Les Dames d’Escoffier may sound a bit fancy-pants, but it’s all about fun, food, and helping others. Also known simply as Dames, this philanthropic professional organization is one of my favorite groups of women. Nationally, members are known for owning restaurants and catering companies, building food businesses, penning multiple cookbooks, chairing important culinary boards and committees, appearing on television, and other big-time professional accomplishments. My business is much more small scale and I sometimes wonder how I wrangled myself an invitation to join. Just the same, I did. I’m a Dame. And the local Minnesota chapter has been welcoming with members becoming good friends.
We usually meet at a new restaurant or other fun food venue, though the holiday meeting is traditionally potluck and held at a member’s home. Of course the food is always amazing: not a casserole or cocktail sausage to be seen. (Not dissing casseroles or cocktail sausage, mind you.) This year’s spread was a buffet of colorful grain and vegetable salads and elegant appetizers. A few sweets rounded out the meal. Wine, too.
You may have heard me talk about Dames potlucks before. And their conferences. And fundraisers. Fellow members are gracious and completely accepting, yet I’m always wanting to bring my A-game when making food for a meeting.
Which put me in a bit of a bind when I did the math and realized that the Holiday Potluck was a potluck. Somehow I had spaced that I should bring a dish to share. When the light bulb finally did go on–about three hours before the meeting–I thought of the corn tortillas I had taken out for a chili party, but never used. They could easily be fried for chips. And my husband’s over-purchase of sour cream meant a dip would be easy to throw together.
In theory, it was a first-rate idea, but in practice was quite harried. Most (sensible) folks would have bought the chips and dip. But as a Dame (and a crazy person), I was committed to making my own.
First, a wide, shallow pot was filled with oil and heated to 360ºF. I cut the tortillas into sixths and dropped pieces into the oil. They bubbled away for a few minutes and when just lightly browned, were transferred to paper towels. A light dusting of kosher salt finished them off.
As I wondered aloud, “what should I do for a dip?” my oldest was quick to suggest avocado dip. Yes. We had two overripe avocados and one almost-past-its-prime lime in the produce drawer and I had all that sour cream. Tossing in (lots of) minced garlic, sliced green onions, halved grape tomatoes, chili powder, and ground cumin finished it up. Dip done!
So while it was a frenzied affair (I was also making quick trips to the bedroom to apply make-up and find party-worthy jewelry to wear), I did manage to put together a decent plate of chips-and-dip and also get my youngest to basketball practice so I could arrive at the meeting only a smidgen late. Would I have saved time–and perhaps sanity–by buying instead of making? Absolutely. But the challenge was too good to pass up. And I’m guessing many of you would have done the same.
Because my kids had only a taste of the chips, I made another batch the next day. The process was so much easier when I wasn’t rushed. Frying didn’t seem so complicated anymore. My takeaway lesson: Sometimes trial by fire is the best way to learn in the kitchen.