I love to entertain. Any occasion will do. This afternoon I’m preparing lunch for my old college freshmen roommate. It is in no way an excuse to use the new gold flatware I purchased in hopes of setting a pink and gold table. Ok, maybe it’s a tiny excuse. She’s been to my home lots of times, but today I feel like making an effort. I extended an invitation to lunch, and with it I believe are certain duties. One of them is to set the table.
I’d much rather have brunch, but I liked the idea of sleeping in on Saturday (although my sleeping in is sleeping until 6am). There are so many dishes I’d like to prepare, but my on-hand ingredients will dictate the menu.
I head down to the deep freezer and quickly discovered there’s a lot of crap in here. This is the place where leftovers are housed in cryogenic stasis. A bag of croissants I froze for bread pudding that I was absolutely positively going to make as soon as I came up with a decent recipe. I rummage pass the leg of lamb, ribs, duck legs for confit that I was going to make that day, foie gras (I promise I will make that duck liver mousse I’ve been meaning to get around to making), and an emergency ham (what emergency would call for a ham, you ask? The emergency of wanting a ham sandwich, of course). I don’t know why I have six bags of hot dog buns, but I can be sure it has something to do with my mother. Ah-ha! A frozen pie shell. I immediately think quiche and a crab quiche recipe I’ve been thinking about. I’ll take that, as well as the croissants (it’s now or never for that bread pudding). Back upstairs to the frig.
Being from Maryland, I’d prefer to have fresh lump crab meat. I try to keep a pasteurized container of crab meat in the refrigerator for use when fresh local crab meat is not in season and I have a hankering for crab dip (usually during football season). But, the crab meat I buy is from a company that is from Maryland (that totally counts, right?). Today I’m in luck; I have fresh lump crab meat on hand.
Menu for today:
Roasted scalloped potatoes
Bourbon Pecan Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding – wait. Should I do something with berries since they are in season? Berry tarte tatin? Berry cobbler? Bread pudding feels more like an after dinner dessert. Lemon Rosemary Cornmeal cake with mandarin oranges
Hard apple cider that we discovered is produced in the town where we went to college
I wanted the flavor of the fresh lump crab to shine through, so I kept the seasonings to a minimum. I also wanted to keep the menu simple and easy to prepare since this is supposed to be a relaxing lazy day lunch. When thinking about a lunch menu think about items that can be prepared a day in advance; or, at least prepped in advance and cooked the day of your lunch.
There were a few hits and misses as far as the lunch menu was concerned. I thought the crab quiche was a hit (the recipe is posted below); the lemon rosemary corn cake needs a bit of tweaking. Preparing the cake in advance would have been a good idea because I would have had the time to properly think through its preparation. But these things happen when working on the fly. But that didn’t ruin the afternoon. We reminisced about the carefree days of college and family and work and life and how after all these years we’re still friends. I could have served lunch on paper plates and it wouldn’t have spoiled the afternoon; but, what is the occasion for which I am saving my entertaining pieces? I decided not to use my new gold flatware (the plates that compliment them are packed away), but I pulled out a few silver pieces I bought back in my early 20s when I was preparing for all of those fabulous dinner parties I imagined I’d throw when I got older. Pieces that until this weekend I thought were too precious to use (and believe me they are not. I did purchase them on a 24 year old’s paycheck after all).
You don’t need a special occasion to use the “good plates”. The world events of the day warrant celebrating making it to the middle of the year safely. Instead of stowing away your entertaining pieces in the basement or a china cabinet put them in a kitchen cupboard. That way, they are easily accessible when the occasion to use them arises. I think 20 years of friendship was a pretty good reason. I hope we don’t make it another 20 years before having lunch again. By then we will have forgotten what made the good ole days so good (wink).
Katrina Martin is the owner of Culinary Cupid LLC. When she’s not offering clients tips on preparing a cost-effective stress-free and absolutely fabulous lunch, she’s trying to figure out how to parlay that new dish washing rag she just bought into an occasion to have a dinner party (as well as helping to restore the lost art of the leisure lunch).
1 9-inch pie shell, thawed (do not use a deep dish shell)
8 oz. fresh lump crab meat, picked through to remove shells
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped basil
1 tbsp. finely diced chives
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste (fresh ground black pepper may also be used)
Optional: A pinch of Old Bay ® (no self respecting Marylander’s cupboard would be without it)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke holes in the bottom of the pie crust using the tines of a fork. Blind bake the pie crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, beat the eggs. Add the Dijon mustard, milk, salt, and pepper. Whisk until incorporated.
In the pie shell, layer the basil, crab meat, chives, and Swiss cheese. Pour the egg mixture on top of the Swiss cheese, being careful not to disturb the distribution of the ingredients. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place the quiche on a cookie sheet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the quiche comes out clean.
Add 1/3 cup chopped artichoke hearts
Add 1/3 cup chopped spinach