January 21 – January 27, 2019
Monday: Leftover Chicken with Roasted Eggplant and Tuscan Tomato Bread Salad
Roasted Eggplant from Monday
Tuesday: Crab Meat Hoelzel and Virginia Spots at the Duquesne Club, courtesy of Ann and Chris
Wednesday: Country Potage with Cheese Toasts
Thursday: Pork Souvlaki with Radish Tzatziki
Friday: Roasted Shrimp, Green Bean and Radicchio Nicoise
Saturday: Dunnings Group Holiday Bash – Apps from Hilda and Katie, Cookies and Brownies from Hilda and Kathleen, Chicken Tetrazini and Salad from The Cornerstone
Sunday Brunch – Poached Eggs with Tomato Salsa and Louis Sauce
Sunday: Leftover Tetrazini with Salad
If you follow the blog, you may have noticed that on certain Thursdays, “Dunnings Meeting” appears, instead of a menu.
Last week we hosted the Annual Dunnings Holiday party. I mention that because the friendship of this group transcends politics, religion, and even geography in a way that stands out against the tribalism of modern America. I mention it also, because, it is a significant part of our lives. Alas, we took no pictures – so enjoyable was the company and the conversation that we just forgot.
I’ll get to the food, but first I want to explain the origin of the Dunnings Group. Yes, this is a food blog, not a personal journal – but this group of friends represent, along with my family, the reason that I cook and the reason that I started this blog. The food and the blog are about community and friendship. And entertaining and eating with people is one of the ways* we maintain and nurture the personal relationships that sustain us and make life worth living.
*Worshiping together, golf, cheering for local teams and charity events are up there – but there’s nothing quite like a dinner or a cocktail party or Rosie’s brunches
The origin of the Dunnings Group: Over 40 years ago, I ran a non-profit football pool, the members of which met on Thursday after work, to turn in their picks for the next week, to have a few pops and to catch up with one another. This became the ETNIC society – the Every Thursday Night Club. I devised a Latin motto for the group: Ullum genus hominis bibere potest Venere nocte et per totum diem Saturni dormit, sed homo solo virtutis bibere potest Iovis nocte et surgere ad laborem in Venere. I meant this to read: Any sort of fellow can go drinking on Friday night and sleep in on Saturday, but it takes a true man to drink on Thursday night and get up for work on Friday. God knows what an ancient Roman would make of it. But you get the point – this was a chance for friends to get together, tell a few jokes, have a few beers and stick – sort of – to the discipline that allowed us to make our mortgage and car payments, buy shoes for the kids, and, generally lead respectable lives. Here is a great truth about the Dunnings Group – this group of friends has kept me sane over the years.
As we got older and our wives made clear to us, in one way or another, the limits of our freedom, we stopped gathering every Thursday night and began, maybe 25 years ago, to meet one Thursday each month at Dunnings Bar in the Regent Square neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Hence the name of our group. By then, we had stopped betting on football games and began to discuss sports, politics, philosophy, life in general and, God help us, religion. We soon discovered that our group included Democrats and Republicans, liberals, conservatives, moderates, religious believers, agnostics and atheists. One member is now an Anglican priest. But through all the years, our diverse and contradictory opinions never led anyone to leave the group. We have all remained friends.
Once a year we all gather for a holiday party with spouses and significant others. And that’s what we did last Saturday, but with the historic addition of members’ children to the mix. If we keep the Dunnings Group going, perhaps we can lend some civility to the national conversation about politics and religion. About sports, in Pittsburgh, there’s little chance of our tolerating other teams.
But enough historical perspective, what about that food which brings us all together?
On Tuesday, we had great, traditional Pittsburgh club food and then saw the powerful musical Hamilton Courtesy of Ann and Chris – a founding Dunnings member.
On Saturday, the food for the party was spectacular, including appetizers from Hilda and Katie, and cookies and brownies from Hilda and Kathleen. And the dinner – salad and Chicken Tetrazini – was great. But we didn’t cook it – it was catered by The Cornerstone, the new meeting place for the Dunnings Group. (The Cornerstone Group would sound either too Masonic or too Evangelistic or too much like a financial planning organization, so we’ll stick with Dunnings.)
Of the food we cooked ourselves, the standout was something we may have shared with you in the past, but which is worth sharing again – Mimi Thorisson’s Country Potage. So savory is this soup – think of a warm Vichyssoise with a little bit more flavor – and so pretty is it, sitting in a bowl, that we serve it as an appetizer, for a light lunch, or as a main course, with some cheese toasts or a salad. If you do not have an immersion blender, buy one, so that you can make this soup the way it is meant to be made. (Yes, you can purée it in a blender, but it’s not quite the same thing – though very good.) The soup is also good the next day, and the day after that, and even on the day after that. A true ‘Keeper’.
SIMPLE VEGETABLE POTAGE
(adapted from Mimi Thorrison’s French Country Cooking)
Timing: 45 minutes tops
Ingredients: Serves 5 or so, maybe 10 as a ‘shooter’ style appetizer
Carrots – 1 lb., 5 oz. – about 3 really large carrots or 6 medium – peeled and diced
2 Russet Potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large leek, or 2 medium
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Quart Chicken Stock
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Fine sea salt and ground black pepper
A few chives, finely chopped
Peel and dice the carrots and potatoes and chop the leek. Measure out the other ingredients.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low, then add the carrots, potatoes and cook, occasionally stirring, about 5 minutes. You want to soften the vegetables a bit.
Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper, then pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
Purée the soup with an immersion blender or, if you don’t have one of those nifty gadgets, do it in batches in a blender.
Now whisk together the cream and the tomato paste until smooth and whisk into the soup.
Reheat over low before serving. Serve with a drizzle of cream (we didn’t – SWMBO is not big on extra cream or butter) and a sprinkling of chives.