We went to my sister Candie's house for dinner last night... And before I tell you about that dish, here's the dish you need to know first.
Candie is an AMAZING cook/baker/entertainer. She is CULINARIAN AMPLIFIED... like, if Martha Stewart hit the crack pipe and chased it with a 12-pack of Red Bulls before she even sauteed the onions. To say that Candie channels Martha would not only be an understatement (and a dreadful cliche), it would be inaccurate... for, truth be told, Martha actually channels Candie.
As it happens, Candie's twin, Christine, is also an Einstein of all things edible. Three years ago she made me some grilled scallops that I still dream about to this very day. (Yep, that good.) Bobby Flay, Paula Deen, Rachael Ray and any other Food Network hack can SUCK IT... because the real deal is related to me, and they live in West Bountiful and Seattle.
Me? I ride the short bus to the grocery store and make a beeline for all aisles marked "Food Items for Those Who Cry at the Thought of Boiling Water."
True story: One time Candie came to my house for dinner... I know, SCARY AND STUPID. But having been properly trained in the fine art of hostessing, I asked her well in advance which flavor of Ramen Noodles her family liked the best—after all, I would never want anyone to be disappointed.
ANYWAY... while putting together the side dish she brought, she asked if she could borrow my garlic press.
K: "My what?"
C: "Your garlic press."
K: "Uh... what does a garlic press look like?"
C: [Pause] "Does that mean you don't have one?"
K: "Not necessarily... I might have been given one once and not known what it was for, so I don't know if I have one or not." (Sadly, this was absolutely true—you could have easily convinced me that a carburetor from a 1972 Plymouth Duster was a garlic press.)
C: [Extended pause, coupled with dejected headshaking] Ok, where is your utensil drawer? I'll look and see if you have one.
I did not, in fact, have a garlic press, and I don't know what horrified her more: That I didn't own one, or that I wouldn't have known what it was if I did. Ashamed and appalled, I bought a garlic press the next week and put it in my utensil drawer. It's still never been used—and it's clearly labeled in case I forget what the hell it is—but if my sister is ever in the neighborhood and has some garlic that desperately needs pressing, I'M. ALL. SET.
Where was I, now? Oh yeah... dinner at Candie's.
Her food is always excellent... but last night, in honor of my upcoming birthday, she pulled out all the stops and made a SPECIAL CULINARY EXTRAVAGANZA, which I am going to describe for you now.
DISCLAIMER: Have a bib, dropcloth or bucket handy for inevitable hypersalivation.
Filet Mignon Crustinis: Crusty, toasted baguette slices slathered with a thick sauce made from carmelized onions, light sour cream and fresh thyme, then layered with thin slices of filet and sprinkled with bleu cheese crumbles. (This was actually a recipe of Christine's, one that Candie had been dying to make... and she executed it flawlessly.)
Fancy Schmancy Mashed Potatoes: Not your average Tupperware bowl of taters. Candie put them in a pastry bag and piped them into perfect little potato blossoms on our plates. (I. AM. NOT. KIDDING.)
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad: A tangy balsamic broth with little orbs of herbed mozzarella paired with teeny-tiny tomatoes... no, not cherry tomatoes, but I don't know what kind they were. (See? SHORT BUS.) Possibly grape tomatoes? I just know they were THE SHIZ.
Spaghetti Squash: Golden, tender and oh-so-buttery, a perfect complement to the rest of the meal.
And now brace yourself for...
The To-Die-For Dessert: Individual trifles featuring layers of dulce de leche cake, Dove dark chocolate mousse, fresh strawberries, homemade whipped cream and Dove dark chocolate shavings.
I'll give you a few minutes to digest all that... and while you do, I'll rattle off the questions that went through my mind as I was partaking of this glorious meal, in this general order:
"Was she expecting someone else besides us? Like, perhaps, the Queen of England?"
"Is there a dress code? Should we go home and change back into our church clothes?"
"Did they have to take out a second mortgage on their house to pay for this meat?"
"Is she SERIOUSLY going to pipe those mashed potatoes onto my plate?" [She SERIOUSLY did!]
"What kind of tomatoes are these?"
"Where on Earth do you get fresh, sweet strawberries this time of year?"
"Where do you find fresh thyme in the grocery store? What does it even look like?? Does it come in a bag, or in a bunch, or on a branch? How can you tell it apart from cilantro or beet greens or a Chia Pet?"
"Why oh why OH WHY can't dessert be void of all fat-inducing consequence in this life??"
So mind-blowing, this meal... and SO incredibly flattering that my sister would go out of her way to prepare it for me. I honestly don't know where she finds the time—or the thyme—but I thank her from the bottom of my (happy tummy) heart for tracking them both down.
And, I admit, Candie has inspired me to broaden my own culinary horizons. It's true! Next time she comes to my house for dinner, I am TOTALLY jazzing up the Ramen with some freshly-pressed garlic.