It’s tough if your birthday falls during the holiday season: your family and friends can kill two birds with one stone. All of your life, “Happy Holidays and Birthday” are the typical wishes festooned to your cards and presents. More times than not, you’ve been shorted a celebration in your honor. Your sister was planning to throw a holiday get-together anyway, so if she tosses in a cake with candles, it can count as your birthday party too.
Moreover, pity the person whose birthday falls a few days after the holidays. No one wants to party, no one wants to even think about purchasing a present, and rich food is- well-you’ve just weighed yourself and would rather not go there.
But suck it up, party-weary revelers. If they make merriment on your July birthday, you’d best rally to the cause and muster up a second wind.
My husband’s birthday falls on January 3rd and I negotiated. I told him if I could be granted a small reprieve from the kitchen, pushing the celebration date up to the weekend, I’d make him anything his heart desired.
Offering up unconditional “anything’s” is generally a mistake. He remembered a dish I’d made several years ago-Lamb with Duxelles and Goat Cheese wrapped in Puff Pasty. He remembers me toiling over the pastry, simmering the mushrooms for hours until their fragrance was the intensity of a mushroom forest after a thunderstorm in May; he remembers
I baked the masterpiece until the pastry was delicately flaked and golden brown; he remembers how I hated toiling over that recipe; but he also remembers (unfortunately) how delicious it was. After requesting that for the main course, he said he’d like his birthday cake to be chocolate with a buttercream icing.
Chocolate cake, OK. But I beg of you-not the puff pastry! And that’s when I decided to cheat.
I searched my files, cookbooks and the web and couldn’t find the recipe. I did, however, find another recipe which I adapted from the magazine, La Cucina Italiana, that was similar. The primary difference was they used puréed asparagus instead of duxelle (much easier, thank-you) and goat cheese wasn’t included in the recipe. I added this to the puréed asparagus, but it is optional. The recipe also called for using a lamb loin, which would have been easier to work with. By default, I used a boneless leg of lamb which was more cumbersome, but delicious, nevertheless.
My days of making puff pastry from scratch are a not-so-fond memory; Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is a fine substitute. (First cheat.) And, while I’m at it, doesn’t the Cold Stone Creamery on Washtenaw make a really yummy chocolate ice cream cake with buttercream frosting? (Second cheat.) Who says cheaters never prosper? I saved an afternoon of cooking and was able to sing “Happy Birthday” like I meant it.