The Meal of our Lives?
What better resource with which to plan our special meal than a fancy French cookbook with the kind of dishes people were eating in those days, with pounds of butter and cups of cream in almost everything?
Shopping for this dinner mostly involved tossing packages of butter and cartons of cream into our cart. But for the fillet of beef we went to Lenny’s Meats, the fancy butcher shop in Berkeley, also known as “Leonardo da Mici.” When the butcher put the fillet on the scale and the numbers jumped up, my friend and I nearly choked. We were married to grad students after all, and working at jobs that didn’t pay that well. We were used to buying hot dogs, ground beef, and chicken—not expensive cuts of meat that should have been gift-wrapped in Tiffany blue instead of rolled in white paper. The 4 pound fillet set us back half a month’s rent.
We prepared the dough a day ahead—kneading in the butter with our fingers, setting more butter in a rolled out square of dough, folding it, wrapping it, and chilling it for 30 minutes each time. Rolling and folding and chilling —over and over, until we’d done the six turns Lucas insists are required for a proper puff pastry. I spent most of the day bent over my friend’s kitchen table with a rolling pin, trying to dodge her husband’s casual body bumps and brush-bys. It was a long afternoon.
Masterpiece Dinner is Served
Proud of our accomplishment, but unable to act very excited about eating it, we hesitated before cutting into the flaky, six-times turned pastry that surrounded the tender fillet. Everyone waved the white napkin of surrender. I felt a sympathetic tap on my foot under the table.We served a token sliver of our buttery-laden entree and packed up the rest for leftovers.
Later that evening, my husband and I curled up on our tiny love seat, sipped a nightcap and ate his velvety chocolate mousse. The Wellington would have to wait until tomorrow.