Saturday 21 November
As both of our readers know, Holt likes to celebrate his birthday by making a slap-up dinner for five other people as well as himself, luckily now including Barbara (there were those Canadian years when it wasn't possible). This year, Julie, Sonja, Kathy, and Russel gathered for the feast; the latter two also celebrate their birthday around now, so they are naturally included.
Holt's advance prep started back on Thursday, when he baked a Kentucky Butter Cake (can't see why we haven't had that Pillsbury bake-off classic since we started the blog). Usually we soak this bundt cake in strong coffee and Irish whiskey, pile whipped cream in the center, and call it "Irish Coffee Cake," but this time Holt drizzled in bourbon with the sugar glaze, for a little local flavor.
Then on Friday, Barbara went to Jungle Jim's and shlepped home a whole veal breast (pre-ordered, now $2.99/lb.), while Holt paged through the pâtés & terrines cookbook he xeroxed completely back in the '90s.
His choice was to make a Terrine Niçoise: fresh tuna, artichoke hearts, garden purple beans, and tiny potatoes in a yogurt-based matrix, wrapped in redleaf lettuce and topped with white anchovies and Niçoise olive dressing.
On Saturday morning, Holt started by cutting out the ribby half of the veal breast (freezing the rest), and stuffing it with a bunch of kale, a pound of tube sausage, 6 slices' worth of white bread cubes, and a ton of fresh sage, all sautéed together in bacon fat.
The veal roasted along with a tray of shallots and carrots (white, yellow, and stubby orange, just dug from the garden - where it was so warm, Barbara picked three roses to put on the table!) basted in the oozing fat from the roast.
All that prep culminated in tonight's birthday dinner, which began with a toast in sparkling cava and appetizers of rosemary walnuts (for which we halved the recipe's cayenne and used fresh rosemary), fresh sorrel goat cheese spread, and crackers.
Then we came to the table for the Terrine Niçoise, which looked beautiful both unsliced and sliced, and tasted that good too.
The veal breast came out looking like the ribroast that tipped over Fred Flintstone's car; each guest got an unctuous rib bulging with stuffing, and the roast vegetables to spoon on the side.
Oh, and there were various pinots noirs, including a fruity 2012 Brutocao from the Mendocino Valley that we particularly enjoyed. We hoped that the resveratrol and antioxidants in the red wine would cut the luxuriant amounts of fat squirting out of the veal breast ("heart attack on the hoof").
And when we thought we couldn't eat any more, the Kentucky Bourbon Cake came out, accompanied by pours of good Bourbon for those who could take it.
We are very lucky that we survived this meal, and we are looking forward to doing something like it again next year.