Book Review & Menu: The Dinner by Herman Koch

the dinnerAre you looking to sink your teeth into a new read?

How about something meaty?

Then you must read The Dinner by Herman Koch. This book has so many dimensions, it really must be taught. College literature or something. Koch’s writing style reminds me of a writing exercise. Remember those assignments that you had to write some insane amount about some mundane activity? Maybe write 2 paragraphs about taking a breath. That’s Koch. The thing is, he’s actually good at it. Sure he can write a whole page based upon his interpretation of a man’s personality based upon the sound of his urine flow. But you’re so engrossed in the story, you actually enjoy the details. But that’s exactly why as soon as I finished the book, I thought, I have to read this again!

The Dinner is a psychological thriller. The story is of two couples who meet for dinner. The entire story takes place over the meal. Initially the couples make small talk and friendly exchanges. As the meal progresses little glimpses of the reason for their meeting is slowly revealed – through minute details. It’s these details that make me wonder, did I see these plot developments coming? In hind sight, yes, I think I did have hints. But that’s exactly what they were, hints. I think rereading the book I would be able to identify some foreshadowing that I missed. No matter, I don’t think my mind would have ever constructed the disturbing content, or that I would admit if it did.

I also am so intrigued by the author’s descriptions of each course. It took me until the dessert course before I realized how much the description of the plate and food reflected the character and his world view. Perhaps this is just my being extremely late to the party. But I choose to think it’s just the author’s style, a slow build of detail upon detail. Another great discussion point for the book. Oh I have more, but I will withhold them as to not offer any spoiler.

I will say this: this book will make you examine your own ethics. Morally how far will you go for the benefit of your children? Do you know where your line? Do you have a limit to your compassion? Seriously, this isn’t my reading into this book, these issues are raised and confronted head on. Fantastic meaty read – begging to be discussed and mulled over. Having said that, if you have read this book and would like to engage, I would love to!!! So if you haven’t read the book, please avoid reading the comments. There will be spoilers.

The recipes selected are intended to be enjoyed with conversation. We’ll keep it short, but long enough for discussion. Start with a bitter salad and end with vanilla ice cream. If you want to extend the fun, add an entree in the middle and you have a dinner party! I opted for baked chicken and roasted Brussels sprouts. Hopefully your dinner company is less disturbing.

Bitter salad with Crispy Goat Cheese Rounds

thedinnerSalad

4 types of lettuce to include: arugula, endive, radicchio, bibb
1/2 red onion diced
Dressing recipe (see below)
Crispy Goat Cheese Rounds (see below)

photo

Dressing:
2 T red jam, reduced sugar
1 T olive oil
1 T Balsamic vinegar

Do this step first. The dressing shouldn’t be served warm. It’s only warmed for blending. It will stay thin enough to pour with the added ingredients. Warm jam in a glass bowl in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. Just long enough to make it runny. Whisk in olive oil & vinegar. Taste. If it doesn’t taste sweet/tart then add a bit more of the missing taste.

Crispy Goat Cheese Rounds:
1 log of goat cheese
1 egg
1 t water
1/2 c bread crumbs
vegetable oil

Do this just as you are ready to serve so they are still crispy & yummy. Chill the log of goat cheese to make slicing easier. Dental floss is a commonly recommended tool for this. After it’s cut into rounds, place in the freezer to make firm and cold. While the rounds chill, whisk together the egg and water. Dip chilled rounds in egg mixture, turning to coat. Roll in bread crumbs to cover. Return to plate and freezer. The cheese should be very cold so when you drop it in oil, the coating browns and gets crispy but the center cheese doesn’t melt out. Heat an inch of oil over medium-high heat in a shallow skillet. When you can smell the oil it’s ready. If it smokes, it’s too hot. Slip cheese round in oil. When browned, flip.

Sparsely place lettuce on the plate. Top with 1 – 2 T red onion per plate. Drizzle with 1 T dressing. Top with 1 – 2 Cheese rounds. Tell each member of your family what’s on your plate, while pointing with your pinky. Just for fun.

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