Saturday, March 19, 2011

"I don't like that"...

and other odd phrases said by dinner guests. Yes, guests at my dinners have told me they don't like a wide range of good foods. So today I thought I would talk about the foods most often disliked upon arrival, and upon departure how minds have been changed!

Mostly I've found that people don't like a certain food because of the way it has been procured or prepared.  Many have believed they didn't like an item from having it year's ago, often prepared by their mother. Since then, they haven't tried it and think they still don't like it.

One of the most often cited foods that dinner guests announce I should not bother putting on their plate is asparagus.  I find that mother's seemed to purchase this canned and it was mushy and smelled bad.  I always tell them I don't like canned asparagus either.  Who does?  Then I convince them to try mine.  I  most always prepare asparagus roasted, either in the oven or on the grill.  Asparagus is easy to make.  Selecting asparagus can be more challenging.

With asparagus, try to avoid the very thin stalks.  Pencil thin is too thin.  This is second (or third, fourth of fifth growth)  and as such not as good.  The thicker stalks are from the first harvest, so get those if you can.  But you don't want huge stalks either, which could be tough. As big around as my ring finger is just about right.  If the tips are still firm, they are good.  If the tips break up at the touch of your finger, pass them by as they are not fresh.  I bring them home and stand them up in a glass with a little water for service within 24 hours.  When about ready to roast, I cut off the bottom of the stalk at the point where it naturally breaks.  This is usually about an inch or even two up the stalk.  Peel them using a potato peeler on the lower half of the stalk to remove the tough, sometimes bitter, outer skin.  You're just taking off a thin dark-green layer, but it will make all the difference.  Then, if doing them indoors, I just place them on a foil lined baking sheet sprayed with some olive oil, drizzle a bit more oil over them and add some salt and pepper.  Roast these for about 10 minutes at 400F for a quick and easy vegetable.  They come out sizzling and delicious.

Another common phrase is "Oh, I don't eat fish."  What I'd like to say is "this isn't a restaurant" but trying to be pleasant with my guests I usually start working on convincing them to try it.  Actually when I don't know if a guest likes fish, I usually choose salmon or halibut.  Both are great fishes to marinate.  I have a great little recipe for a barbecue marinade and another that that is teriyaki sesame.  Both are sure winners for people that 'don't like fish.'  Using a marinade you are sure to take care of any 'fishy smell' or flavor that the guest probably objects too.  Further, selecting a nice, fresh piece of fish is key.  I usually marinade the fish for two to four hours.  Then I either grill it or roast it in the oven.  As shown in these photos, you can do the fish together with asparagus on the same sheet as they take about the same amount of time to cook.  My brother-in-law was here last year and said "Oh this fish is good.  I didn't think I liked salmon."  Another convert!

The third dish that guests turn up their nose to is lamb.  I  suspect many mothers bought cheap lamb and then didn't have a clue how to prepare it.  As such, I never offer guests leg of lamb on their first visit, as it can have a taste or smell that too often reminds them of what they disliked.  Instead I buy lamb chops (often as a full rack) or little lamb T-bones.  I usually just season and roast these, but cook them only until they are medium at most.  Then prepare a sauce such as fig or Marsala wine (nothing with mint... brings back bad memories.)  But if you want something a little different for someone who you think may be tough to persuade, then do a rack painted with Dijon mustard and then coated with toasted seasoned bread crumbs to which you've combined some crushed garlic and chopped parsley.   This is a guaranteed winner.  Guests visiting us from  Kansas City told me horror stories about bad lamb.  Once they tried this, they were amazed at how good lamb could be.

I could go on (beets... "my mom made me eat them until I puked"; mushrooms... "I think I'm allergic", etc.) but you get my drift.  I don't query guests before dinner parties to see what they want me to make.  I make dinners that I believe will be delicious.  I see it as my job to expand their horizons and convince them that there is a world of good food out there for them to explore and enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a 'don't like fish' person. Maybe when you come visit you can convince me otherwise! The lamb though, I'm all over that!