Monday, February 15, 2010

"I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty."

If you read this blog, then you already know about my "Gourmet Initiative!" (It's my commitment to cook one new recipe - exactly as written - each week during 2010) Well last week turned out to be a mixed bag. I actually prepared four dishes, but only one was a significant success.

The first, seared chicken with a tomato-tarragon "pan-sauce", didn't flop - but the sauce was too thin. My second, braised lamb-chops with olives and artichokes (right), would have been better if I hadn't left the artichokes at the store. Number three, a simple Irish stew from The Joy of Cooking, needed much more time to cook down...

...Fortunately I hit a home-run Saturday night! The dish I prepared, "Fillet of Beef with Blue Cheese, Rosemary & Pine Nit Sauce" was amazing. I served it with twice-baked potatoes, perfect asparagus, fresh bread and a really good Chianti.

One thing I've learned about these reduction sauces (popular in the cookbook I'm using) is to prepare all the ingredients before I start cooking, and place them in containers ready to tip into the pan at just the right moment. We purchased a stack of small porcelain bowls; so I chopped a couple of shallots, measured out the right amounts of butter, olive oil, blue cheese, stock and red wine, and then lightly toasted the pine nuts on a skillet (let me tell you, the fragrance from the heated pine nuts was unbelievable).

This was an occasion where spending enough to get the best possible cuts of Filet Mignon was definitely worth the extra $$. By the time I had seared the meat, prepared the sauce, and lightly sauteed the asparagus with some fresh mushrooms (DO NOT overcook asparagus, please!), I knew I'd hit this particular recipe out of the park.

Okay, so why am I sharing all this with you (other than to make your mouth water)...?

First off, I'm committed to encouraging guys out there to get serious when it come to performing significant acts of service around the home. That's why this particular initiative is about a gourmet meal every week for a year.

The "every week" part moves the idea from a romantic gesture to an act of committed love that can be hard to follow through with. But isn't that the point about faithfulness in a relationship?

You follow through because you're faithful, not because it's always easy. Believe me, committed self-sacrifice gets the right message across, and the message of self-giving love is one that should never let up - not ever - in relationships such as marriage.

Then I simply can't lay off my current them of "Gourmet Living" (and I'm not talking about food!). A similar word to gourmet is connoisseur, or a person who enjoys and studies the process of making the most of good things, who appreciates and is able to discern fine subtleties, someone who can detect a nuance or a distinction that makes all the difference.

You see, most of my distinct enjoyment of living has more to do with nuance and interpretation that the actual raw experience itself. Many of us make the mistake of assuming enjoyment is dependent on radical change, huge doses of high-octane pleasure, or things coming to us easily - no effort on our part. But my understanding of gourmet living has to do with our ability to isolate and to appreciate what is good and what is rich.

The apostle Paul put it this way in Philippians 4 (this is "The Message" translation):
  • "I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."

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