Election Day Dinner

Happy election day. Don't forget to vote. And while you're in the neighborhood, why not find a neighbor, or two, to invite to dinner! If that sounds daunting, try making dinner from my new book Radically Simple. I will be doing that this evening. A new friend, Helen, is coming for dinner. She works for one of New York's top PR agencies that represents some of the country's most important celebrity chefs and restaurants. She lives near my home in Park Slope, Brooklyn yet we have never gotten together. We just seem to run into each other at book parties and on the subway platform. We're excited she's coming. Later this morning, I will also be inviting another new friend, Bob, who is currently writing "the" definitive book on the life of Julia Child. He and his wife live around the corner, but she is leaving tonight for Morocco with a group of girlfriends. Although Bob is a great cook and can definitely fend for himself, I'm hoping he feels like being social. We'll no doubt talk politics and that conversation will invariably swerve to...food. It always does.

And what are we having for dinner? You can simply scroll down to the bottom of my blog where you'll see some of the simplest recipes imaginable from my new book (it's only a week old!) Yes, we'll have Beet Soup with Lemon Crème fraîche. I think I'll make some fennel-cumin flatbreads to accompany it. With that, we'll have an interesting white wine from Argentina -- an unusual combination of chardonnay and ugni blanc -- the latter being the grape used for making cognac. Next, we'll have the most radical version of roast chicken -- roasted stark naked (the bird, that is!) -- with salt and pepper added only at the end. I'll give it a chef flourish of a foaming butter sauce flecked with chopped chives and a smashed garlic clove. We'll have an enlightened version of scalloped potatoes, made with half & half (instead of heavy cream), gruyere and fresh thyme. And what did I just invent this morning? A Moroccan-inspired carrot puree made with ground coriander, cumin and a pinch of chipotle. We'll open a bottle of Malbec, also from Argentina, to accompany the main course.

Dessert? My "Little Black Dress" Chocolate Cake. It's made with only 4 ingredients, is flourless, and bakes in 18 minutes. Top with raspberries and a one-ingredient creme anglaise: It doesn't get more radical, or simple, than that.

Creamy Potato Gratin with Gruyere & Thyme A gratin refers to the golden, epicurean crust that forms on the surface of savory baked dishes. Here, pungent Gruyere cheese acts as a protective layer, preventing potatoes from drying out.

2-1/2 pounds Yukon gold or all-purpose potatoes 3 cups half-and-half 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, in one piece 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel the potatoes and slice paper-thin. Put the potatoes in a 4-quart pot with the half-and-half, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes begin to soften, 15 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the cheese on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer the potatoes and cream to a shallow ovenproof baking dish (the cream will not cover the potatoes.) Press down with a spatula; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon thyme and cover with the cheese. Bake 40 minutes, until golden brown. Sprinkle with remaining thyme. Serves 8

Enjoy dinner.  Hope your candidate wins!