love to entertain. And I think we are pretty darn good at. I don't think there was a topic we didn't hit on at least once during the evening. You know, I spend all day talking to this computer but it never talks back. Neither do the dogs. It's nice having someone talk back, to discuss ideas and such. I forgot how charming I was.

Tim thinks I worked so hard to pull together such a wonderful meal. Really it's pretty easy. I keep it simple and do as much ahead of time as I can. Really it's all about project management. Break the tasks down, order them so they make sense, time estimate, schedule and get to it. But I'll let Tim think I'm wonderful, talented and worked my butt off. We'll see what that gets me. On the other hand, cleaning this dog infested pig pen was a shite load of work and for that I do deserve some kudos. Luckily we have wine leftover from last week so I see a nice big glass of it in my future later this evening...

Last week's menu was as follows:

Lobster Bisque

Maple Glazed Salmon

Sauteed Spinach and Orzo

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee is actually quite easy and a great make-ahead for entertaining. You can make them up to 2 days ahead of time and then all you have to do is brown the tops right before serving. I use a basic recipe from Fine Cooking. They have a great resource on line that also includes an article that discusses these wonderful silky custards.

But I want to share my side dish recipe for Sauteed Spinach and Orzo. You can boil the Orzo before your guests arrive so it is all ready to toss into this dish.

Ingredients: (for 4-5 servings)

  • 3/4 cup dry orzo

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 shallots, chopped

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 box of fresh baby spinach

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan


  1. I have everything all ready to go before my guests arrive so I can just pull this together quickly.

  2. Boil the orzo as instructed on the package

  3. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a saute pan

  4. Brown the shallots and garlic

  5. Add in the spinach

  6. Once the spinach starts to wilt (about 1 -2 minutes) toss in the pasta

  7. Toss in the cheese and serve.

It's really great with fish!

Just a note about Austrian wine. I had experiences some of the good stuff when I was in New York City last November. We stumbled across a great little Austrian Restaurant when we were looking for a place to get a drink. We ended up having an appetizer plate as well to share. It was full of Austrian meats, cheese spreads, spreads and breads. It was really lovely. My friends had beer, which they both enjoyed but I had a glass of white wine from Austria. It was really good. I didn't write down the name because in my wine lovers delusion, I assumed I would remember the name. Do I?! Of course not. It started with an 'S' and I think that was the grape name, not the brand name. Since I got back I've checked each liquor store I've been in for Austrian wines but hadn't seen anything until last week. I was able to pick up a bottle for dinner. And once again I forget the name! Okay, name's aren't my thing but you would think I could write it down if I was going to discuss it here... My point is that Austrian Wines are quite lovely so try one!

Our guests told us that almost all Austrian wine is made from little wineries where they often sell the wine on site. These places have a special license which allows them to sell anything they produce on the farm in an on-site cafe. It seems the appetizer plate we had at the restaurant in NYC was very much like something we would get at a winery cafe in Austria. How cool is that?

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