Four-Course Extravaganza

For Hanukkah, Sky and I "got" my parents the experience of having us cook them a four-course meal. I'm not going to include the full recipes, because I mostly used recipes from the New York Times cookbook verbatim (I've included links and made some notes about anything I changed). The dessert is from Martha Stewart's "Pies and Tarts" cookbook. Everything turned out perfect and worth the ridiculous number of hours Sky and I spent in the kitchen.

1st Course: Baked goat cheese over arugula (the recipe)
We doubled the number of goat cheese rounds because they were so small, less than two inches in diameter. They only had about three hours to marinate but still absorbed enough flavor from the thyme.

2nd Course: Avocado and beet salad with oranges (the recipe)
Everyone in D.C. must have been in the mood for beets, because Safeway only had one bunch with four beets left when we got there. To bulk up the salad, I added one orange's worth of supremes, which added a sweet brightness. I also didn't use any chervil.

3rd Course: Potato, shiitake and brie gratin (the recipe)
This tastes as good as it sounds, maybe even better. The potatoes are soft and luscious, the mushrooms add an earthy flavor, and the brie...well, it's brie, what else do I need to say? I changed nothing in this recipe.

4th Course: Chocolate mousse pie with a graham cracker and pecan crust (the recipe - scroll down)
This was the simplest dish, in terms of number of ingredients and time, but I was particularly proud of how lovely it turned out. I was careful to use as light a touch as possible when folding the melted chocolate into the whipped cream, and the effort paid off in the mousse's lightness and airiness. I substituted pecans for hazlenuts and didn't bother with making the candied nut topping. Trust me, it doesn't need it. Finally, this is supposed to be a tart, but I used a pie pan, which worked just fine.

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