‘Afari Elkarte’ – A new level of dining comes to town for serious gourmands | TheUnion.com

‘Afari Elkarte’ – A new level of dining comes to town for serious gourmands

Last month something really fun and different popped into my world. The new Nevada County dinner society called “Afari Elkarte” held its first event at the Stonehouse Restaurant, where creators Pam Scanlon and Mimi Boardman took a dining event to a totally new level.

Afari Elkarte means a gathering of diners who are seriously ardent about their food and its preparation. Members of the Society are called “tripasais” and are people of an intense gourmet/gourmand persuasion. The words belong to the Basque language and to the Basque people of northern Spain and southeastern France.

The food and recipes are traditional, even ancient and today the societies are called “txocos’ (pronounced cho-coes) meaning “dinner club.” Originally, they were groups founded by men (yes, men) isolated in their work professions – fishermen at sea, shepherds on the mountainside, cattle raisers in the pastures.

The event at the Stonehouse was a culinary, cultural, and historical fusion of good food and company. Basque recipes have been handed down for many hundreds of years. Although some food journalists tout a “lighter food scene” in that region in the last few years, the first dinner of the Afari Elkarte was what my idea of what Basque food has always been.

It was both hearty and delicious with both rustic and elegant touches served “family style” – that is to say, many platters of splendid fare arriving at the table until we were almost overwhelmed! Of course we were not so overwhelmed that we neglected any of the various courses! This is what Scanlon and Boardman of the Stonehouse Restaurant have created as a new dinner society.

Pam, who lived many years in Spain, came back with some incredible Basque recipes, so the society’s inception began with those.

Pam and Mimi decided a dinner society would be a fun and playful way to involve the community in some different food experiences and they are off and running with it.

The society is looking forward to new people joining and taking part both in the dinners and in the planning of what-comes-next. Pam says member involvement is part of the fun. She translated all the recipes for the event and has graciously agreed to share them with us, so here are the highlights!

Roasted Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Brandied Sausage and Foie Gras

1 leg of lamb (about 3 lbs.), de-boned and opened down the middle

8 ounces sausage meat

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

1 egg

3 ounces brandy

1/3 cup bread crumbs

1 medium onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bouquet garni (small amounts laurel, thyme and parsley in cheesecloth bag)

1/3 cup flour

2 cups meat broth

3 ounces strong red wine (Cab is good)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Season lamb with salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix the sausage meat, pine nuts, egg, bread crumbs and brandy, and a bit more salt and pepper.

Fill lamb cavity with this mixture and cover with foie gras. A good purchased pate de foie gras can be used.

Close by sewing or pinning. Place in baking pan with a little olive oil and place in pre-heated 325 F oven.

When it has browned a little, add the carrot, onion and garlic, (all cut in small pieces) and the bouquet garni. Let it roast about 30 minutes, basting frequently with the oil and juices to which you have added the red wine. It is cooked when no juices run when lamb is pricked with a skewer.

Remove roasting pan from the oven and transfer lamb to a separate platter.

While it is cooling sprinkle flour over pan juices, whisk to blend, return pan to oven and let the sauce cook a little to remove floury taste and to thicken.

Strain juices if desired. Cut rolled lamb into slices and serve garnished with rosemary.

Minted Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 pound fresh asparagus

1 leek or 3 shallots, minced

1 carrot, minced

4 tablespoons butter or olive oil

4 tablespoons flour

3 pints chicken stock

Salt and pepper

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons heavy cream

Dash of nutmeg

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

8 mint leaves

Olive oil, enough to makes a smooth paste

Cut off tips of asparagus, clean and boil until tender. Set aside. Chop the stalks into small pieces. Heat butter (or oil) and sauté stems with leek or shallots and carrot.

Stir in 3 tablespoons of the flour, reserving one. Add stock and salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for one hour. Puree in blender and strain through sieve.

Reheat strained soup. Beat egg yokes together with cream, add approximately one-half cup of hot soup to cream/egg mixture and whisk; then add to soup.

Do not boil after this addition. Make a smooth paste of pine nuts, mint leaves and oil in food processor. Add to soup and whisk to release aroma.

The remaining tablespoon of flour can be whisked in at this point of a thicker soup is desired.

Add reserved tips to soup servings and garnish with mint.

Roasted Game Hen in Champagne Grape Sauce with Crushed Grape Leaves

1 game hen

1 carrot, sliced

1 onion, sliced

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon thyme

13/4 cups champagne

3 ounces Port

1 pound peeled (or soft-skinned) grapes (like Thompson)

2 ounces butter or olive oil

1 cup water

3 tablespoons sugar

Salt and pepper

Fresh grape leaves (grape leaves preserved in a jar may be used if fresh are not available but must be partially dried out prior to wrapping the hens)

Cut game hen in half. Brown well in skillet with carrot, onion, and herbs. Baste with butter (oil) and pan juices. For larger quantity, game hens can be roasted in a larger container as long as they are well basted and are nicely browned. When the carrot and onion are nicely done and hens crispy and brown, remove hens from pan.

Add the champagne and beef broth, and reduce sauce until of pourable but slightly thickened consistency. Strain if desired. In another saucepan, mix the sugar and water and cook until syrupy. Add the Port and the grapes. Reduce a little more (to gravy consistency), then add to the champagne/beef broth mixture. Tie grape leaves to the partially cooked hens, replace in the baking container.

Cook until the hens are done (juices run clear) and skin and leaves are crispy. Note: if it’s too labor intensive to “tie” the leaves to the hens, another option is to toast the leaves in the oven until crispy, then mash them with butter, toasted bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and sprinkle this mixture on each one-half hen. This forms a tasty crust on the hen in the oven.

Fresh Fruit in Cabernet-Brown Sugar Sauce with Fresh Whipped Cream

11/2 pounds pitted cherries

8 peaches

11/2 pound brown sugar

36 ounces good red wine (NEVER cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink)

1 orange, seeded and sliced

Freshly whipped cream

In saucepan, bring some water to a boil. Scald peaches, run under cold water and peel. Pit and cut into halves. Wash orange and peel. Boil the wine and sugar with the orange peel for 5 minutes. Add the cherries and simmer 10 minutes. Add peaches and simmer 10 more minutes.

Watch the fruit as it cooks – it should keep its shape. Remove orange peel. Place fruit and syrup in bowl, cool, and then refrigerate with slices of orange. Serve with whipped cream. The sauce should be thick like syrup. A small amount of lemon juice may be added if desired. Garnish with mint leaf or other adornment.

The next dinner which will be held on Oct. 7 at the Stonehouse Restaurant is Taste of Cataluyna. For more information about Afari Elkarte, you may e-mail or call Pam Scanlon or Mimi Boardman. The phone number is 265-5050, and the e-mail address is: Stonehouse1857@aol.com

Notes from Jo

CORRECTION: Apologies to Onie Schriefer for not one but TWO mistakes in her chicken salad recipe (Main Dish Salad page.) The amount of green onions is one-eighth cup, and the recipe can not only be halved, but easily doubled.

Come on, Foodies Ð only ONE person in this town has a funny or disastrous kitchen story? I know that cannot be true! We’ve all has those unexpected disasters or hilarious incidents while entertaining or just trying to put an everyday meal on the table! You can’t tell me I’m the ONLY one! So let’s hear them. It’s always fun to laugh (or cry) at our own expense. Let’s have some fun with this. And restaurant chefs, I will keep your stories anonymous!!!!

YUMMY TIP: Tired of buying tiny tubs of crème fraiche for big bucks? Make your own! Two days before you need it, take one cup whipping cream and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of sour cream. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours or until mixture is nicely thickened. Then refrigerate until ready to use. It keeps well when refrigerated for up to a week.

So enjoy life, food and your drink of choice this week, and bon appetite!!!


Jo Names is The Union’s food columnist. She can be reached by e-mail at livewhyre@usamedia.tv or by phone at 272-6727.

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