A dish that your guests will love … and a backup just in case


a dish that your guests will love ... and a

Welcome to You’ve Got Time for This, a column where Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Dawn Davis highlights recipes from our archives that are delicious, easily accessible, and work every time.

I’m here to rave about a dish from the BA archives that pays off with minimal fuss, but first let me tell you about one dinner that the party went wrong.

When my friend Greg graduated from law school, it was time for a party. I reached out to Second Helpings at Union Square Cafe because the main courses are consistently tasty and foolproof, if admittedly a bit complicated. I chose the Indian bouillabaisse, monkfish and shellfish, cooked in a fragrant broth with accents of cardamom, coriander seeds and fenugreek flowered in mustard oil. As a starter, I served a hearty lentil and celery salad that I thought could serve as a main course should a dinner guest be allergic to shellfish. What could go wrong?

Much. One of Greg’s friends, let’s call her Madeleine, was not only allergic to shellfish but also to lentils. As for dinner parties, it’s been an embarrassing bankruptcy. I didn’t know how to turn at the time, so it was up to Madeleine to save the day. She was always polite and pretended to have had a late lunch. I could hear her stomach growling with hunger.

Since that day I’ve always been asking if anyone has allergies and I always have a backup plan that I had to use this weekend.

I had a dinner party on Friday and chose another shellfish recipe: Chris Morocco’s chile lime clams with tomato and grilled bread. This dish is over the top delicious and is refined with restaurant-grade butter and sambal oelek, a chilli paste that adds flavor, but in this case not much spiciness. With autumn hues, this dish is gorgeous, especially with a touch of red onion (which I used in addition to the shallots called for in the recipe) and brightly colored cherry tomatoes. The pan goes straight to the direct heat of a grill, although you can use your stovetop instead. Everyone loved it so much that we tried hard to get that little bit of leftover in the pan. (If you like mussels, I highly recommend.)

I did notice, however, that a friend was eating around the clams and opted for the chickpeas, jam, caramelized onions, and grilled bread instead. I had asked before; She wasn’t allergic to shellfish. So what was the problem? Coriander, with which the dish is ready.

Instead of panicking, I turned to my choice this time: Fridge-Dive Pesto Pasta. It’s great for an impromptu Plan B because, as the name suggests, you can make it with “any leftover hardy greens, lettuce, or herb that you don’t know what to do with.” I had fresh arugula and basil and some wilted escarole and parsley on hand, although I suspect it hardly matters because it’s the sesame seeds I toasted in the pan while the greens cook and the ricotta salad that makes it memorable. (Ricotta may not be a pantry, but it takes a while, good enough to have on hand.) Twenty minutes later the pasta was ready and this time no one went hungry. So if a surprising allergy or aversion shows up, don’t panic – open another bottle of wine and bring your water to a boil.

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Amanda Litchford

Making delicious meals and researching products has inspired me as a stay at home mom to start this website in helping out others who don’t have the time or expertise in the kitchen.

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