Don't you love an auction? The thrill of competing with other bidders to buy something. What a concept. I've been to many, all fundraisers; for the neighborhood, the school, diabetes, whatever. The one factor that is always a constant is alcohol. It seems, curiously enough, that the more you drink, the more you bid! I have awoken in a foggy haze and walked into the kitchen to find artwork I so gallantly fought for, school sweatshirts I paid a dandy mark up on, and even high end tequila that I was sure was a real bargain! But it is all in the name of charity, tax write off and all that stuff.
A very popular item right now in these auctions are parties. Margarita parties, white trash parties, wine tasting parties,dinner parties, you name it. It seems there are a number of people who are willing to pay big bucks to have someone throw them a party. I personally have been in groups that auctioned off a Mexican Dinner for 8. It raised over $1000. We did a redneck party at my house that was one for the textbooks. I could hardly look at the cantor the next day at church because he had a mullet wig on shooting whiskey on my deck not even 12 hours earlier. But it raised big bucks for my daughter's school. And it was a blast.
Then there are the dinners that I didn't actually buy, but was invited to. The first was dinner at a plantation back in the Mississippi woods. The setting was spectacular. The home was full of antiques, ghosts and original details of the 1800's. Dinner was in an old dining room with 15 foot ceilings and great company. I only remember the gumbo which was terrific. They even provided transportation to and from so we wouldn't have to worry about driving. The second was the most lavish. It was a 7 course meal, one course from each continent. The food was spectacular. Russian caviar, the most incredible jerk lamb chops, French truffles, and the wine flowed. We were so stuffed that night we could hardly move. It was a 5 hour food fest. Thankfully they live close, looking back I should have walked home! The last dinner we went to was bought by friends of ours, to be cooked in their home. It was donated by a family that is a restaurant legacy in Memphis. There were obviously issues right up front. The hostess was having problems getting commitment for a date. One family member left the business, and he was very likely the one who put it in the auction. But the night was finally set and we went.
Appetizers were enormous shrimp wrapped in prosciutto and pan fried. They were terrific. The other platter was celery stuffed with some sort of blue cheese dip. Now I have said over and over and over that I am a food snob. I work at the best food snob store, I shop at a great high end grocer for the best stuff and I read the blogs, magazines and books. I missed the memo on the crudite tray coming back into fashion. I was seriously disappointed. If the blue cheese had been put on crostini with a little sun dried tomato it would have been great. Blue cheese dip in a bowl with garnish, olives and great crackers, fine. But celery? Okay move on.
We were seated for dinner, and the wine was flowing. Now we are all friends, and we could have had Dominoes and had a great time. That isn't the point. The point is, someone made a hefty donation to a school we already pay tuition to, in exchange for a dinner. They got that, but it was so lackluster. I personally would have been pretty ticked off.
The first course was penne with sausage ragu and fresh basil. Okay, sausage ragu is basically sausage cooked down in a tomato sauce until it's thick. The basil was a chiffonade on top. It was very good. A huge bowl, and most of the women didn't eat it all because we didn't want to fill up on pasta. The next course was a piece of salmon. I will detail the recipe at the end. It was basically a piece of salmon topped with goat cheese and sauteed spinach. It was served by itself on a big ol' plate. It was delicious, but lonely. Okay, so I'm thinking salad. It's an Italian family, I'm Italian. We always eat salad last. But sadly, no salad. Nothing but dessert. A scoop of vanilla ice cream, 2 sliced strawberries and a balsamic reduction. Delicious and light. I'm sure it was unusual for many of the diners. That was it. Dinner was over. Within an hour one husband was pillaging the fridge for something to nibble on!
Like I said we have a great time regardless. But someone shelled out money for this event. I could have done the dinner for about $50 plus the wine. And we did drink a lot of wine. Now putting out a couple hundred dollars for these dinners is nothing, and if you own a handful of restaurants, recession or no, the ingredients are cheaper than going to Fresh Market or Kroger. I estimate the dinner of the continents was close to $800.
We had a great time, the food was good, not exceptional. But I have totally duplicated the salmon and am here to share it with you. Unfortunately I don't have a picture. I made it in California and forgot to shoot it, (the wine thing).
Take your salmon fillets and season generously with salt and pepper and sear them in hot olive oil. The oil should shimmer before you put them in so they sizzle. You want a great caramelization on both sides. Remove from pan before they are totally cooked through. Place them on a rimmed cookie sheet lightly greased with olive oil.
Saute fresh spinach in a clean pan with a little fresh garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss it often so it cooks evenly. Remember that it shrinks considerably so plan portions accordingly. Remove from heat.
Take a little brown sugar and lightly cover the top of each fillet with it. Place a little goat cheese on top of each fillet and cover with a mound of the cooked spinach. Place into a hot oven, about 375. You want the sugar to melt, the cheese to soften and the salmon to finish off.
That's it. It is fabulous! We had ours in California with roasted sweet potatoes from the farmer's market. The most gorgeous potatoes I've seen. Peel and cut into wedges. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes and a tablespoon of fresh thyme. Roast until they are caramelized and cooked through. They are very addictive!
So we are getting prepared for Thanksgiving, lots of potential blogs. Pie, Pita (not like you're thinking, this is a family recipe), pimento cheese, and who knows what else! Enjoy!