Some guys may wilt at the thought of cooking for the girlfriend's parents. Hell, some might even fail while opening a can of Chef Boyardee. I have no such fears.
Today I had the opportunity to cook dinner for Julia's parents while they were passing through town. I was in the mood for some traditional northern Italian eating, and we started out wiht a platter of cheeses and olives and marinated mushrooms. The first course was one of my favorites, crespelle. I love this dish, and don't know why stuffed crepes have never really caught on here in the states. They're so delicious and so much fun to make and serve.
Mine were made with spinach, prosciutto, and béchamel sauce, topped with a bit of grated asiago cheese. Grilled white asparagus on the side because I was craving it. This was served with a California Chardonnay that will show up in a future review. Stay tuned!
Salads are a favorite palate cleanser between courses here at Casa de Benito. Here I've got frisée, oak leaf, and butter lettuce topped with tomatoes, dried figs, shaved asiago, fried shallot rings, and a vinaigrette made from Chilean olive oil, white wine vinegar, mustard, an egg yolk, and other bits of magic.
Two of these salads are missing tomatoes: Julia and her father are not fans of that particular ingredient in its raw form. Dee and I enjoyed our fresh farmers' market diced tomatoes.
The salad was crisp and tart and refreshing, though in the proper European tradition I had stretched out lunch quite a ways. I think from first appetizer to final dessert was about three hours. And honestly, there's no reason to rush good food, and you fill up the time with actual human conversation and maybe a stroll around the backyard with the dogs.
My main course for the evening was gamberi fra diavolo, deviled shrimp or shrimp of the devil's priest or some other odd translation. The presence of a tiny bit of dried chile flakes is enough to condemn this dish to eternal damnation. I made it with white wine and San Marzano tomatoes and fresh parsley and basil at the finish. I kept the shells on because that's where a lot of flavor resides.
By this point in the afternoon, I think everyone was a bit worn out, but this dish was still a hit and appropriate for a hot summer afternoon. Fun to eat with fingers! Just enough of a sauce to add flavor, but not enough to require pasta or a spoon. It was a pleasure to dine with Julia and her parents, and I look forward to more meals in the future.