I love hosting dinner parties. Small ones, big ones, I like them all. But my favorite part is planning the menu. For me it is an agonizing artistic event. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes only hours, but it is a process that can’t be rushed. Occasionally, I am helped along by a menu from an entertaining cookbook. But often I build the menu around a dish that I’ve been wanting to make, or I start flipping through cookbooks looking for that dish around which I can construct a menu. I know this doesn’t sound like it should take hours, or even days, but I’m a little bit insane. I almost never want to make something I’ve made before, and I often want to make something that is either ridiculously expensive, or ridiculously involved, or both. So, I tell myself that I have to simplify, and I make compromises. If, for example, I feel I have to make an exquisite dessert, I try to find an entree that is both tasty and easy. I still often need help editing my exuberance, and a phone call to Shannen quite often does the trick. For example, she talked me out of making homemade ravioli for a dinner party in May, reminding me that ravioli is heavy, and not exactly the easiest thing to pull together. Instead, I ended up with this:

homemade salsa fresca with tortilla chips
sauteed bok choy
corn on the cob
polenta corn cakes
grilled salmon with roasted poblano lime butter
strawberry shortcakes

I forgot to take pictures, but it was a great meal. Even though the polenta cakes didn’t want to cohere, and the shortcake recipe was not quite right. The company was great, the wine was plentiful, and the salmon was spectacular. Since you can’t enjoy the company or the wine, I thought I’d share the salmon.

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Poblano-Lime Butter (from The Wine Lover’s Cookbook)

4 fresh salmon fillets (about 2 1/2 pounds… we did 1 1/2 for four people and had leftovers)
2 1/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce or soy sauce (make sure the soy sauce is gluten-free)
1 teaspoon gluten-free Worcestershire sauce (preferably white-wine)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 poblano chile
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced chives

1. Mix fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, and sesame oil. Put salmon and marinade in a zip lock bag and refrigerate for 2 hours, turning once.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chile in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, turning once. Place in a paper bag for 15 minutes. Peel and seed as thoroughly as possible. Mince the pepper.

3. In a food processor or blender, place the butter, lime juice, chives, and 1 tablespoon of the chile. Process for 20 to 30 second until the mixture is well combined.

4. With a spatula, remove the butter from the processor and place on a piece of waxed paper. Gently form into a cylinder by rolling paper over the butter. Use fingers to shape butter into a small log. Refrigerate until 30 minutes prior to using.

5. To grill salmon: prepare a hot fire on the grill. Place salmon, skin side down, and grill for 5 minutes. Turn and grill for an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until salmon is cooked through. Place a slice of butter on top of salmon just prior to removing from the grill so that the butter melts slightly.

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