Tuesday, December 28, 2010


There are twelve days of Christmas, so why not seven days of Ibti's Birthday? Wouldn't you know that I spent much of the past week completely immersed in food. Actually, the Madeira wine sauce I spent much of Sunday evening concocting is something I would consider literally immersing myself in: I could bathe in the stuff. But I'm getting ahead of myself (as usual).

Dad had been pestering me since Thanksgiving about my insistence on cooking for my own birthday dinner. Please. What do I love more than cooking for and with people I care about? Plus, you only turn thirty-three once, you know, and I had a fairly elaborate plan in mind for this year's dinner, something along the lines of Babette's Feast (with perhaps a little less expensive french wine, but dad, to his credit, did try to break out a bottle of champagne). Our little family tradition is that whoever's birthday it is gets to determine the dinner menu. While my family also loves food I could not picture my parents spending 6-8 hours making the mushroom-pecan pate or slaving through the Madeira sauce's 4 reductions. And then there was working with pastry dough.... Me? I love that stuff. Everyone else was assigned other elements of the meal, but I insisted on making the main course: the Portobello Wellington that my friend Meghan has been raving about since she made it a number of months ago. (And now I have my very own copy of the Cafe Flora Cookbook from whence it came, thanks to a little birthday care package from the same Meghan in question.)

Yesterday morning I awoke to the aroma of the velvety rich mushroom and wine sauce that had been simmering on my stove over the course of 4 hours the previous evening. After a double espresso and a chocolate cupcake (the breakfast of champions... not my usual, but nice) and writing belated Christmas cards -- um, I mean early New Years cards -- and just generally lounging around in my pajamas for a few hours, it was time to return to the kitchen. But this time it was not my own kitchen: mom and I had signed up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen....

After mom helped to peel the biggest crate of carrots ever and I aided in the assembly of a couple hundred bag lunches at Food & Friends, dad picked us up and after a quick stop at my apartment to pick up a few ingredients we went back to my parents' house where we proceeded to tackle the final stages of preparation for Ibti's Feast. My brother was already finished making the first of two -- yes, two -- key lime pies; dad's ratatouille was ready to go and he was beginning to tinker with the clams for our appetizer; mom was about to get cracking on the salad; I began the final assembly of the Wellingtons. Here they are just about to go into the oven to be transformed into flaky, garlicky, mushroomy goodness. Soon they would be drizzled with that divine Madeira sauce alongside a dollop of mashed sweet potatoes and celeriac. Ohhhh....

(See? And people complain there are so few pictures of me on this blog! There I am, but, really, how gorgeous are those little Wellingtons?)

It was one of those long, lingering, conversation-filled dinners. We actually had to take a walk after dinner to make room for the key lime pie and dessert wine. Ahhhh. I have no idea what my thirty-fourth year will bring, but along with a job working with food (please, please, please) I hope it includes many more of these dinners with friends and family. Especially if it involves that Madeira sauce. I'm a little obsessed....


  1. Those Wellingtons look perfect! I'm so glad you made them. Maybe we can make them together someday!

  2. Mom called me the other day to wish me a happy new year AND tell me that she and dad enjoyed the leftover Wellingtons. I daresay mom is nearly as in love with the madeira sauce as I am. Thanks again, Meghan! :)


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