Come in! Come in! You must be here for Daisy's birthday party. Yes, you're a few hours early, but we're a casual family and birthdays are low-key events in the Sullivan family. You won't find a DJ, a rented venue, or a chocolate fountain. In fact since you're here early, you can help in the preparations.
First order of business: greet the dogs.
Joan is exuberant and and may jump, but she won't bite you. She may, however, lick the skin right off your face. I know -- she has a bark that breaks glass, but she gets embarrassed if anyone mentions it.
Pam's more melancholic. She'll approach you slowly, slinking on her belly and wagging her tail. Crouch down to greet her. If you pet her and make any reference to her being a good Pam and a beautiful Pam, she will slowly climb your torso, wrap her front paws around your neck and tell you her troubles. And they are legion.
They love each other to distraction.
These are homemade croissants, made entirely by Anatole. Days of rolling, adding butter, chilling, adding still more butter, re-rolling and then chilling again. They are almost too pretty to eat.
Don't worry: he made two platefuls.
We will be having Sicilian breaded chicken, loving made by the kind folks at Elegance in Meat. Fruit salad from the same. Garlic hummus, purchased, and carrot sticks. Anatole's croissants. Agatha is a vegetarian and won't touch the chicken, so I'm making mashed potatoes.
Many years ago someone in LB's family dated a Total Loser whom I hated from the day we met, for teasing my dachshund. Said Loser did that thing where you pretend to throw a ball but there is, in fact, no ball. Loser didn't last long, but did leave behind a delicious recipe for mashed potatoes involving not just butter and sour cream, but a brick of cream cheese.
I bake my potatoes instead of boiling them because I feel it gets rid of more lumps, then pile the potato guts right on top of the brick of cream cheese and the stick of butter. They'll melt quickly. Then, during the beating, I add close to a cup of sour cream, a dash of salt, and maybe a half cup heated milk.
As a youngster, Agatha once told me that she felt sorry for the boys and girls out there who had to eat their mashed potatoes without cream cheese. Clearly, her social conscience developed early.
Daisy has asked for a French Silk pie, homemade. This stumped me at first, and then I remembered the time I made a chocolate mousse pie. I've assumed this is what she means.
I use a spring-form pan, and make a graham cracker crust. For the mousse, I use the recipe from the book The Best. I don't have book anymore, but the mousse is straightforward and there are no eggs. Melt about a cup of bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghiradelli buttons) over a double boiler. Add a teaspoon vanilla, about 1/4 strong black coffee, and if you have some Kahlua to throw in, so much the better. Add about 2/3 of a cup of sugar. Stir and heat, stir and heat, until the mixture is glossy and there is no crunch of sugar. Set aside to cool.
Beat 2 cups of heavy cream, add a dash of vanilla and a few tablespoons of sugar. When the chocolate mixture has cooled, daintily fold it into the whipped cream. Once mixed sufficiently, pour it over the crust. Refrigerate a bit. Then make more whipped cream, using about a cup of heavy cream. Again, vanilla and sugar to taste. There's your top layer.
Time to take a short knitting break, and to listen to Sabina's radio show! Okay, it may not be ALL her show, but she helps write for it and today she had a main, on-air part. It's called The Dead Hear Footsteps and you can hear it most Sundays by going to wobc.org on your computer and streaming it at 5pm Eastern. It feels so strange to sit there knitting and listening to...my child! On the radio! Where is that childhood lisp? What is this new, semi-East Coast pronunciation of "hours?" My child. I am verklempt; I may kvell until I plotz.
Now it's time to wrap Daisy's presents. Also included are presents from Sabina, and Daisy's Sea Ranch grandparents. Years ago, my dad started the traidition of giving the older children a check in the amount of three times their age, so that is what Daisy will get from Milwaukee Grandma. Teenagers are emotionally moved by the sentimental poigniancy of cold, hard cash.
One of the things Daisy asked for was a fancy manicure at a salon:
The birthday girl has requested that the pie-eating and present opening take place after the youngest Sullivan is in bed. That may sound odd... unless you've had the experience of someone grabbing the pie right off your plate and running around in circles, cackling. In fact, Olive may have to eat her mashed potatoes and chicken at the counter.
To be on the safe side, you may want to eat with one arm curled around your plate.