Thursday, January 14, 2010

We had people in to dinner here at Bellemaison last night. It was an evening of food, friends and fun. The Chows were quite delighted how everything--the table, the flowers, the conversation--turned out and marked a recipe for you to see. But first, I want to say how much strength I gain from my friends. Melody struck a deep note within me as she continues her courageous battle with brain cancer. She's tough and resolute and has not lost one bit of her funny, feminine, experienced ways. She came to dinner in a cute pair of black slacks, a very sexy black, suede sweater with lovely evening makeup and her hat. She doesn't go anywhere without a hat. She's currently going through chemo again but has and will keep all her hair except for the one inch swath of scalp running from the crown of her head down to the back of her ear. That's the scar from surgery. Because of radiation, she will never grow hair there again. She is petite, lovely, funny and fun. I love her deeply and am scared by her calm in the battle of her lifetime. Of any one's lifetime.

Katie was here, too; she's limping into the dugout after her battle with breast cancer. She's run the bases and made it home. I do not want her to have another at bat. How can I control that? How can I fix her if she does get up again? I cannot. Now that I have lived enough, I know I cannot. I cannot fix Katie. She's inventive, creative, incredibly feminine and lovely and has a soft, caring and gentle touch. She carries the wisdom of the ages with her. When I called her for dinner, she was working on a lesson for a class she teaches to a group of women. She was going to teach on God's creation and so made, by hand, a flower pin for each of the women who had signed up to come to her class. She brought one for me, and for Melody, and they are exquisite! looped felt around a beaded center, perfectly finished front and back. Mine has a little feather petal in it; I shall carry this pin proudly and go in love, knowing that in our lifetimes, we all have to run the bases and then if we have to run them again, we do so with love from each other and in perfect accordance with God's creation. God, what an evening. I feel like I have a PhD in grace this morning. Not that I earned it, I just observed it.

So. The recipe. It's my thought that if you really want to please people at dinner, you absolutely can't go wrong with pork, dairy and salt. Sugar's good, too and should be given your full consideration. I usually don't do much dairy in January after December's carotid blow out of hedonism but fixed this dish last night with a nod to my buddy, The Beermaker. It's from the Nordstrom cookbook, Friends and Family.

And you thought I only bought shoes at Nordstrom.

Roasted Asparagus Gratin

2 pounds jumbo asparagus, tough ends removed and lower half each spear peeled

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon minced shallot

2 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 Tablespoons coarsely shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 Tablespoons unseasoned dried bread crumbs

Position a rack int he upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450F. IN a shallow dish, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and the lemon juice until the spears are perfectly coated.

Roast the asparagus until the spears are just beginning to brown yet are still crisp and tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and drain off the excess oil.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and shallot and saute, stirring constantly, until the shallot is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and simmer, uncovered, until reduced by one third, about 6 minutes. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the asparagus in a ovenproof serving dish and spoon the Parmesan cream sauce over the spears, allowing the tips and bases to remain uncovered. Scatter the shaved Parmesan over the top and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

The 'Kan EWA


SylphSong said...

Food for thought... spirit, mind and body.


Bent said...

Nice piece, Jbelle! I have big spot in my heart for those who are fighting cancer, and I especially love the success stories. We lost Sunny's mom to a particularly nasty strain of brain cancer in August of 2008. It was tough on the family. IThe experience shook our extended family to the core, but it also reminded all of us of what is really important ... we are a stronger family because of it!

And I love the recipe! What was the pork dish? tenderloin? ham? That asparagus dish would go so well with a slow smoked shank ... mmmm.

MarmiteToasty said...

Warm hugs to your dear friends that are fighting such troubled times....

And how lucky they are to have you as a real friend...... dear dear you....

Dam that good sounds good, as do the people you shared it with...

wow, two Melodys :) we must be getting as common as muck :)


JBelle said...

Thanks for reading. Been awhile since I've had words and they came tumbling out of me after this experience.

You should never come out of a fight the same person. Particularly when you win. If you come out saying, I was right! I won! and go on living your life, you didn't get it. And probably just got lucky in your win or your survival. Bent, your family is so strong and so marvelous I can only imagine your pain and grief over Sunny's mom's fatal battle. Life is *so* exquisite--in each extreme. You guys inspire me.

Glad you all liked the recipe. It was a pleasure, chock full of calories, fat and salt. The pork referred to bacon. I'll post my recipe for spinach salad that people love when they come here. And a few notes on how it evolved and that should explain the pork reference. it's along the lines of OMG!!! baconnnnn!

I still have a huge pork tenderloin that I need to get out of my freezer. as we don't grill at Bellemaison during the winter soltice, I am going to start scouring the archives for a method to soak and roast this magnificent piece of pork. Your observations and comments would, as always, be gratefully accepted. You and Sunny must go to Turkey with me to eat the food. you, like me, would roll over and beg for your belly to be scratched. that good. that good...

And I know I've told you before how much I love the name Melody. And I always think of you two; you are so different yet perfectly alike in love and spirit and kindness. I hope you two meet someday. You each have a wonderful, wonderful song that soothes and contents me in the most satifying of ways...

and that bright light that comes up out of the southern desert and pokes right through this gray sky into the pine trees...i feel you with me and know that no matter what, i am never alone. honest. that's what it feels like.