WND – Famous vs. Infamous

January 21, 2010

For the past week Boston has been not only deluged with icy snow, but also with librarians. Or, put another way, ALA has been in town which means both that I’ve gotten to tag along to dessert parties at the Children’s Museum and meet M.T. Anderson, but also that we have friends in town some of whom are staying for Dinner. And, when I say staying for Dinner I mean she’s been planning on coming to Dinner for the better part of 18 months because apparently we’re fabulous, or notorious, I’m not entirely sure which. I voiced this opinion to her and was firmly told to stop being blasé about Dinner.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Dinner. I wouldn’t do Dinner if I didn’t love it. I love having everyone around our dining room table every week to eat a meal, and when someone has to miss Dinner for many weeks in a row their absence is keenly felt. However, we’ve been having Dinner for so long at this point that I’m a trifle bemused when other people think it’s extraordinary or unusual, because it’s just a part of my week and one of the markers that I use to organize my time.

I emailed to ask if there was anything in particular that she wanted to have while she was at Dinner. She said, “How about a medley of favorites?  Your slam dunk, home run, can’t miss dishes?  That way when someone says, “I was at Dinner and it was fabulous,” I’ll be able to imagine just what they are comparing it to.”

This sounds suspiciously like the all-starch-all-the-time Dinner that keeps getting floated as a birthday request. Normally the rule is anything you want for your birthday, but there is the (usually) unspoken caveat of ‘within reason’ and I think that macaroni & cheese, biscuits and corn pudding all at once falls outside my definition of reason.

The obvious answer for an emblematic Dinner dinner is ham biscuits, chicken salad and melon, but it’s the middle of January and it’s been a particularly snowy week so this seemed both impractical and insufficiently warming, particularly since she’s come from California and thinks that 32 is cold (versus people in Massachusetts who start stripping out of their coats and scarves when it gets over freezing). I did briefly contemplate baking a ham, but eventually vetoed this notion on the grounds of practicality, and more importantly, availability.

I finally settled on a beef stew which is not unrepresentative of Dinner, and has the additional virtues of being made in advance and counteracting some of the chill of winter. It has the even further benefit of being a revised version of one of my favorite stews that I never make because the original recipe called for lamb, which almost nobody but me likes. My mother suggested making it with beef which is a genius idea that would never have occurred to me, so I’m pleased all round.

Lamb/Beef Stew with Lemon & Figs
Mint Yogurt Sauce

Brownies x2

Lamb/Beef Stew with Lemon & Figs
Rule of thumb: never underestimate how much food Dinner can eat. I cooked 4.3 lb of beef down into stew figuring this was more than enough for eight people. It disappeared so fast I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough. Next time, 5 lb of stew beef if I want any chance at leftovers.

Recipe previously given: Lamb Stew & a small soapbox

Brownies x2

We engaged in a blind taste test of two batches of brownies, one made with Dutch process cocoa powder, and one made with regular cocoa powder. America’s Test Kitchen advocates for using Dutch process cocoa in baking like they’re being paid for it. We, however, disagree.

We were unsurprised by the difference in color between the two brownies – Dutch process were a darker ‘chocolate brown – but the difference in texture was startling. The regular cocoa brownies were fudgy and dense, the Dutch process were cakier and had less chocolate flavor.

So, America’s Test Kitchen says use Dutch process cocoa in your baking. Our sample of nine says this is a load of hooey and use the regular cocoa.

I’d give you a recipe, but they were brought to Dinner by a guest and I had nothing to do with them except to eat too many.



  1. Just today I was telling someone about Dinner and casually mentioned that you’d been doing it for about 8 years now, and he nearly fell out of his chair. He’d initially been impressed just by the fact that I had standing Weds night plans and was actually able to maintain it.

  2. I think we’re actually coming up on 10 or 11 years at this point. Do we remember when we started?

  3. Well, I started coming to Dinner in late 2000/ early 2001, so sometime before then.

    Katharine Hepburn brownies

    1 cup cocoa powder
    2 sticks butter
    4 eggs
    2 cups sugar
    1/2 cup flour
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    pinch of salt
    2 cups broken nuts (walnuts or pecans), optional

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

    Melt butter and cocoa powder together in saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time (Note: mixture will look broken and horrible at this point- do not worry, it will come together after other ingredients are added). Add sugar, flour, vanilla, salt, and nuts and stir until blended. Pour into a greased 11″ x 7″ pan. Bake at 325F for 45 minutes. Do not overbake or brownies will be too dry. Let cool before cutting into bars.

  4. […] other week when I made the Beef Strew with Lemon & Figs I also made a small lasagna for a last minute vegetarian addition to the guest […]

  5. I know that if I had a chance to get to Dinner I would also think it was a BIG DEAL and fabulously notorious. I do promise to get back to Boston sometime this decade.

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