Sunday, October 19, 2008

Training, medium rare

As the first step in training for the Las Vegas Half Marathon, my book club adopted a Las Vegas theme for our gathering this last Friday night!

Actually, it was just a coincidence. The book selection (not chosen by me) was Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, the true story of a group of MIT students who managed to beat the system by counting cards playing blackjack in Vegas (and other gambling venues). It's also the movie 21, which of course is a key requirement for our book selections—that a movie has been made of the book.

Since we like to have a relevant food theme for our book club dinners, "Vegas Buffet" seemed like an obvious choice. I've never been to Vegas, so I googled "Las Vegas Buffet" to see what I'd come up with. Basically, it turned out, anything and everything!

But prime rib seemed like a popular item on most of the buffet menus. Also all-you-can-eat shrimp and, rather surprisingly, sushi. Sushi actually played a role in our book as well. The MIT students were always eating sushi, going out to buy sushi, and at one point, said that they play blackjack for sushi money! I mentioned this to my friend Jennifer, who hadn't yet read the book, and she asked, are any of them Asian? Duh-oh. Actually, I admitted, most of them were! And perhaps that is the reason for the popularity of sushi in Vegas as well.

So it was settled. Ann would bring sushi.* Jennifer and Linda brought shrimp (a little miscommunication over who would bring what, but who cares, you can never have enough shrimp, right?). The other Jennifer (who is pregnant, and thus entitled to eat all kinds of goodies—and those of us who were not knocked up were only too happy to join her) brought little pickles and olives, pate´and cheese,** including a french brie that was so rich and creamy it was almost liquid. Plus dessert, chocolate cake*** and ice cream. (Four of our members couldn't make it, so it was just five of us.)

Ann and Jennifer (the preggers one) rip into a baguette.

Linda contemplates the cheese and pate´. Jennifer (the other one) feeds the baby.

Every Vegas party needs poker chips and a really big box of goldfish crackers!

I offered to bring prime rib, baked potatoes,**** and a green salad. Control freak that I am, I often like to bring the main course to our gatherings to make sure it is something I like and want to eat. I did have to enlist my mother to actually cook the prime rib and potatoes, which she did while I was at work. I made my famous balsamic vinaigrette***** and brought tomatoes from my garden for the salad.

I wanted to wear my Las Vegas Half Marathon training shirt, but I had (shockingly) put it away somewhere and couldn't find it in the few moments I had to change my clothes after work.

I considered the prime rib an important part of my training regimen. Yes, really! You know, protein, muscle building, etc. In Victoria I missed out on my semi-usual tradition of eating steak for dinner on the day of a long run (after the run), thanks to the power outage. So we'll call this make-up meat.

How to carve a prime rib
First you need to remove the strings (see above and below).

Then you need to cut off the ribs. Hopefully your butcher will have already cut the ribs from the rest of the roast, and all you will need to do is separate it.

Save the meaty rib section for another meal when you want to make like Fred Flintstone.

Then you just slice....

And serve!

*Which we actually forgot to eat! I took leftovers home for lunch.

**The pate´was delicious, but as it was so rich and we had so much other food, we only ate about half of it. The remains were left behind, and Jennifer asked me if I wanted to take it home. Considering that it was pretty much all goose fat (maybe with some butter), I figured that I didn't need it, nor did my parents. So we fed a little bit of it to Jennifer's dog, who lapped it right up! (I guess I'll hear on Monday whether there were any ill effects!) We contemplated telling the other Jennifer, "the dog loved your pate´de foie gras!"

***She had originally promised to bake a chocolate cake, with buttercream frosting, which I had gluttonously been looking forward to, but I managed to restrain myself when she turned up with a purchased cake. After all, talk is cheap, but actually finding time to bake is very challenging! And yes, I recognize the irony in me getting all holier-than-thou over buttery pate´and yet drooling at the concept of buttercream frosting... priorities, people! You've got to have priorities.)

****With all the fixin's. Butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, chopped onion, fire-roasted salsa (because I like it). I did get light sour cream and 2% cheddar cheese—I couldn't quite bring myself to go all-fat! You can't tell the difference, anyway.

*****Balsamic Vinaigrette
Traditional version
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Whisk together the mustard and vinegar, then drizzle in the olive oil slowly while whisking to emulsify.

Light version (which I prefer)
1-2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Prepare as directed above. You can add more balsamic vinegar for an even lighter, thinner dressing. I like to put the dressing in a squeeze bottle, which makes it easy to dispense lightly onto the salad before tossing.


Laura said...

What did you think of the book? I read it this spring and loved it, but haven't seen the movie. I've heard it's not as good as the book though.

Kristin said...

I really enjoyed the book. I agree that the movie isn't as good as the book (the movie rarely is!) although the actors are appealing. The movie was different from the book, in plot and outcome, yet had enough similarities to be irritating (for example, Jill Taylor is a character in both book and movie, but the Kevin-character hooks up with her in the movie, which didn't happen at all in the book). Also, in the movie the Kevin character (which is not his name in the movie) wants to go to med school! However, Kevin Spacey is in the movie, which is always a good thing!