Barbara Riebe makes seafood crepes with mornay sauce
Fast food not on menu for this St. Charles cook
Eat and run? No way.
Not if Barbara Riebe invites you over for a dinner party.
With a multicourse, theme-based dinner on the menu Barbara sets a leisurely pace with several hours devoted to conversation and food.
"Everybody realizes when they sit down at the dining room table, that's where they're going to be the rest of evening," she says.
No one argues the point because the dining room of her St. Charles home is a lovely place to linger. Barbara sets the table with her good linens, China, crystal and silver. She lights a candelabra in the fireplace (a roaring fire gets too hot, even in winter), and smaller candles on the table.
"I think my guests enjoy being pampered," she says.
Entertaining at home started as a fallback position when her children were young and the easiest way to "go out" was to have a party at home. Self taught, she couldn't boil an egg when she got married, but "I just jumped into it and once I started, I loved it. "
To accommodate parties of six to eight people she and husband Mike converted their family room into a dining room, and vice versa. If they add a second table they can seat 14.
Coming up she's hosting a French-inspired birthday party honoring her daughter and a son, with recipes for us to try on our dinner guests.
To start: homemade crepes with a creamy, seafood sauce. Yes, they're rich for an appetizer, but no worries.
"You can have a rich first course if your second isn't going to come out immediately," says Barbara.
She recommends slipping a green salad in front of guests after the crepes, followed by her slow-cooked, lamb-and-sausage cassoulet. She seasons the rich stew with fresh thyme and parsley from her garden.
"Every recipe I saw for cassoulet had duck confit and duck, I thought, nobody's going to like that," says Barbara. The lamb, sausage, beans and herbs combine for a hearty, complex dish. She recommends serving rosemary/olive bread alongside.
For a cool, creamy finish with a little tang, Barbara dishes up white chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce, and "you've had the whole French thing from beginning to end."
Here's the plan: Three or four days ahead of time she goes shopping. The day before she sets the table, makes the mousse and raspberry sauce and soaks the beans for the cassoulet.
On the day of the party she makes the crepes and the filling early in the day, keeping them separate until the last minute; then she'll finish the cassoulet.
By the time her guests arrive she's done with all the prep and the kitchen is clean so she can pamper herself a little, too.
"I just love the whole leisurely pace, it's something no one ever does anymore," she says. "It's such a gracious way of spending an evening."