July 24, 2010
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Seven Hours

Another workday dinner for nine. Constraints: not too much salt, not too many courses.

I started out with a plan for simplicity, and then managed — bit by bit, and without noticing — to make everything a high-wire act. The salad sounded good, but I only realized that it involved a home-made mayonnaise about fifteen minutes before the guests were to arrive. “Say a prayer for me to the Mayonnaise Spirit!” I called to Linda.

The pappardelle are easy (and they’re from Ad Hoc, which is fun). So, I said, why not make the pasta myself! I figured I could do the pasta a night ahead. As it turns out, I did not understand pasta properly when I started this double batch, and quickly had a double batch of useless and sticky dough. I kneaded again, and rolled it all through the machine again, and it was better — but it was not right. One more time, and I thought, “By George! The rain in Spain does fall mainly in the plain!” Not all the little rolls of noodles actually unrolled themselves in the boiling water, but it was pretty good, considering.

Then there’s the seven-hour lamb. The thing about Bourdain’s approach: the Dutch over is caulked with bread dough, so no steam is going to escape. The bad thing: it’s caulked with bread dough, so you have no idea what’s happening until it’s time to serve. Another bad thing: remembering after it’s caulked that you failed to add the twenty cloves of garlic. I think I got away with it anyhow.

I’d never tried to bake ricotta before, either. So, basically, every course could have turned out to be inedible. This isn’t a disaster in itself, but if two courses decided to go south at once, I would have been in bad shape. Omelets?