Cooking with Friends

Last night, we had some friends over that we hadn't been able to get together with in a couple of months due to the holidays and various other commitments. After looking at our calendar for this weekend and realizing we didn't have much planned, I gave my good friend a call to see if they had anything going on... and, as luck would have it, they were available as well! Let the menu planning begin!

We began by thinking we should do a light and healthy menu, which quickly turned into a "let's treat ourselves" menu. My Husband had been craving Pancetta and Spinach Risotto (one of my PC recipes), so it was a definite to be on the menu. Next up, was Filet Mignon - my good friend had come across a recipe that included mushrooms and a Madeira sauce. To round out the meal, I went to my favorite Farmer's Market and picked up some salad fixin's and fresh fruit for a light finish to our meal. As a bonus my good friend made some mint chocolate chip cookies. We made some chicken nuggets for the kids, carrot sticks and mac & cheese... let's just say it was a meal that would make any kid clean their plate.

In my small kitchen, we brought out all of our prepped ingredients and got to work (we both spent part of the afternoon getting things ready so we could put dinner together without bumping in to each other too much). It was a real pleasure to cook together as we haven't had the opportunity to do it before now. Everything was ready and hit the table at the same time and nice and hot. It was a wonderful evening where we got the chance to catch up with some friends (in person rather than on the phone) and the kids got to play and have some fun as well.

Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and Madeira 
Source: Bon Appétit, May 2001Makes 4 servings.

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup minced shallots (about 3)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
4 5-ounce filet mignon steaks (each about 3/4 inch thick)
1/2 cup Madeira
1 1/2 cups canned beef broth
1/2 cup whipping cream

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup shallots and half of garlic and sauté until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in thyme; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mushroom mixture to medium bowl.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat.

Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plate. Add remaining 1/4cup shallots and garlic to same skillet. Sauté 2 minutes. Add Madeira and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add broth and boil until mixture is reduced to 2/3 cup, about 6 minutes. Add cream and boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture.

Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Return steaks to skillet and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer to plates. Spoon sauce over and serve.

Pancetta & Spinach Risotto
by: Arlene Ward - Adventures in Cooking

Servings: 2 (but, those are VERY generous... we figured it was more like 4-6 main course servings)

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 lb. Pancetta, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
3/4 cup Arborio rice
3 fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and diced (I forgot to peel the tomatoes this time, and didn't really notice a difference)
1/4 cup white wine
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
salt and peper to taste
1/4 lb fresh baby spinach
3/4 cup cooked white cannellini beans
1/2 cup Parmegiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 lb. Fontina cheese

In a 4 qt. (or larger) pressure cooker, heat the butter and add the chopped pancetta. Slowly saute the pancetta until it renders out and becomes slightly colored. Add the onion and saute lightly. Add the garlic. Add the rice and coat it with the butter. Add the wine and reduce until it is absorbed (this won't take very long at all). Add the diced tomatoes, stock and seasonings. Lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring the cooker to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain the pressure. Cook for 6 minutes. Release with quick release and remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow any excess steam to escape. Taste for a firm texture. Quickly add raw spinach and replace the lid on the pot. Do not turn the heat on. After a few minutes, open the lid and stir in the spinach. It will wilt from the heat in the risotto. Add the cooked beans and the Parmegiano Reggiano and the Fotina cheeses - stir to allow the melt into the risotto. Serve immediately. Remarks: This recipe can be scaled up to make more servings easily.


Cate said…
Which farmer's market did you go to? Didn't know there were any still going on this time of year...
Patsyk said…
The Rt. 46 Farmer's Marekt in Totowa. It's more of a "bare bones" market - just produce, flowers, bresh breads (from Calandra's) and a deli. The prices can't be beat, and everything stays so fresh for longer than anything I have bought at ShopRite.

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