Elect a good serving

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Tuesday is Election Day, and my husband Edward’s birthday. Edward was born on the day Harry S. Truman beat Thomas E. Dewey, although the Chicago Tribune jumped the gun and printed a now-famous headline: "Dewey Beats Truman." There’s a famous photo of Truman holding up the newspaper and smiling.

I’ve decided to throw Edward a birthday-Election Day dinner and invite a few friends. We’ll offer a toast, savor a fine meal and watch the returns. I like to set the bar up in the kitchen since that’s the place where most people like to hang out. I’ll set out bowls of almonds and olives for nibbling with drinks.

An array of exotic mushrooms is available year-round but I always associate the fungus with autumn and winter. So we’ll begin dinner with a saut� of cremini, shiitake or chanterelles, or a combination of all three. These will be enjoyed with slices of toasted French bread.

Cornish game hens are tasty and easy to roast. Sometimes I stuff them, sometimes I just place a few cloves of garlic in each cavity. I sprinkle kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and sweet imported Hungarian paprika all over them. Try to find hens that weigh about 1 pound or less. I ask the butcher to remove the breast bones because it makes for easier eating.

For years I have been preparing a wild-rice ring from Judith Huxley’s Table For Eight. It’s the perfect side dish for Cornish hens or any kind of fowl. A simple green salad and a selection of cheese make nice follow-ups.

A birthday cake is always in order, even for grownups. I’m the chocolate cake lover in the family, and although Edward likes it, he much prefers a rich all-butter pound cake with butter-cream icing. All I have to do is call the bakery and order one.

Here are recipes for Election Day dinner.

Saut� of Mushrooms

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
1 pound mushrooms of your choice, trimmed, wiped clean and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup Cognac, brandy or Calvados
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon finely chopped Italian parsley

Directions:

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saut�, stirring, until they give up their liquid, about five minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When almost all the liquid has evaporated, remove the skillet from the heat. Pour in the Cognac, brandy or Calvados. Allow mixture to bubble until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Add the cream, place skillet back on medium-high heat and boil until slightly thickened, about two to three minutes.

Serve with slices of toasted French bread.

Serves six.

Cornish Game Hens

Ingredients:

6 fresh Cornish game hens, about 1 pound each or smaller
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sweet imported Hungarian paprika

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Wipe the hens thoroughly inside and out with paper towels. Sprinkle on kosher salt, pepper and paprika. Place the hens in a shallow baking pan, about 1-1/2 inches deep. You may have to use two pans to accommodate the hens.

Place them in the oven with the legs to the back of the oven. Roast for one hour. Pour the natural pan juices into a sauceboat and serve.

Serves six.

Spinach Wild Rice Ring
From Table For Eight by Judith Huxley

Ingredients:

5 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, partially defrosted
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
1-1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
5 eggs
2 tablespoons softened butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Bring spinach to a boil with a little water and cook for two minutes. Drain and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the flour and stir over low heat for two minutes. Whisk in the milk and nutmeg and bring to a boil. Off the heat, whisk in the eggs one at a time. Add the spinach and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter a 6-cup (9-1/2-inch) ring mold with the softened butter. Spoon in the spinach and smooth the top. Cover with a piece of buttered parchment or waxed paper. This can be made several hours in advance to this point and refrigerated.

Bring the mold to room temperature before baking. Put into a pan large enough to hold the mold and pour boiling water to come halfway up the mold. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

To unmold, run a thin sharp knife around the sides and turn the ring out onto a large platter. Surround with wild rice and fill the center with creamed sliced carrots (recipes follow).

Wild Rice

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups wild rice
4 tablespoons butter
3 shallots, finely minced
3 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Put the rice in a large fine strainer and run cold water over it. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy 3-quart ovenproof pot. Add the shallots and cook over low heat for a few minutes until they are transparent. Add the rice and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken stock and salt and pepper. This can be prepared in advance to this point.

An hour before serving, bring the broth to a boil, cover and bake for one hour in a preheated 350-degree oven.

Creamed Sliced Carrots

Ingredients:

2 pounds carrots, peeled
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Slice the carrots into rounds using the slicing disk of the food processor. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and add the carrots, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the butter. Cook, covered, over very low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the carrots don’t burn.

When they have lost their crispness, add the cream. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently until the cream has been absorbed. Adjust seasoning. The carrots can be made ahead and reheated.

Serves six to eight.