The SASSY Supper Club cooks recipes from Italian SENSATION! (cucina)
After trying out recipes from a Tagine cookbook and a Cake cookbook , the next supper adventure for the SASSY Supper club was to try the recipes from Italian SENSATION! (cucina). This is a coffee table-perfect work of love for all things Italian, written by a Vancouverite, who has cooked Italian family dinners most of her life.
Seven members of the SASSY Supper Club picked a range of recipes from the book, encompassing seafood, chicken, vegetables, pasta, salad and a frittata. Four of us original SASSY Club members picked our recipes during our SASSYs Taste Soft-Ripened Bloomy Rind Cheeses evening.
The other three guests, all of whom live various walking distances away, on a later occasion picked recipes that appealed to them, and that could be carried easily. The consensus was that the recipes seemed straightforward family style cooking that we should all be able to handle easily.
Since I was host, and instigator of the SASSY recipe testing series, I thought I would try something special and chose a lobster dish - Lobster (surely there is an Italian word for lobster) con Arance & Limoni. Disobeying my own injunction to stick exactly to the recipes, I headed off to Costco and bought two boxes of frozen lobster tails. A bit pricey but this was going to be something special.
The recipe looked so simple that I felt a little guilty about only doing one dish, so I turned to a page that had a picture of a delectable looking Pepper Salad, and decided to make that. Urban fare was featuring shallots this week so I added the Baked Shallot recipe on the same page. Then I looked at the dish I was going to serve them in and decided that green asparagus would finish off the look of the dish. So I found a recipe for Sauce All' Asiago- milk, cream and Asiago cheese that could be poured over the asparagus ... and thought "how simple is that?"
Huh! I did not take into account my incredible ineptitude in the kitchen and my complete lack of patience. So there I was Sunday morning with everything ready to go. First problem as I looked at my ingredients was that the lobster dish instructions said serve hot. Well that meant that while my guests were due to arrive I would be battling to extract the pulp of the lobster tails from the shells. Since the limoni sauce was simply an oil and lemon juice dressing, I took an executive decision and thought that I would serve it cold. So I put the water onto boil to cook the lobsters and turned to the shallots.
I was planning to try try the method of popping the shallots into boiling water for two minutes to skin them, and in fact that worked well. By the time the lobster tails had been cooked for the 6 minutes as per instructions, and the shells were a bright red, I had the shallots peeled and in a dish awaiting the next step. But then disaster.
It did not take many years of growing up in our family for my kids to understand why I did not chose to practice a surgical specialty. Suffice it to say that manual dexterity is not my strong point. By the time I had extracted the lobster tails from the shells, not even Michelangelo could have got them to look like a lobster tail. Executive decision number two. I decided to chop them into small pieces and make a lobster salad. I figured the orange segments would help to hide the ratty appearance. I put together the oil and lemon dressing - tasted it. Not too flavorful. Put it in the fridge and hoped that by evening it would improve in flavour.
By 5 PM I had the oven on to the recommended 400 degrees and put the shallots in to bake for half an hour. I had my asparagus prepared for a quick 12 minutes in the oven, the peppers waiting to be sautéed, the lobster and dressing in the fridge, an orange washed and waiting to be zested and sliced for the salad and the cheese sauce slowly thickening on the stove.
In the end I found the shallots needed more than an hour before they were soft and caramelized. And the lemon dressing just had no taste- just oil. I ended up adding juice from a second lemon to the mixture.
The others began to arrive one by one, to taste, comment... and of course enjoy some wine. It was actually quite interesting the way the rest of the evening turned out. Here's what happened.
The first inkling that perhaps it was not just me in the kitchen, and that the recipes really needed to be revisited, came with the arrival of the first SASSY. She had picked a tuna dish that specified mustard - but what kind of mustard? She brought along powdered mustard, Dijon mustard and a third variety to see what the consensus would be. It would totally change the consistency of the topping.
In the end she decided to use the mustard powder - but it would have been helpful to know what was actually intended. It also needed longer than 5 minutes in the recipe. Maybe I should get my oven temperature checked.
The SASSY who brought the eggplant towers and the pasta followed the recipes exactly despite her better instincts. The eggplant towers were really attractive but turned out to be rather bland. She thought the pasta recipe was also less flavorful than it could have been.
The orange and fennel salad turned out well and everyone liked the mix of tastes and textures. The remaining two dishes were a pepper frittata, and chicken with mozzarella and prosciutto.
The SASSY who prepared the frittata thought that the breadcrumbs were unnecessary and detracted from the taste of the dish. She also thought that the directions to flip the frittata and cook the other side would lead to a possible cooking disaster. Most of us agreed that in our hands it probably would. Placing it under the broiler usually works fine.
The meal turned out to be very tasty and the variety of dishes were enjoyed by all. We all felt that the book looked great and the pictures were gorgeous but that the recipes needed editing by a professional chef.