A Hausfrau's Kitchen - Time to Cook! Let's Prep.

Here you are. At home with all the groceries you bought for your fun, casual dinner party with six friends.

How do you tackle THIS project?

Let's start with the actual groceries. Before you put them away, let's see what you can prep ahead of time. You  bought:
  • 1 large, fresh salmon fillet, about 3 - 3.5 pounds. 
  • 1 bag of washed baby spinach
  • A few sprigs of baby dill
  • About 3 to 5 pounds of tri-color fingerling potatoes. 
  • 2 large bundles of broccoli crowns
  • 1 lemon
  • Fresh baby greens: 
  • 3 ripe pears.
  • 8 apples: 
  • 1 Can or or 1 small bag frozen artichokes, not marinated
  • Either prepared Pita chips or pitas. Ah. Go ahead and buy the prepared kind. You'll be busy.
  • Milk
  • Parmesan cheese, either pre-grated or to grate yourself
  • Feta
  • 8 oz. package cream cheese or neufchatel
  • Butter
  • 1 pint of heavy/whipping cream
(Everything else is already in your well-stocked pantry, right?)

This is a fairly low-prep meal you're making so really there's only a little bit to do. As you're putting your groceries away, hold out the lemon, spinach, broccoli and the can/bag of artichokes. You could wash the potatoes now, too. You'll prep those soon. 

Prepare your broccoli. Slice off the toughened end, and then cut the remaining stem into about 1" cubes. Set those aside. Break or cut the florettes into bite sized pieces. The stems are perfectly edible and you can serve them at dinner, or you can save them to add to a broccoli cheese soup later. Either way, refrigerate your cut up broccoli until it's time to cook.

Prepare the artichokes. Either leave the frozen ones out to thaw and deal with them later, or if you bought a can of artichokes, drain them really, really well. When they're thawed or drained, chop them up into fairly small chunks. Then chop up the baby spinach, discarding the stems (or set aside to add to soup stock later). Refrigerate them in the oven-safe bowl you plan to serve this dip in later and save yourself one dish. 

Chill the wine. If you have SS mixing bowls, choose a medium sized one that is tall and deep, rather than a big open kind of bowl, and put that in the freezer with the beaters from your mixer. 

Several hours or the day before the meal: 

Make the apple crisp. Grease an oblong cake pan, such as a Pyrex dish, with pan spray. Heat the oven to 375. Peel, core and slice the apples into medium-thick slices (about 1/4 inch thick) and place them in a bowl. There's an easy way to do this: peel the apple and cut down both sides, next to the core. Like this, from Wikihow:
Image result for easy way to slice apples Except peeling it first. Then cut the other two sides, leaving a square core, Then just slice those pieces. It works great. If you're going to do a lot of apples in life, then splurge on one of these:

Apple Peeling Gizmo Red (although I like the clamp-on kind better than a suction cup that never does seem to have the holding power)

When the apples are all sliced, combine 3 tablespoons of tapioca flour, cornstarch or flour with the sugar and mix it well. Stir that over the apples, dump it all into the prepared pan and dot the top of this with about 1 tablespoon butter, chopped into little pieces. Then make your topping. Mix 1 cup of quick oats with 1/4 flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup of melted butter. Just mix it with a fork. Chopped pecans are really good in there, too, if you have any. Sprinkle that over the apples and bake until the apples are tender and the crisp topping is brown and fabulous. Usually about 35 - 40 minutes. Cool.

Now let's make the spinach artichoke dip. You'll need the cream cheese, parmesan, flour, butter, chicken broth, milk, salt, pepper, spinach and artichokes. Cut the cream cheese into smallish chunks, and grate the parmesan if it isn't already. 

In a medium saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of butter over low heat. Add 1/4 cup of flour and stir, cooking, until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and 1/3 cup of chicken broth. Cook, stirring, until it starts to thicken. Then add 1/2 cup of milk. Continue cooking, stirring, until the mixture is pretty hot. Then start adding the chunks of cream cheese, a few at a time and let them melt thoroughly. Stir in some of the parmesan (reserve some for the top), the prepared artichokes and spinach and heat well through. Then pour it back into the oven-safe dish, sprinkle the parmesan on top and let cool. Refrigerate until about an hour before you expect your guests.

Now for the potatoes. Get a large saucepan or dutch oven next to your cutting board. Sort through the potatoes, leaving small ones whole (boop! right into the pot) and cutting larger ones so that they are all roughly the same size. Take out any eyes that may have started and trim off any questionable parts as you go. Cover them with water, throw a few teaspoons of salt in and a bay leaf or two if you have them (no this was not on your shopping list, it's a bonus) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the potatoes come to a boil, reduce the heat to a nice, healthy simmer. Leave a wooden spoon sticking in the pot to help avoid boiling over. I don't know why that works, but it does.

When the potatoes are fork-tender, drain them well, and spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the basil, parsley and oregano, salt and pepper. Chill the whole sheet until about 45 minutes before the dinner bell rings.

Get the salmon ready. Start by getting a baking pan large enough to fit the entire fillet with nothing draping over. Line it with...wait for it.... you got it! Parchment. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the parchment. Pat the salmon dry with good paper towels. Brush it lightly with coconut or light olive oil. cover it with another sheet of parchment and return it to the fridge.

Last, no more than a few hours before the meal, whip the cream with 1/3 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until it's fairly stiff. To save on mess, place the bowl in the bottom of your kitchen sink (on a sponge or paper towel to keep it from spinning) and if you are pretty coordinated, make a little booth out of a dish cloth, making sure that the beaters can't grab the cloth. Little specks of cream are going to fly, I'm warning you. And don't wear anything that can't be washed, because there are going to be specks of cream on you, leaving little grease spots on your clothes. Do you have an apron?

Anyway. Whip the cream until stiff. If you have a sieve or a colander that will work, line it with paper towels, cheese cloth, muslin or even coffee filters, place that over a bowl and spoon the whipped cream into the lined sieve and refrigerate the whole thing.You'll surprised at how much additional liquid will drain out. Be very careful to cover this well, as you don't want the whipped cream to be kissed with a light salmon flavor.

That's a darn good start on your dinner. Now you can make sure that the powder room is ready for company, the table is ready, centerpiece is done, and you can put on your party clothes because there's very little mess from here on out.

Next post: Go time!