Our holiday travel plans are often determined by the Redhead's work schedule. I can be flexible, but she has an institutional schedule and this Thanksgiving, it became clear that we'd be staying home for the Day of the Dead Turkey instead of our usual travel to meet family in Southern Kentucky.
We were invited to a friend of a friend's house for a Thanksgiving potluck and were asked to bring a couple of dishes. "A-ha!" I thought. "I'll make stuffing." Nope, someone had already claimed it. "Well then, maybe I'll make potatoes!" Nope, taken. "Uhhhh, cranberry sauce?" Taken, but the taker was willing to part with it, and let us do a veg side or two.
So, I made three dishes this Thanksgiving for the potluck. First, a Cranberry/Port/Orange sauce; second, a corn pudding with poblanos and mushrooms; and third, a version of an asparagus tart I posted here first back in 2004.
The cranberry sauce is intensely flavored, but even though it's acceptable, I'm not entirely happy with it. I'll tinker with it and post the results later in the season. The corn and poblano pudding (and by that I mean a dry bready-pudding, not something like rice or chocolate pudding) needs a little something different to mate with the poblano flavor, but it was also the first time I'd ever tried anything like it. It was received pretty well, but not overly enthusiastically.
I wasn't too worried, because I was confident that the asparagus tart was going to wow the crowd and was somewhat perplexed when at the end of the party, I saw it had barely been touched. Then I tasted my piece. Bland, bland, bland. Where was all the authentic Parmesan I'd put into it? Where was the flavor from the white and green aspargus spears I'd steamed? Where was the flavor in the crust? What had possibly happened to make it so dull and lifeless?
Everyone who cooks has their disappointments and this evening was one of mine. The dinner was great and the company engaging, but I felt as if I'd let down the side with my dishes. In fact, when we got home, I was ready to ditch the leftover tart into the garbage but decided I needed one last taste to confirm it was awful and to try to figure out what I'd done wrong.
It tasted great. What the heck?
What had happened was that a strong peppery butternut squash soup and other flavorful dishes like the turkey and stuffing and my agressive cranberey sauce had overwhelmed my tastebuds (and presumably those of our dining compatriots), making the not subtle, but certainly not aggressive, flavor of the asparagus tart seem like a whisper in a bowling alley.
The lesson I learned? If you're serving anything with any subtlety at all, make sure all the dishes are subtle, or make sure you get that dish out there first before your dining companions have had their tastebuds whacked by an aggressive entree or soup. Otherwise, your dish will get mugged and silenced by the other players at the party.
I confirmed the findings on the tart's flavor for breakfast and dinner the next day. It was delicious.