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I’m going down to the beach next week to visit with my aunts and uncles and cousins. Usually each Byrd sibling (my two uncles, my dad and their sister) is responsible for dinner one night of the week. And we go out to dinner at least once and there’s a pick up dinner too. I’m flying down on Wednesday so I claimed Thursday night as mine. I told my dad that as soon as I knew I’d actually be coming.
My grandmother was a pretty good cook. I don’t know if she got much enjoyment from it but her food always tasted good. No one on my dad’s side has tried my cooking and I really want to give them a pleasant surprise, while looking as though I hadn’t broken a sweat. There will be a certain sense of satisfaction if I can make my Aunt Carolyn shut her mouth in surprise. Or say something nice she didn’t plan on verbalizing. Cooking isn’t only to bring people together I find. I also get a vindictive ego boost from it. But of course, why else would people have panic attacks over dinner parties? Well, in order to cook for the 20 or so people that will be there and to do it with a cool enough attitude to throw the aunts off I plan on doing a simple but skillful and tasty menu. Here is the preliminary menu, that I’ve been working over in my head since Friday, discussing it with my business partner (more on that to come) and mulling over it while at work. Let me know your opinions please! I’d love some feedback.

Grilled Apple Relish (sort of like a salsa or a chutney) w. Sharp Cheddar cheese on toasted baguettes

Main Course:
Bouillabaisse made with fresh clams, mussels, shrimp, and fresh fish filets
(It will have the white wine sauce of the other night’s mussels, with roasted tomatoes and olives)
Served with thick white chunks of bread

Choice of Baked Brie and Pear Tartlets or Apricot Baklava

Corona, White Wine, Fresh Iced Tea

The two desserts I came up with on my own. As you well know I’ve made the baked brie recently, but I think this time I’ll follow my partner’s advice and use an apple pie filling recipe, substituting pears.
The Apricot Baklava is a variation on the Pumpkin Pie Baklava I came up with around Thanksgiving. The apricots will be great with honey and ground pecans. Actually, I have to give credit where credit is due. I came up with the Pumpkin Pie Baklava in a dream and my business partner suggested a summer version with the apricots. Team efforts make the best meals.

So all day Saturday I obsessed over the meal. I decided who in the family would be responsible for what part of my meal; I’d be the executive chef, of course, expoing everything along, and giving orders to my sister and father. Pretending to be a celebrity chef. Maybe I’d even throw a plate or two! It could be fun. After contemplating this for most of the day I decided to use some of the ingredients I had sitting around to try the Grilled Apple Relish and make sure my hunch was right. I don’t have a grill so I sautéed the apples with the onions instead of grilling them, let them cool and tossed them with some fresh herbs. I can see why they recommend grilling them. The color drains from them and they end up much mushier than I’d have liked. But they taste great. I can’t wait to try them out on the family.

And now I’m going to call around to find the best place for fish in Gulf Shores, AL. I’m a little OCD, I know, but it’s not quite time to pack yet and I just can’t wait for the beach.