Last week we had three dinner parties, and MAN, was I tired by the end. The first was a super-traditional ham dinner for a few friends on Easter. We even ate in the late afternoon; it was very retro—so much so that I was even inspired to wear one of my 50s dresses, complete with rick-rack trim. I wasn’t clear on how many people were coming, so I ended up with MUCH too big of a ham; it was more than 9 pounds and in the end we had four meat eaters! I now have a freezer full of ham. (There are worse fates, I guess.) To go with it I made my mom’s broccoli puree, which is the one item we nearly always eat on holidays, and which I’d never made before, and Julia Child’s Scalloped Potato recipe from the cookbook that goes with her early television shows. I baked Parker House rolls and cupcakes, too.
We were in Boston on Saturday and got home (with groceries) around 10, and we were going to church in the morning so I knew I had to do some prep that night. I made the broccoli purée and put it in the fridge, all ready to go. It took a while to clean all the broccoli, then I cooked it and it took a longer while to puree because I didn’t follow the instructions. I had too much to do all at once in the cuisinart, so I was trying to purée some, remove it, purée the rest, then continue with the recipe. Hmm, it turns out you really need to add the crème fraîche for the recipe to work. The cuisinart can’t get the broccoli smooth enough unless you add it before puréeing—it needs the wetter texture to get the job done. Oh well, lesson learned, but I wish I hadn’t learned it at 11 o’clock at night, while madly spooning hot broccoli in and out of the cuisinart. I think Ben was a little scared. This is a fabulous (and EASY if you follow the directions) recipe, though, and a really nice fancy side dish.
Note holes from repeated pokes with a thermometer to see if it was hot yet:
My mom apparently got the recipe from the Silver Palate cookbook, but I will always think of it as Mom’s Broccoli Puree:
Broccoli Purée with Crème Fraîche – Silver Palate
Note from Kate’s mom: I often adapt this recipe to the amount of broccoli I have on hand and adjust other ingredients accordingly; i.e.; I often reduce the amount of crème fraiche.
4 big stalks broccoli (3 lbs), trimmed and chopped, including stems
1 Cup crème fraîche
4 T sour cream
2/3 Cup freshly grated parmesan
1?2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1?2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
2 T sweet butter
1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil; salt.
2. Chop broccoli, leaving several flowerets whole to decorate top of dish. Drop broccoli into boiling water.
3. Cook just until tender, about 8 minutes, but test earlier.
4. Transfer broccoli, reserving flowerets, to a food processor. Add crème fraîche and puree thoroughly.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Scrape puree into a large bowl. Stir in sour cream, parmesan, nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste. Mix well.
7. Mound in ovenproof serving dish, dot with butter and bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes or until puree is steaming hot.
8. Garnish with reserved flowerets and serve immediately.
Note from Kate: Since I made this ahead it was very cold when it went into the oven, instead of being lukewarm from the cooked broccoli. As a result it took forever to get hot; good to keep in mind for next time.
The scalloped potatoes were much simpler than I expected, though you definitely want to use a mandolin to slice them super-thin. It would have taken forever to do with a knife, and I doubt I could have gotten them thin enough. I ignored Julia’s instructions to use a flameproof gratin pan, since I have no such thing. Instead I heated the milk (whole milk with a crushed garlic clove or two, plus salt and pepper) on the stove and poured it over a few layers at a time of the potatoes. I am paranoid about undercooking this sort of thing, having eaten some very crunchy scalloped potatoes in my day, so I peeled back the top layer and pulled out a sample from inside once or twice to check that everything was cooked enough. The finished dish was subtly garlicky and very refined. It held together well and I didn’t miss cheese or cream.
The ham was from Vermont and was pre-cooked, so I just had to heat it in the oven. It was good but not great… It sure looked impressive though! Here’s the whole spread:
The Parker House rolls were a fiasco. I gambled that the bulk yeast I have is instant, and….it’s not. The rolls were very small. Heh. I also made my first ever batch of cupcakes, yellow cake with confectioner’s sugar frosting, and though they spread out on top of the pan, once I trimmed the errant tops to size and frosted them (sloppily) they looked ok. They tasted quite good, too!
I told Ben while I was hacking the crispy overhanging edges off the cupcakes that I feel like I have two cooking/entertaining fairy godmothers, one on each shoulder. In one ear Martha was telling me to bake another batch; in the other Julia was saying to just add more frosting and cover the cut edges. Obviously I listened to Julia.