TND – Irregular Verbs

May 22, 2014

table scape

I am a self-confessed list maker.  I’d say that the first step is admitting you have a problem, but I don’t actually think that my list-making habits are problematic.  Possibly this makes me a functional list maker?  I have lists of books I want to read – cross referenced by whether I’ve managed to put a reserve on it in the library system.  I have lists of future Dinner menus (which should not be confused with my pinboard account which is essentially a list of all recipes I have made or recipes I want to make).  I have lists of places I want to eat in cities I plan to visit sometime in the next year (currently indexing for Austin and Portland if anyone has suggestions they want to send me).  Suffice it to say, I’m a girl who likes a list.

And, I get it honestly.  My mother keeps an excel spreadsheet of every book she reads.  My father keeps a list of every trip he’s ever taken cross referenced by date and location, which I happen to know because he once sent me a list of every trip I’d been on with them from birth through 2002 (not sure why he stopped at 2002, but that was the list I got).  My father was also known as the flip chart king in his office – I think the Americans thought it was a strange European preoccupation, and the Dutch chalked it up to too many years working with Americans.  He even brought a flip chart home when he was trying to parse the logic of my college choices*.

That said, I still always rolled my eyes slightly (and from the safe distance of several thousand miles) at my mother’s meal guest book which lists what she has served which guest, and when.  This is so that the next time whoever it is comes to visit, or stops by for dinner, she doesn’t serve them the same thing.  It seems like a path of obsessive list making that I didn’t need to start down.  Then I spent 20 minutes on Thursday evening trolling through half a decade’s worth of email trying to figure out what I had served for Dinner the last two times a friend from California was in town**.  I started a spreadsheet on the spot.

My mother – I believe – keeps her guest menu list in a lovely little cloth bound book.  Which is super classy and very old school; the kind of thing you can pull out and actually show to guests and they’ll think it is charming and the mark of an exceptional hostess.  I keep my guest menu list in an excel spreadsheet in google documents both because my handwriting is terrible, and because I want to be able to access it from anywhere.  Also, I think there’s an age limit where eccentric tips over into charming, and while I am aging distressingly fast I don’t think I’ve quite hit that point yet.  It’s a classic irregular verb situation.

I am charming and thoughtful
You are eccentric and meticulous
He/She/It is crazily obsessive

* He was confused because he couldn’t see any common ground among the colleges I applied to – Duke, Princeton, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Edinburgh.  This was because there was no common ground, the background logic was that they were all different – one college for each type of college experience (with the exception of Mount Holyoke and Bryn Mawr which are both small women’s liberal arts colleges – the logic there was I wanted to go to BMC, and Mount Holyoke was my safety).

** ** For posterity – the first time she made it to Dinner I served Beef Stew with Figs & Lemons; the next time she was in town I threw a ladies luncheon and served Cauliflower Soup with an Asparagus & Roasted Rhubarb Salad; and the third time she didn’t make it to town in time for Dinner dinner, so we went out to dinner instead.  This is what happens when you never delete your email.  Along the way I also made note of what I had served other sporadic visitors, and thus a spreadsheet is born.

Rhubarb-Ginger Champagne Cocktail

Peach Bourbon Pulled Pork
Crunchy Peanut Slaw (or a mild variation thereof)
Classic Potato Salad
Broccoli-Apple Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Lemon Chess Pie with Unseasonal Berries

Rhubarb-Ginger Champagne Cocktail
(makes enough syrup for about 12 cocktails)

Our visiting California friend wasn’t in town quite long enough this time for us to go out to a fancy cocktail bar, so clearly fancy cocktails needed to be served at Dinner instead.


3 lb rhubarb, cut into chunks
12 oz ginger beer (not ginger ale – but the spicier ginger beer)
½ cup sugar
16 cardamom pods, crushed
2 vanilla beans
(1-2 drops red food coloring – optional)

In a heavy bottomed saucepan bring the rhubarb, ginger beer and sugar to a brisk boil and cook until the rhubarb has completely broken down, and the liquid is reduced by about half.  This will take about 15 minutes, and stir it periodically so that the rhubarb doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.

While the rhubarb is cooking, split the vanilla beans down the middle and scrape out the seeds (also known as vanilla caviar).

Remove from the heat, add the crushed cardamom pods, vanilla seeds and pods.  Cover and allow to steep for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a strainer and force through (this is tedious and takes forever because it’s a very thick mixture).  Strain again through a fine mesh strainer.  Add a few drops of red food coloring if desired – I always find that rhubarb pulp is never quite as aesthetic as I want it to be, and 1-2 drops of red food coloring take it from a vaguely unappealing brownish-pink color, to a vibrant princess-pink.

To serve measure 1 oz (2 Tbsp) of the rhubarb-ginger syrup into a champagne glass, and then top with champagne.  Garnish with a strawberry if you’re feeling fancy.

If you have leftover syrup you can either use it as an excuse to open another bottle of champagne, or just use it to make a flavored soda with sparkling water.

Peach Bourbon Pulled Pork
(makes enough to feed at least 12, with leftovers)

pulled pork

Peach Bourbon Barbeque Sauce
2 lb frozen peaches, thawed
2 Tbsp peach schnapps (or orange juice)
1 Tbsp butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ cups ketchup
1 cup bourbon
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup honey (if you use a honey bourbon omit this)
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp tomato paste
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp each cinnamon, all spice, cloves

In a large heavy bottom sauce pan combine the frozen peaches and peach schnapps.  Cook over a high heat, stirring frequently, until the peaches are softened and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan and caramelize (about 15 minutes).

In a separate large pot saute the onion and garlic in butter until the onion is softened.  Add all the remaining ingredients, and the cooked peaches.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.  Puree until smooth (an immersion blender is awesome for this), adding a little water if the puree doesn’t seem to want to smooth out.  Season to taste.

Pulled Pork
7 lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed (should net you about 5 ½ lb of meat once you trim away the fat cap) and cut into large hunks
1 cup of peach bourbon barbeque sauce
½ cup chicken stock

Combine the peach bourbon barbeque sauce and chicken stock in a large heavy pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the pork, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the pork is very very tender (basically if it doesn’t fall apart when you poke it cook it a little longer – it is next to impossible to overcook a pork shoulder so don’t worry about it, the longer it cooks the more tender it gets).

When the pork is tender remove from the sauce with a slotted spoon (if you can lift it out of the pork with a fork it’s not tender enough yet).  Shred the pork with two forks into long strands, and then add it back to the cooking liquid and stir gently to coat.  Add more of the peach bourbon barbeque sauce to taste, and serve the rest on the side.

You can make the pork at least 2 days in advance and rewarm on the stove top.

Crunchy Peanut Slaw (or a mild variation thereof)
I used the basic template for this slaw, but made it less Asian-flavored by using a raspberry red-wine vinegar instead of rice-wine vinegar, olive oil in place of the sesame oil, and salt instead of soy sauce.

Recipe previously given:  Of Shoes & Ships & Ceiling Wax


Classic Potato Salad

Recipe previously given:  You Want Me To Do What?

potato salad

Broccoli-Apple Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
(serves 6-8)

broccoli-apple salad
2-3 lb broccoli, cut into small florets (enough for about 1 small head broccoli/person)
2 apples, quartered and thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup roasted salted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup grainy mustard
¼ cup honey
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar

Steam the broccoli until it is just tender – about 1-2 minutes.  Immediately drop into ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain on towels.

Whisk together the mustards, honey, olive oil, and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt/pepper.

Combine the steamed broccoli, apple, red onion, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries in a bowl, and toss with enough dressing to lightly coat (you may not need all the dressing).  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Lemon Chess Pie with Unseasonal Berries

Recipe previously given:  The “they’re breaking down the hegemonic structure of the heteronormative language system*” edition

chess pie



  1. Ha! My college list was equally eclectic, for exactly the same reason. It’s very easy to choose between Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby– you just pick the one you like best. (In my case, it was Bates.) But there’s no way choose between Bryn Mawr and Lehigh, when you’re still not sure what kind of college you want to go to.

  2. […] This summer was bookend by seeing California friends in places that were not California.  In May* one Bay Area friend tacked a trip to Boston/Nantucket onto a conference in Toronto.  We took her on a tour of all our favorite bakeries in Boston – which is to say Sofra and Flour – and then stuffed her full of food at Dinner. […]

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