Monday, September 28, 2009

1st Supper Club

This Saturday was the very first supper club. Our neighbor Dave suggested one night that I should do a supper club. At first I thought, yeah right nobody would be interested in that. But as I thought about it and the neighbors seemed to be into it, I thought yeah maybe I will do that. I love to cook, Tony and I can only eat so much. We love to have parties but if I made all the food I wanted to when the neighbors came over we would go broke. I set a date and 14 adults and 5 kids came.
For a small fee I made a gourmet meal including appetizers, main dish and dessert. I mailed out a rough draft of the menu because I wasn't sure of some things like the alternative chicken dish (because I knew there were some that would not enjoy the main), the main dish to be served was Veal Ragu with Homemade Potato Gnocchi. Bruchetta for appetizers and chocolate souffle for dessert.

I ended up choosing 3 different bruchetta's, one with goat's cheese and panchetta, one with sun-dried tomato jam, mozzarella and basil and a plain one with olive oil, salt and pepper (the last one never made it out, it ended up just being served with dinner). The main dish was delicious. I got an antique gnocchi tool from Italy the last time I went to the Brimfield Antique Show, Lisa bought it for me, so I used it to make Homemade Potato Gnocchi. The Veal Ragu was veal shoulder braised for a few hours in a tomato based sauce. The vegetable was 4 roasted veggies...white cauliflower, purple cauliflower, fresh carrots with the stem on and parsnips. A crispy chicken that is breaded and baked (I tried to come up with something baked to make it a little easier on myself)for the alternative. The dessert ended up being served in hollowed out orange halfs. It was either that or I would have to go buy a bunch of souffle dishes. I tested it ahead of time and the orange idea worked! But now I would have to think of something to go with it that had orange in it to tie it all together. Something crunchy like a cookie. I found a recipe for Toasted Coconut and Orange Cookies. I made them and they were great and easy because they were refrigerator cookies so I could store them in the frig and just bake them off when the time came. But Lisa doesn't like coconut... she loves walnuts. That led me into finding another recipe that was an Almond and Orange cookie from a Martha magazine, I turned it into a Walnut and Orange cookie by just substituting one nut for another nut. The souffle needed a bit of vanilla whipped cream and of course a chocolate drizzle for the plate for looks but also to hold the orange bowl in place. Everyone had a great time and loved the idea of being able to just walk home because they are so close.

With it being the first time serving this many people, I feel I do have to tweak things a bit. Maybe do no more than 10 people or so and a babysitter for the kids.

BBQ Contest

Again I wasn't able to do my thing this weekend. Tony's BBQ Contest was Saturday into Sunday and with all the prep work it just wasn't a good idea to cook on Friday. Tony, Brian, John, Lisa and I were team members. Lisa and I were mostly there for moral support, but John and Brian stayed with Tony overnight in the tents, working towards the big win. For the contest you were required to make a pork shoulder, a beef brisket, pork ribs and chicken in order to win the grand prize. Considering Tony has only made the shoulder and the brisket one other time each, and not too much chicken on the smoker, really, they did pretty good. He has probably only done the ribs a total of 10 times and even though we think they are excellent, they didn't win. They give you a score sheet at the end with all the different "team names" and we,"Blackstone BBQ", ended up somewhere in the middle. There were 41 teams and we scored between 20-27 between the four categories. You really couldn't taste the other teams food. That's one of the things that would have been nice to do, so we could taste what a winning rib tastes like.

Here's the link to Brian's photos.

No time to cook

This week I went to the Brimfield Antique Show on Friday with Lisa, Bonnie and Marie. It rained but we still had fun. Normally I would have made something Saturday or Sunday but instead I painted a mural for a neighbor. He's made a stage right in the corner of his family room for his daughter and he asked me to do a back drop. Here are the pictures...I will soon be finishing off some curtains that will flank the stage.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I'm back...

Hello, I'm back...

I took a little time off from blogging, but not on purpose, it just happened. Wow, four months!! A lot has been eaten in four months.

Last night was a first for me. I made and ate and liked Salmon!! I followed Ann Burell's recipe on Food Network. It's grilled until perfection and topped with a compound butter made of dill, thyme, garlic salt and pepper. The butter melts over and adds lots of flavor, moistness and creates the sauce.

The appetizer was "Fried Red Tomatoes", yes red. I love the recipe in the joy of cooking for fried green tomatoes but unless you have a garden, it's hard to get your hands on green tomatoes. I picked the firmest tomatoes at the store, otherwise they would probably fall apart quickly or be mushy. It worked perfectly.

The sides to go with the salmon were Fennel Salad and Potato Latkas. Those were good, grated onion and potato mixed with an egg, flour and seasoning, cooked in vegetable oil for 3 minutes a side and drain on paper towels, a pinch of salt and it was a perfect compliment to the salmon.

Dessert was an individual portion of Tart Tatin. I was watching "Follow that Food" on Fine Living Network, and it was ...follow that apple. A chef made these and I thought of it when I was making the menu. I looked it up on line and it was right there. Simple, pretty and Delicious. I served it with a dollop of Vanilla Whipped Cream.

Let me try and go back in time with a few high lights of the past four months...

Tony has entered a BBQ Contest, it's just a couple weeks away, and so he smoked a whole beef brisket a few days ago to practice. So when my parents came to visit on Thursday I thought I should use some of that brisket, so I made a "Super Deep Dish Brisket Meat Pie". Every Christmas that's what we have, meat pie. There is about 5 different versions of the meat pie, all very similar, made with stew beef or chuck. I brought a mexican meat pie for a few years now, just to be different. This Christmas I will make this one. I made 2 pastry crusts and lined a spring form baking pan with one pastry crust and filled it to the top with a mix of ground brisket, mashed potato and carrot, garlic and onion, seasonings and I just happened to have a nice beef stock that I made, so I added just a bit because I didn't want it to be dry. I topped the concoction with a few pats of butter and topped it with another pastry crust. I put a small vent on top and baked it on the lower, middle rack for 20 minutes at 400 degrees and turned it down to 350 degrees and baked it for another 20 minutes or until the top crust gets a nice golden color. Served it with catsup (always with catsup) and it was really good with a nice smokey flavor from the smoked brisket.

With the "Julie and Julia" movie that just came out, I had an idea one Friday morning about a month ago. I called a few neighbors and friends and invited them for a last minute dinner party using all recipes from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". We had a great night it ended up being 9 adults and 3 children. I got a whole pork loin and followed Julia's recipe for a pork roast. But because I don't do a lot of whole pork loin, I did exactly how she said to do it, it was dry. Julia says to cook it to 180 degrees or something and by the time I realized that that seemed too high it was too late. I figured in the time I wanted it to be done and when to start cooking it and it was done about an hour too early, so it sat there and that didn't help with the dryness. Nobody seemed to think it was dry, I think they were just being nice. I served french cheeses as the appetizer and the sides were her Garlic Mashed Potato and French Green beans. I made her Almond and Chocolate Cake for dessert with Creme Fraiche Sorbet (the sorbet was not Julia's but thought it would go well). I made the kids there own cheese pizza to share.

On August 1st we had our yearly cookout. Tony made some great BBQ Ribs that didn't stick around too long. We had burgers and hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and pasta salad, chips and dips and beer and sangria. Everybody brings something so there were steamers and lots of other sides and desserts, I think brownies are the most popular thing that people bring and they always seem to go quickly. We had right around 100 people, our biggest turn out so far!! Lots of kids and they always have a blast!!

One reason I took some time off from blogging was because June and July were crazy with parties and vacationing. It seemed every weekend there was something going on so the Friday Night meals were very sporadic. The middle of July we headed to California for a vacation. Napa, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, San Francisco and Monterey. We went to Alcatraz and Hearst Castle. We toured a few wineries; Alpha Omega, V. Sattui and Rombauer are the ones that stand out. We got alot of good pictures. We took Rt 1, the scenic route from San Francisco area down to Monterey Bay (which was about a 3 hour drive). Unfortunately it was a little foggy, so we saw bits and pieces of the beautiful ocean scenery.

So that's what has been happening and I look forward to keeping you all up to date with my menus on a weekly basis again.