Don't Be Scared

The last month has been the most glorious time of planning.  From menus to tables to visits to events to future business plans, my calendar and note pads are all full with notes and scribbles.  My soul has needed it.  Stagnant just wasn't working.

Our annual BFF Christmas Celebration happened just after the official holiday last month.   We usually do fondue, but I needed something different this year.  I have a fabulous friend from Sweden and when she and I were talking about his menu, she informed me that I needed to do Gravlax and what did I mean I had never had Gravlax?  She promptly educated me.  It was divine.  Absolutely the highlight of the meal and we had King Crab Legs for dinner, if that tells you anything.  We ended the evening with Cards Against Humanity and much champagne.

Cecilia Omdal

2# Fresh Salmon, skin removed
1 cup coarse kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped fresh dill

Combine salt, sugar, and dill in a bowl.  Pat salmon dry.  Rub mixture liberally onto the salmon.  Wrap in parchment paper, place in refrigerator for anywhere from 6 hours to 2 days.  Remove from parchment, scrape off excess rub, and slice in thin slices.  Serve with rye toasts or melba rounds with the Mustard Sauce.

Mustard Dill Sauce
adapted from Scandinavian Kitchen

2 tablespoons of good Dijon Mustard 
1 table spoon of red or white vinegar 
1 tsp sugar 
a pinch of salt and pepper (white pepper best)
1 cup canola or grape seed oil
4 tbs finely chopped fresh dill 

Mix mustard, sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Add the oil carefully, start by adding a few drops, then steadily adding the dressing, whisking to emulsify.  Add dill at the end.

Buffalo Trace Distillery
We then had friends come and visit from Chicago and we were able to show them our favorite things to do in 36 hours in Kentucky.  Our souls were filled seeing them and made new old friends.  We can't wait to see them again.  A distillery tour was on the agenda and it did not disappoint even though it was BITTER cold.  We did a different tour than we normally do and it was such fun to see all of the behind the seasons cooking going on.  My hat and scarf smelled of corn mash for days after the tour.  I won't lie, it made me happy to put them on every day.  

Mash cooking for bourbon.
For my birthday this year, a favorite chef of mine cooked all of the glorious courses that evening.  He and his wife also happen to be friends of ours and we were long overdue to host dinner.  I have had many folks ask me, astonished, if I was nervous cooking for a chef.  My answer is always a resounding, "Hell no!"   That has nothing to do with my skills as a cook.

I know, first hand, as a foodie and a cook that when someone cooks for you, it is a pure offering of love.  I knew Chef would feel the same way, so I crafted a menu (albeit ambitious) of things I thought they would appreciate.  It was such an enjoyable night.  Not just because of the food (which had a few hiccups, but whatever...good wine makes up for any dish mishaps), but because of the company.  Kindred souls fuel my own soul's fire.

As a side note, I need to mention that the fish recipe of the evening came from the Le Bernardin cookbook and is Chef Ripert's Salmon.  The mushroom vinaigrette used a mushroom broth that cooked 4# of mushrooms in 1 gallon of water down to 10 TOTAL TABLESPOONS (which took roughly 4 hours)!   I couldn't get over it.  I have never had an essence like that in a dish.  It was remarkable.  It was EARTH distilled into a flavor, on a plate.  I was wowed, and that doesn't happen all that often with one ingredient.  Check out his cookbook for more gorgeous recipes.

On the Half Shell
Chesapeake Bay Selects, Mignonette
Roederer Estate Brut, California

Buttermilk Brined Fennel Salad, Satsuma Oranges, Jalapeños, Scallions
White Knight Voignier, California

Pan Seared Salmon with a Mushroom Vinaigrette, Lentils
Georges Duboeuf “Morgon” Beaujolais, France

Roasted Duck Breast with Coriander Orange Glaze, Braised Endive
Boeger Petite Sirah, California

Venison Tenderloin with a Red Wine Cognac Sauce, Caramelized Leek and Onion Risotto
Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile

Chocolate…what else?
Chocolate Pots de Crème with Bourbon Chantilly Cream
Coffee with Bourbon Cream

Big Finish
Whiskey Tasting

We ended the evening in front of the fire with a 20 year old Pappy and more great conversation.  Not a bad finish.

This year has been an exciting one so far, filled with very uncomfortable changes that have completely energized me in unexpected ways.  It is a really scary thing to make decisions that are outside my scope of experience and, certainly, outside of my comfort zone.  I am just really done being a victim of my own life.  I have begun planning and organizing what my future will look like...and it is a doozie.  I look forward to sharing those plans when the time is right.  I can say that these decisions to be courageous feel very right in this moment.

I don't know that I would've been able to do this even a year ago.  I was thinking about the things that I have learned watching my momma and things that I have gained from my husband.  The last two years, my mother has taught me what courage looks like.  I have seen what it is to stand in front of the thing that terrifies you the most and just press forward anyway, having faith in whatever will happen next.  Her courage has been way more profound, kicking cancer's ass, but I am changed by watching her bravery.  It makes path-changing decisions look a lot less scary.  I mean if she can face THAT, I can surely start crafting a different life.

Five years ago I was a very different girl than I am now.  Being loved in that deep down soul way by my husband has made me confident in a way I wasn't before.  The security of being romantically loved and of that person holding the net while you jump, looking at you saying, "I've got you, baby.  Go!" is a new feeling to me.  I was alone for a really long time.  Being relatively self reliant was a point of pride for me.  But this love has given me a different strength than my own personal goddess strength that I try to tap.  This is something else, but something equally powerful.  I think I could get used to it.

The coming weeks bring a couple of birthday dinners for BFF's, an engagement party I am event planning, and a trip to Chicago.  In the meantime, go and make a change.  Don't be scared.  It will be OK.  I promise.

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