Frank brought home a date. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Frank is more of a pick up the drunkest woman at closing time type than the go on a date and treat a woman like a person type. Jennifer argues with him about his Neanderthal views with no visible progress. I point out to him the worst cases of assholery, but I have not noticed any reduction in unenlightened comments from him. When he went out last Tuesday dressed in clean, pressed and color coordinated clothes, we figured he was headed to a meeting with a parole officer (It's possible, Frank's past is full of mysterious transgressions and consequences) and we didn't think any more about it. There were better things to do than wonder about Frank. Cook was having a tasting for a new soup recipe.
We were all smiling when Frank came home and, strangely enough, Frank was smiling too. Jennifer peppered him with questions about his unusual mood, but he ignored her and went into private conference with Cook. We rushed to the kitchen door to press our ears close, trying to make sense of the muffled conversation. Other than a few blasphemies from Frank and accusations of coarseness from Cook, we got no clues about what Frank was up to.
After half an hour, Frank emerged, still smiling, from the kitchen. He hugged Jennifer and shook my hand like a politician who just won an election. He was halfway up the stairs when he turned to us and asked if we could make ourselves scarce on Friday night. He was up the rest of the stairs before we could pick our jaws up off the floor.
Leslie realized that we were not going to get anything from Frank, so she turned her attention to Cook.
"What's for dinner Friday," She asked, interrupting him from making a shopping list.
"I'm preparing Chateaubriand for two. The rest of you will have to fend for yourselves," answered Cook without looking up.
Jennifer, Leslie and I exchanged a look that sealed the agreement that there was no way we were going to miss this.
"I guess we can call out for pizza," said Jennifer, pointing a sly eye at Cook. Her ploy worked perfectly, Cook shoved the list away and began ranting about pizza, delivery drivers and the destruction of civilization. In the end he offered to make us Indian Buttered Chicken in exchange for a promise that we would not interfere with him of Frank's dinner. With that, he left to do his shopping.
When he got back, we helped him unpack the groceries. There was a nice red wine, a bag of beef bones, a variety of fragrant herbs, eggs, a sack of potatoes that still wore the dirt of the farm, brocollini and a beautiful center cut beef tenderloin. It was light red and marbled through with streaks of white fat.
Most of the goodies when into storage while Cook got to work with the bones. He sprinkled flour over them and placed them into a hot oven to roast while surfed cooking websites. When he was happy with the bones, he put them into the big stock pot with carrots, celery, onions and water. He set the pot on the back of the stove to simmer. We got bored watching him watch the stock and went off to play a game of Monopoly. After several games, an episode of How I met your Mother, three movies and a work day, Cook had created a rich stock that he reduced to a thick syrup he called demi-glace.
No one saw Frank for the rest of the week except for a glimpse of him accepting a package from the UPS guy. The rest of the time he spent in his room.
When Friday evening came around, Cook set to work on the meal. He browned the tenderloin on all side and put it in the oven to finish. Frank likes his meat beyond well-done - a fact that gives Cook aneurisms. Cook took advantage of the fact that Frank's guest might like to eat like a human and cooked the meat to a succulent medium. In another pan, Cook browned some potatoes which joined the meat in the oven. While the meat and potatoes baked, Cook added shallots to the meat juices and let them sweat. When they were perfect, he poured in some wine, which boiled up purple bubbles. When the wine reduced by half, Cook took it from the heat and added chopped tarragon and a pat of budder.
He moved the wine sauce to the back of the stove to stay warm and worked on a bÃ©arnaise sauce. This sauce is a magic mixture of eggs and butter (with a bit of budder added in to lighten the mood). There are bright flavors of wine and vinegar, a wholesome bass note of shallots and a devilish hint of cayenne. I managed to get a fingerful before Cook shooed me out of the kitchen. I joined Leslie and Jennifer in the front room where we pushed Butter Chicken and rice onto bits of naan while keeping an eye on the front window.
Frank's date was a woman about his age. She had a fit figure and blond hair in braids that made her look older. Frank fumbled with the door knob until she let herself in. They hugged briefly to cover up Frank's stammered greeting. Cook had to come out and guide the couple to the table. We couldn't get a clear view of the candle-lit pair so we contented ourselves with gossipy conjecture about how well it was going. By the time Cook served the soufflÃ©, the sauces kicked in eliciting intimate laughter. After dinner, Frank wanted to go for a drive. Jennifer rushed in to head him off, but the woman had already talked him into a moonlit walk instead. They were so pleased with themselves that no one noticed the clouds that hid the slim crescent moon.
We helped Cook clean up and put on a movie to wait for the lovebirds. They outlasted us though and we drifted to sleep in the TV room. By morning, I woke up in time to see the front door quietly close. The woman's car started and pulled away slowly. Frank still hasn't said anything about it, but Cook informed us that we were on our own for dinner again next week.