Monday, February 14, 2011

dinner parties for winter survival

When I moved up north seven years ago, I didn't know a thing about winter. I was fresh off the boat from Florida with only a bright blue ski jacket my dad bought me at Sports Authority. I did not own a pair of boots. I refused to wear a hat. Or socks. I scraped the snow off my car with a spatula. One winter, my car was buried under several feet of iced-over snow and somehow I thought I could dig it out by myself with a shovel borrowed from a nearby gas station. (Wrong.)

I've been here long enough to finally feel like I know how to get through this difficult season. Don't get me wrong--it's still hard, but now I don't cry every time I look out my window and see white. You need certain essentials: a down coat with a hood, Chapstick, slush-proof boots with good tread, thick gloves, hot showers, warming cups of milky tea, and fleece-lined slippers for around the house. Also, dinner parties. (You knew I was going to get to that at some point.) 

Animals and people hibernate during these dark, cold months for a reason. Most weekends, I'm totally happy to wrap myself in a blanket and watch Friday Night Lights on DVD for hours and hours, only leaving the couch to pee or refill my wine glass. I mean, what else is there to do? 

But in spite of my own laziness, I've learned that the best way to power through the winter is to email a bunch of friends, cook something warm and delicious, and socalize with those friends in the coziness of your own home. Sure, you could meet at a restaurant, but there's the whole business of being rushed through dinner, being able to talk to everyone around the table, and the inevitable annoyance of splitting a check six different ways. Even if you have a tiny apartment that's not made for entertaining (like I do), it's always going to be nicer at your house. 

Last weekend, I invited over two friends from high school with whom I've recently reconnected. Both are named Adrienne, coincidentally. (Saying I'm hanging out with "the Adriennes" makes me feel like I'm in an all-girl band.) One Adrienne is one of my oldest friends, dating back to Kindergarten, I think. I randomly sat next to her on the subway one night and it was as if no time had passed at all. 

The other Adrienne was more of an acquaintance. We sat in many of the same classes but hung out in different circles. Much like re-meeting my husband Dan, who I also went to high school with, we totally connected as adults. If you're lucky, distance and time can smooth out all of the weirdness of high school.

In my wildest dreams I would have never thought I'd be sharing a meal (in New York, no less) with these particular people: a long-time friend I had lost touch with, someone I knew only peripherally, and a guy I barely hardly knew at all, yet ended up marrying. And yet there we all were, eating shrimp linguine in my very own living room, beating winter at its own game.

Saturday night with the Adriennes
Olive focaccia (a twist on my favorite tomato-stopped focaccia)
Mixed greens with fennel, blood oranges, and pecorino
Linguine with shrimp and creamy roasted tomatoes
Bittersweet chocolate-orange mousse
Linguine with shrimp and creamy roasted tomatoes
From Food + Wine. The shrimp somehow took on the flavor of lobster in this pasta. Maybe it's the cream sauce?
(Serves 4 people) 

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 box dried linguine
1 cup heavy cream  
1 lb. large shrimp peeled, deveined and halved lengthwise
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley  

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large ovenproof skillet (I used a cast iron pan), toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, thyme, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 25 minutes, until they start to brown and their skins split.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the linguine until al dente; drain. 

Remove the pan of roasted tomatoes from the oven and place it on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the cream to the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderate heat, gently crushing the tomatoes, until the cream thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer over moderate heat until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the linguine to the skillet along with the lemon juice and toss over low heat until the pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest and parsley and toss. Transfer the pasta to warm bowls and serve at once.


Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

I totally forgot that you used to scrape off your car with a spatula during those painful New Jersey winters. (That's the real reason you moved to Brooklyn, right?)

Michele | Cooking At Home said...

You have found the perfect solution to winter. Funny what a small world it is.

Daniel said...

Nothing gets you through the long winter like being the one guy at an all-girl dinner party.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin