Tom and Catherine Bochynski entertain often at their Irvine home because they just plain enjoy it, but they have learned to avoid overly gracious guests--you know, the kind who won't say Shinola even if their steaks have been blackened with it.
The Bochynskis are still haunted by the events of an evening when they were serving tempura and the guests prepared their own portions in individual cookers placed in front of them. Dessert was to be fresh fruit dipped in a sweet yogurt dressing. Somehow the bowls for one couple got mixed up and they cooked--or tried to cook--their shrimp in yogurt dressing and covered their fruit with tempura batter.
"They never said a word!" Bochynski says with amazement. "They just ate it and smiled and commented on how lovely everything was."
Bochynski wants to know when something is amiss because he takes a great deal of pride in his cooking, and in his dinner parties in particular.
And he does a great deal of planning so that the evenings come off with what appears to be a minimum of effort. "We enjoy our friends," he says, "so it's important that we spend as much time as possible with them; that we're not bogged down in the kitchen after they have arrived.
"We organize the meals to minimize our absence from our guests," which means that the Bochynskis prepare in advance as much of the food as possible.
A good example is the dish--gnocchis with Gorgonzola sauce--he shared with Guys & Galleys. The Italian dumplings are not labor-savers by any means. They take time to mix and they take time to knead, but once those processes are out of the way, they are literally only minutes from the freezer to the plate.
"Saturday is my day for preparing dishes," says Bochynski, who does almost all the cooking in the family. "I make meals, like gnocchis, that can be frozen. You can't freeze the sauce, but that only takes a few minutes to make anyway. I also make meals for the week for just the two of us, items that we can microwave for either lunch or dinner."
Bochynski, who is vice president of sales and marketing for a Laguna Beach-based novelty company called Imagine, says he never cooked anything until he became a cook after joining the National Guard in 1969. "Actually, I signed up to become an X-ray technician, but that took an 18-month training course on active duty. The alternative I was offered was cooking, which was only four months," he says, "and I can count, so I opted for the kitchen, and it was an instant love affair."
The first thing he ever cooked, he says, was French toast for a breakfast gathering of 1,500 troops. There followed hundreds of such meals and a proportional involvement with the cooking process. "The only difference between cooking for 1,500 and for a party of eight is the amount of ingredients," he says.
TOM BOCHYNSKI'S GNOCCHI WITH GORGONZOLA SAUCE
8 medium russet potatoes, baked
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Puncture and bake potatoes 1 hour at 350 degrees. Halve and scrape out insides. Discard skin and mash potatoes. Add eggs and Parmesan cheese. Continue to beat and slowly add flour. Knead until soft and pliable (mixture will still be slightly sticky). Roll into long rolls like a cigar, about the thickness of your thumb. Cut into 2-inch pieces. Score each with bottom of fork. Drop in large sauce pan, about 3/4 full of boiling water. When gnocchi floats to top, wait 10 to 12 seconds and remove with slotted spoon.
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Pepper to taste
Melt butter in sauce pan at medium heat until butter begins to foam. Slowly add cream and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Add cheese, reduce heat and stir until cheese is melted and cream begins to thicken. Stir in pepper. Add gnocchi, heat a few minutes and serve garnished with Parmesan. (Serves 8.)