We used to throw elaborate dinner parties way more often. When we moved to Hawaii we fairly quickly changed to a more casual style. It was a better fit with culture and the group of friends we had. That’s not to say I didn’t still cook up a storm, but meals did tend to be a bit more simple.

I’m a big fan of the multi-course home meal. I love putting together a menu of recipes from different sources. Sometimes it’s just “what can I make with this CSA meat that I have.” Other times I want the challenge of doing some creative and often laborious, recipes. I almost never test run recipes. I do often read the recipe several times before attempting, but sometimes I just forge ahead, confident in my skills as a T.V. show trained, home cook. I did learn a few tricks by watching the cooks in a fine dining restaurant I worked in as a waiter too.

Thanks to my participation in #CharcutePalooza I had lots of cured meat around for a charcuterie plate. There was Noix de Jambon(sort of), Bresaola, Lonzino style cured Pork Leg, & Duck Breast “Proscuitto.” I had also made some pickled fennel, Manchego Fresco, lavash crackers and I cracked open the last jar of Indian Spiced Tomato Marmalade.

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Last night’s meal was one that I wanted go all out on. That always meals pulling out the big stack of $50 cookbooks, most by Thomas Keller. The French Laundry Cookbook has stains and notes on many pages. Usually picking out the main course comes first for me. Even though it was a bit unconscious, spring like options seemed to bubble up. Keller’s deconstructed cassoulet made the cut. Reading the recipe I didn’t feel the wow factor that I expected so a test run was undertaken. The dish in the test run, while good, didn’t wow, like every other French Laundry recipe I’ve cooked. I vowed to make it anyway and made some of my own modifications and short cuts. I didn’t get a picture of it last night, but you can see the test run above. It didn’t look dramatically different.

My stack of recipe clippings is too big, but at least it’s kind of stopped growing because I found the Evernote applications. They let me clip recipe pages to my computer, saving some trees. Well at least until I print them out to make. It’s also great because I can see them on my phone. One of those recently clipped recipes was from our daily viewing of The Martha Stewart Show. Martha gets on my nerves some with all her self promoting product placements, but she has great chef guests and that is the main reason we watch. We only watch the cooking segments and some of the gardening ones.

The salad recipe, by Justin Bogle of New York’s GILT, was one of those times when Howard leans over and says “make that.” So, I did. It was beautiful and delicious. The picture doesn’t really do it justice. I’m still learning to use the new camera. What a lot of work the salad was though.

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For dessert I reprised a recipe I made for New Year’s Day: profiteroles with lavender and crystalized ginger ice cream. I used Mr. Keller’s Bouchon recipes for the pâte à chou and his chocolate sauce. Rave reviews. Howard’s manning the tweezers placing a candied violet leaf on top of each profiterole.

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The guests brought wine pairings and evening flew by with lots of terrific conversation with some loud bursts of general mayhem. Fun was had by all.