Last weekend was my birthday. For the last few years, I have invited people over for a dinner party on my birthday. I decide on a menu and spend the day cooking a nice meal for my friends. Some people think it's not right to cook your own birthday dinner, but what I really want is to be surrounded by friends, talking and laughing over a nice and leisurely meal. The goal is to have everything ready when the guests arrive, so I don't have to spend the evening in the kitchen while everyone else has fun...
My birthday dinner menu:
Cassoulet de canard
Mixed green salad
Cheese plate with fruit
Pineapple upside-down cake
To find duck legs for the cassoulet and buy a nice selection of cheeses, I went down to Pike Place Market. I love going down there, it makes me feel all grown up to walk around the market with my environmentally friendly fabric shopping bag to buy meat, vegetables, cheeses, and flowers from people behind stalls. I think it's the interaction with these people that makes it different. At the grocery store, you hardly ever have to interact with anyone. Here, you have to ask and answer questions, and you can get a taste of the cheese... And I couldn't resist the tulips.
This being Seattle, I made a cassoulet with only poultry: duck legs (of course), chicken sausage (instead of saucisse de Toulouse), and turkey bacon (instead of lardons or bacon). And to accommodate the vegetarian among us, I also made a root-vegetable cassoulet from a recipe I found online, by Daniel Boulud. I doubt that any of these could pass off as cassoulet in the southwest of France where this dish originates (they are serious about their cassoulet), but my versions turned out well and my guests seemed to appreciate them!
(yes, the crust on the root-vegetable cassoulet is a little past "golden", but that's what happens when you're talking away and not paying attention... It tasted perfectly fine)
When I first had a dinner party for my birthday a couple of years ago, I made smoked salmon tartare, chicken puttanesca, and pineapple upside down cake, all from scratch. The next week, the only thing people kept telling me about was the cheese plate... It seems the idea of a cheese plate after the main course and before dessert was both unusual and fascinating... so now I make sure I always have a cheese plate...
Pineapple upside down cake has been my birthday cake for as long as I can remember. It's the only cake I remember my mother making on a regular basis. It wouldn't feel like my birthday without it...
I think the evening was a great success. I had fun, and I think everyone else did too. Sadly, it is my last birthday in Seattle. I'm moving back to Canada next Fall, and will have to start a new birthday tradition...
In the meantime, I leave you with a picture of the card and gift Emily gave me. Yarn humor, you have to love it...
Unfortunately, I already have the Dai Sijie novel (very good, great choice!). I just started "How I Learned to Cook", a collection of essays by famous chefs. Quite interesting!
p.s. I just noticed on the picture that there's a pretty big typo in the title on the spine of the book...