I hosted Christmas dinner this year.
In the weeks leading up to the big day, I was awfully excited and nervous about it, until I realized that hosting meant providing the venue, not the meal. Mom arrived with nearly all of the food prepared – the lasagna was ready to be assembled, the cottage cheese bread was ready to bake, and the candy cane custard was ready to go into the ice cream maker.
She did let me toss the salad. It was pretty exciting.
And dinner was fantastic. Mom’s lasagna recipe is the world’s best (the secret ingredient is salami!). All that remained of the meal the next day was a bag of leftover romaine hearts, and a giant mess on the dining room table.
So when my dear friend Jenna called from her hotel in town and we discussed what to do on our annual holiday visit, I shocked myself when I replied, “c’mon over for dinner. I’ll cook.” Without testing recipes, without weeks of menu planning, without even sufficient time to go to the grocery store, I offered to make dinner for my fancy friend, who lives in Connecticut. Connecticut, y’all. Who am I?
It was a little touch-and-go there for a while when I realized the dining room table was not just messy, but missing – it was completely hidden by dirty dishes. I thought of everything I could possibly make out of lettuce, while I rummaged through the soiled plates and glasses for the table. As it turns out, the dining room table was inside of me all along.
And the lettuce soup recipe for my fancy vegetarian guesty was only a Google away. I cooked and cleaned in record time. Jenna and I shared stories of the year past, wishes for the year to come, boxed wine, and the world’s ugliest soup.
It was creamy and fresh, with a little bit of heat, and seriously butt-ugly. The crispy goat cheese croutons provided a tangy richness and a partial disguise to the fugly, yet tasty, lettuce and potato puree.
Recipe below the fold
Adapted from Gourmet (May 2005)
1 cup chopped onions (I used 1 small yellow onion and 3 scallions)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 pound diced, peeled potato
5 cups coarsely chopped lettuce leaves including ribs
3 cups vegetable stock
Red pepper flakes
Cook the onion mixture in butter in a soup pot over moderately low heat, stirring until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add coriander, a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in the potato, lettuce, and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the potato is very tender, about 10 minutes.
Purée the soup with an immersion blender and pass through a strainer. Bring the soup to a simmer and serve topped with fried goat cheese.
Fried Goat Cheese
Adapted (barely) from Jamie’s Green Kitchen
4 ounces goat cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
Mix the goat cheese, seasoning, salt, and pepper together. Form the mixture into balls, and carefully flatten. Dip the cheese coins in egg and then dredge in bread crumbs. Fry in a shallow pan of olive oil until golden brown.