On February 3rd, the beginning of the Chinese new year, our friend Elena who has been working with us for almost ten years received formal confirmation that she was indeed pregnant and we said we would organise a dinner to celebrate this happy news. Shortly after I got back from England, I knew I had to be away for two days and that the day I was to return was the only day that worked for everyone to come round to dinner. In this case ‘everyone’ consisted of my in-laws, my sister- and brother-in-law and their son, my mother, my friend Elena and her husband, my daughter who was coming herself over from London that very evening, and naturally my husband and myself. A total of 11 people. I knew I would be back from my trip at around 6 p.m. so I did the shopping before leaving and prepared a meat dish that would require very little work on the night. Actually two meat dishes. I’m afraid the photos of the end result don’t look very inviting … but they did taste very nice everyone said, and were very simple and easy to make.
The first meat dish is some kind of ‘pocket’ of beef that I stuffed with mushrooms and then ‘rolled’ and cooked in the oven. And the other is a piece of veal roast that I cooked in a pan on the stove top.
The butcher cut up the meat for me so that it looked like an open book (he ‘butterflied’ it).
I lined it with slices of mortadella …
and then added some slices of cheese (I think these were Asiago cheese)
A little bit of olive paste …
And then I rolled the meat. I looked around for some kitchen string to fasten it but couldn’t find it and so …
I used the butcher’s wrapping paper to roll the meat and then put it in the fridge, ready for me when I got back from my trip.
DAY 3 (i.e. the day I got back)
I asked Elena to take the meat out of the fridge around lunch time so that I would find it at room temperature by the time I arrived home. Meat should always be cooked at room temperature otherwise it burns without and is raw within. I turned the oven on and in the meantime cooked some mushrooms … sautéing them with some olive oil until nice and almost crunchy.
I put some of these mushrooms onto the unrolled roll of meat … keeping the rest for later, when the meat would come out of the oven.
Then I re-rolled the meat all over again …
I poured some of the mushrooms’ cooking oil onto the meat roll, to stop it from getting too dry in the oven …
and placed the meat in the oven at 200°C for just over 20 minutes.
I poured the juices of the pan onto the meat and added the rest of the mushrooms. I don’t have any photos of this meat roll cut up into slices … it actually looked quite nice. The meat was succulent and tasty and I served it with roast potatoes and carciofi.
Now, I wouldn’t call this meat dish ‘exciting’ or special … but when there is a gathering of people and it’s a case of the conversation and conviviality taking centre stage because of good news and good cheer … well then, speaking for me at least, I think that on these occasions food should play second fiddle. It must be good, of course, and eminently edible … but not the centre of attraction. The dining table is a place of interaction where best results are delivered when the rules of harmony are respected.
The happy parents to be ! Auguri !