Brussels sprouts: the tiny perfect brassica.
Could anything be better than a side of miniature cabbages oven-roasted with prosciutto and homemade croutons and finished with a generous serving of cambozola cheese? Discuss.
For my final 13 years in Toronto, the span of my non-restaurant “career”, I ate an average of five dinners a week in restaurants.
One or two of those meals would be business-related, the others purely friend-related (and of course related to working long hours in a high-stress job combined with disposable income and purposeful kitchen avoidance).
The friend-related dinners were focused on conversation, and the food was usually tasty but not overly stylized (nor overly priced), and over the years a pattern for each friend evolved.
Andrea and I would always meet at Midi Bistro, where we both ordered steak frites. Shernold and I were fans of Utopia, where I would inevitably order a lamb burger.
Ian and I would go to Omi, where we would share giant plates of sushi and sashimi. Scott and I regularly met at The Beet Organic Café, where I would have the tofu and avocado sandwich. Debra and I designated Fresh “our restaurant”, where the Green Goddess salad was my normal fare.
Nick and I would go to a very pubby pub down on Front Street for fish and chips.
But my favourite was meeting Marcelle at the now defunct Bar One about once a week, where eventually the server didn’t even bother with a menu—she’d put in my order for the chicken and arugula salad when I walked in the door.
My friend Joanna is the only one who insisted on shaking it up whenever we got together, so we tried lots of different restaurants together, but my most memorable dinners with her were prepared by her husband, an amateur chef, and eaten on the back deck of their cozy home.
One of the most difficult things about moving to Dawson City 18 months ago was saying goodbye to these great friends. I have known some of them for more than 20 years, and though each brings out a different side to my personality (and palate), they are the people around whom I am most “myself”.
Though I do have a best friend in Dawson in my boyfriend, Michael, whom I’ve known for 23 years, I haven’t done a great job of making other friends here. Partly because I forget how it’s done, and partly because my life here takes place mainly at home, not out on the town, as it did in Toronto.
Enter the one-pot meal.
In the fall, we started hosting a dinner once every week or so, usually on Tuesdays. It’s a small group, between two and four guests. One of the regular guests is furry and four-legged, the rest are interesting people I hope to get to know better.
Of course Michael does the cooking, and not just because I often don’t get home from work until 7:30 p.m.
Early in the routine, Michael hit on the one-pot meal as the perfect “hosting” meal. Some of my favourites so far include handmade raviolis stuffed with shredded pork that had been simmered in milk, shallots, rosemary and fennel seeds with a “broken” sauce made from the liquid the meat was braised in.
There have also been several variations on scalloped potatoes featuring different root vegetables, béchamel sauce, and ground meat ranging from lamb to caribou to beef. Almost a scallop potato shepherd’s pie would perhaps be a more accurate description.
There is often red wine and dark chocolate to accompany these Tuesday dinners. Sometimes, there are brussels sprouts.
Always there is conversation and laughter and the promise of growing friendships that with time could evolve into decades of shared meals and memories.