Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Dinner Party

Hi friends! As I continue my goal of one dinner party a month, during 2012, I give you my version of Oktoberfest!

My menu was going to be a quintessential take on my grandmother's menu. To start, I'd make my grandmother's potato dumplings. They are crazy good, but really hideous! They are also a cheap way to use up stale bread and to stretch a few potatoes. I'd make sauerkraut, but my take on it! And then there would be an amazing pork roast.

The February dinner party was mid-week. I had to apologize to my guests. Since I was coming straight home from work, I didn't have time to have the table pre-set and covered with linens and candles and all fancy pants. You know what? That's not important! If you have great company and good food, that's all you need. Cheers!

The Dumplings!
The potato dumplings are store bought sandwich bread, broken into little pieces and mixed with salt & pepper and pureed, raw potatoes. (pureed with water). Squish it all together and make smallish, baseball sized balls. Boil and serve, with gravy! The above photo are the uncooked, formed dumplings.

These are the cooked dumplings. I think they take about 14 minutes to cook. In a big pot of boiling water, add them, give them a gentle stir, so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot. And let them cook until they float to the top of the water. Give them a few more minutes to cook all the way through. The first time you make them, test one by cutting in half and making sure it's cooked through & hot all the way. Serve these babies piping hot.

Sidenote about the dumplings. When I was a kid, we'd reheat them either cut in half/chunks and covered in gravy. Or, if mom was being awesome, she'd slice them and fry them in butter. The outsides would get a little crispy and the inside would stay soft and hot. Still, best served with gravy.

The Roast!
The roast is this. A big fatty piece of pork. Season with salt, pepper and a mild spice blend. Sear it in hot oil, then braise it until it goes to heaven. Braising liquid includes white wine, cider and broth. Include some fresh thyme, bay leaf and chunks of onion and carrots. I let this roast go for several hours. The bone slipped out and the rest of the roast pulled apart with the back of a spoon! Pull into large chunks and remove excess fat. Save the braising liquid. Drain excess fat and use it to make a gravy. I cooked the roast a few days in advance, it hangs out in the fridge very nicely. Reheat in a pot, with some liquid, over low heat. I used the gravy, which I also made in advance, and a little water.

The Sauerkraut!
For the suaerkraut, I use "fresh" kraut. Usually found either in the meat section of the grocer, or the dairy section. Rinse the kraut. Then, in a roasting pan, add 1/2-1 grated, peeled apple. A splash of apple cider and chicken broth. A pinch or two of caraway seeds and some salt & pepper. Cover, and cook until heated through. Remove the cover and let roast for a few more minutes. A few pieces of kraut will caramelize. Super tasty. Tangy and a little bitter without being pungent and IN YOUR FACE!


Serve it all up, nice and hot! I added some roasted green beans (it's a favorite), a good German or Austrian dry white wine, or beer!

Dinner was lovely. We talked for hours afterwards, especially about what was inspiring us, creatively!

Stay tuned...the March party is right around the corner. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Menu is selected. And, since it is also a mid-week meal, much of it will be made in advance on the weekend. Mmmm, delicious!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

February Dinner Party

February's dinner party theme has been selected!




I'm already hungry for what I'm going to make!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January Dinner Party!

Good Day everyone! The first month of 2012 is trucking towards an end...already! I mentioned just over a week ago, my goal for 2012. A dinner party each month...and a blog post about it. So here goes.

The January Dinner Party.

Planning: Planning started before Thanksgiving on this one. A friend of ours wanted to introduce us to two friends of hers. They happened to have just moved to our town and were getting settled in and our friend thought it would be nice to introduce us. I jumped, at the time, at the opportunity to host, something I do love to do. But, the problem was, Thanksgiving was in the middle, plus a trip to Italy for the spouse and I!!!! (AH-MAZE-ING!) So the soonest we'd be able to host was January. That gave me plenty of time to think about what to make, even though I didn't get myself all the time.

I like my guests to feel comfortable with the food, so I always ask if there are any major dietary restrictions. If I have vegetarians coming for dinner, I'm not going to make a huge beef roast. No major restrictions this time around, but there was a preference for chicken, which I'm supper cool with.

Menu: Having just come back from 10 days in Italy, I knew I wanted to make something with an Italian spin to it. After flipping through several of my cookbooks, I settled on a chicken saltimbocca. Traditional saltimbocca is veal. I'm not fond of veal, so this chicken variation was perfectly awesome. For side options, I went with basil risotto and roasted green beans. Dessert would be something we had in Italy and it was incredible; Crema di Mascarpone.

I would also put out a few small nibbles to get us started and I made a great focaccia. Plus plenty of wine!

The focaccia was a standard recipe I've made before, but topped with caramelized onions and rosemary. It's awesome. The dough is pretty simple to pull together and it doesn't take a full day to make.

The table set for our guests. Not much will change over the coarse of the year. This is what we have. If we have more than four people, the table needs to be opened up and the tablecloth doesn't really fit. And with one main set of plates, this is it. That being said, I like to have the table ready to go before people arrive. Have as much stuff as you can ready. When your guests arrive, you want to talk with them, not say hello and have to run away.

I mentioned small nibbles. Any small nibble for me will include some cheese, nuts and cracker. These little crackers were awesome. They had black pepper in them, but they were wafers, not crackers. Fun. Also, I love marcona almonds. Also included, but not seen, I sliced a pear to go with it all. The guests brought more cheese! One thing I've learned over the years, don't over do the nibbles. I have been known to make so many nibbles, we don't really need to eat dinner! So, only a little bit of nibble per person, just hold off the stomach rumbling while we wait for dinner.

The main plate. It was pretty darn delicious! Risotto can be found here. Don't miss read the recipe and make twice as much as you intend! SO MUCH RISOTTO. The green beans were washed and dried. Tossed with olive oil and put on a rimmed baking sheet and into a hot oven, I think 400-425. Roast until they are al dente, about 15-20 minutes. Toss them half way through. When they are done, toss with caramelized shallots for more goodness.

The chicken. Super simple. Take a boneless/skinless chicken breast. Make sure it's cleaned up of any excess fat and then kind of manipulate it into a uniform shape, with the other pieces. Season with salt & pepper. Lay 1-2 leaves of fresh sage on the chicken, then wrap with 1-2 slices of prosciutto, tucking the ends under the cutlet. I then put the cutlets back in the fridge, until I was ready to cook. The extra cool allowed them to firm up a bit.

When you are ready to cook, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, get 2 TB of olive oil nice and hot. Quickly and lightly dust the wrapped cutlets with flour and place in the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes per side, or until cooked thru. This will depend on the thickness of the cutlets. If things start to burn, lower the heat.

When the chicken is done, remove to a clean plate and deglaze the pan with 3/4 cup of dry white wine and 1/4 cup of chicken broth, reduce by half. Season with salt, pepper and a few chopped sage leaves. Swirl in one to two TB of butter. Add any accumulated juice from the cooked chicken, back into the pan. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, when you serve it.

A note on dinner. I prepped everything in advance. 30 minutes before we were ready to eat, I started cooking the risotto, beans and chicken. Everything, miraculously, was done at the same time +/- a minute of two! It was awesome.

Enjoy dinner and your company!

Dessert! Dessert was something special! Here, you're getting the actual recipe:

Creme di Mascarpone
Serves 6
3 eggs, separated
3 TB fine white sugar* (fine texture, not classy ohh la la)
1 1/3 cups mascarpone cheese
1 tsp orange zest
2-3 TB rum
Garnishes

Beat egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold the mascarpone into the yolks, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the orange zest and rum.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into the yolk mixture. Fold whites into the yolk/cheese mixture. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Garnish with shaved dark chocolate, fresh berries and light, crisp cookies!


*The sugar...my sugar does have a vanilla bean split and stored in it...so the sugar does have some vanilla essence. If you want, feel free to add a drop or two of vanilla extra for further awesome flavor.


There we go folks. My first proper blog posts in 10+ months. My first proper dinner party of 2012! Cin cin!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Returning in 2012?


Having been on sabbatical for the past several months...nearly a year...I've waffled back and forth about the future of Eat With Me. I love this blog. I've put a lot of work into it and use it as a resource on a regular basis. I didn't want to shut it down, but I just wasn't inspired to do postings anymore.

With the new year, I was thinking about resolutions. What would I want to change for 2012? What goals would I have for the new year? I'm not fond of resolutions that have measurable goals, because we either set them too high and fail, or set them too low and "achieve" the results in short period (not that that is a bad thing if its legitimate.) So my goals for the new year were more fluid. #1, spend more time with the people I love and care about. #2, enjoy life more, worry less.

OK, those are great. Important! But what will I do that achieve them?

I've decided to alter them slightly and make a new resolution. #1.5, Dinner parties! At least once a month, I will have my favorite people over for dinner and fine conversation. Woo hoo! A side resolution...I will blog about the dinner parties; some photos, recipes, menu, planning, etc.

So, dear readers, in 2012, you will see the return of Eat With Me. (cue thunderous applause and cheering, camera zooms in on random person wiping a tear from their eye)

First dinner party...1/14/12. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Do You Have Some Feedback?


Dearest readers! It has been 105 days since I formally started the Eat With Me sabbatical and it's been great. To not have to worry about blogging and taking pictures and trying to be creative. Thank you for allowing me the time.

That being said, I'm starting to get itchy. Ideas are starting to ruminate and simmer. But before I return fully, I want to explore the option of re-imagining Eat With Me. If you can take a few minutes and provide some feedback, that will help me decide the direction to move in.

In particular, I'm interested in your thoughts on:

Layout & design of the site
Content-more or less of something specific
Other feedback-open ended, is there something you would love to see?

I'll continue mapping things in my head, to try to identify what I want to do. I look forward to your feedback in assisting with the direction I take Eat With Me. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

MISSING!



MISSING!
Vesta, aka Hestia
Goddess of Hearth, Home & Cooking

Last seen skipping town with nine muses. If found or seen in public, please alert the authorities! Hestia is not considered dangerous, but her long absence is having a negative impact on my culinary verve.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After much hemming and hawing on my part, I’ve come to the conclusion that EAT WITH ME will go on pre-meditated sabbatical, hiatus, vacation, etc. I keep fooling myself that I’ll get to that next blog post “tomorrow.” Folks, it just isn’t happening. In reality, over the past year and a half-give or take-blogging just hasn’t been a priority. My creativity and inspiration seem to have vanished. Perhaps they are off partying with Dionysus. Or maybe Demeter has developed a gluten allergy and has given up wheat. Who knows!

I’m not committing bloggercide! There is too much time, energy and love poured into EAT WITH ME to just let it go. I need some guilt-free time away to reinvest myself, reimagine the blog and light a spark.

Over the next few months I will…
  • Look into some creativity based classes. Painting or ceramics. Maybe food classes. Something that will get the synapses firing across hemispheres again.
  • I will continue to reduce the amount of television consumed in my life. This has been happening over the past few months anyway. I’ll keep a few favorites! Programs really are all about shouting and screaming lately and I can’t deal with it anymore. I’ll use this new found time for more reading and learning.
  • Try to get out of town a bit more. I need to spend some extended time outside of the gravitational pull of the Capital Beltway. I’m starting this one in just 12 days with a solo trip to New York City. Perhaps a few more day trips or extended weekends here and there. I’ll also be planning a major international trip for the end of the year!!!
  • Continue cooking! I gotta eat. I still like cooking; I’m just bored with it. There are 100’s of recipes on EAT WITH ME, but with few exceptions, they are boring me.
Keep EAT WITH ME in your blog readers, RSS feeds and whatnots. I promise to return. I can’t tell you if it will be two months or six months, I don’t know. I’ll know when I know.

Take Care!

Oh! If you feel like you’ll miss me, you can still follow me on Twitter at @eatwithme75. And perhaps I’ll post an update on my sabbatical adventures and my persistent search Hestia.

“Find something you're passionate about
& keep tremendously interested in it.”
Julia Child

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bourbon!

(not my picture, taken by a co-worker)

This weekend a few of my co-workers and I hosted a BYOB/potluck party, prior to the Oscars. It was a great time. We had all sorts of amazing food. I made cassoulet and French bread. Both were scrumptious. One co-worker brought a pre-mixed cocktail. It was DEVILISH! You gotta try it. Be careful, it will knock your socks off! The "shake with cracked ice" is a vital part of the recipe, without it, you will be drinking nearly straight up booze!


Frisco Sour

1.5 oz bourbon
.25 oz benedictine
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
1 dash orange juice (.125 oz)

Shake with cracked ice, garnish with a cherry.