Monday, March 29, 2010

Fancy Smancy, an Around the World Dinner Party

Sometimes it seems to take longer for me to make up my mind about what to serve for a dinner party, than it actually takes to cook it.  And this one started out innocently enough. We are sitting around our friends apartment, sipping some wine, eating a bit of sushi and cheese while waiting to go to dinner at Fleur d Lys;  our conversation turns to Bravo network’s Top Chef competition…and in particular,  the celebrity chef competition, where Hubert Keller, chef/owner of Fleur d Lys was one of the 3 finalist, along with Michael Chiarello and Rick Bayless.  We were all surprised that Hubert didn’t win; we love his cooking, but as our friend Doug pointed out, Rick won with his final competition meal made up of moles.  Yes, mole is good food. Right then we decide it’s high time we shared another wonderful evening together, eating, sharing good wine and fine conversation.  Everyone get out their phone, check your schedule.  We come up with a date…November 7.  As we are leaving for dinner,  Doug says, “Of course there will be mole, right?”  Ummmm…yeah right. Whatever you say Doug.  Lindy is on it!

And so it began.  I knew I was going to do a mole, and I knew that I wanted to serve it with some small blue corn tamales.  One course down, now, what to serve with?  I didn’t want to make it a whole Mexican theme, so I thought, how about  “Dinner Around the World?”  The world is a big place so now where in the world did I want to go?  And how would one country play with the next one…so to the thinking tank…cookbooks…cut out recipes…saved files…and this is what I came up with…

Dinner Around the World Menu

It looks good on paper…it sounds good in my brain and my mouth thinks it will all play nicely together.  And in the end, it does.  But it was a little more ambitious than I thought it would be.

The appetizers were pretty easy.  I prepared the Yogurt Dipping Sauce on Wednesday, giving it a lot of time to allow the flavors to meld together.  The meatballs had to wait until the day before, so I made those on Friday.  My husband, the Wine Geek and part-time salsa maker, made the salsa the Saturday before with the last of our fresh garden tomatoes and chilies.  I called in an order for 3 sushi rolls, I didn’t make the sushi…I have made sushi, but it’s one of those things that I’d rather buy.  It’s hard to get fish in the store as fresh as they get (and they can make the rolls a lot LOT faster than I  can).

Chips with Guacamole (sorry, hubby made the salsa, and just winged it, so no “recipe”…but pulse tomatoes, chilies, cilantro, salt, pepper, jalapeno, Serrano pepper, and a dash of white vinegar together in a blender and I think you got it)

Greek Meatballs with Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Plated Meatballs with Dipping Sauce

Sushi Plate

Chips, Salsa and Guacamole

The first course, Poh Taek got  started about 5:00 on Saturday; I prepared the seafood and made the stock.  A quick rough chop of lemongrass, ginger root, green onions, lime slices (I can never find Kaffir leaves, so I just slice limes into thin slices and use instead) simmered into some rich chicken stock.

Thinly slicing the scallops

Debearding the mussels

Taste, Taste Taste, then taste again. (Yes, I used a clean spoon each time)

Poh Taek (Thai Coconut Seafood Soup)

Then came  Second… the mole course.  Mole Tradicional with Blue Corn Tamales.  This was fun.  Really it was.  Time consuming but fun.  Mole isn’t that tough,  but I found the  tamales to be a little challenging. I guess, if you make them on a regular basis, you get to understand them and their ways…but  this was only my second time…so a pro I am not. First of all, the recipes lie…all of them.  You will find the truth here…in my recipe…

Mole Tradicional

Blue Corn Tamales

The Limoncillo Sorbet was a lovely pallet cleanser and the Limoncillo kept it soft and scoopable.  You can make this a week or more in advance.


Limoncillo Sorbet

The Main was/is a family favorite.  Since I was a little girl, it has been requested for more birthdays than I can even remember.  From me and my brother and sister as children, to my sons.  Rouladen.  A wonderful mixture of garlic, mustard, onion, pickles and bacon.  My mother made it this way, it is not the traditional German way. They would make rouladen out of thinly sliced meat…not an easy thing to get in the late ’50’s and early 60’s meat counters…(our town didn’t have “butchers”, it had “supermarkets”) so Mom substituted flank steak.  Personally, rouladen made traditionally looks a little like a stuffed turd, I like the spiral of yumminess that shows in the stuffed flank steak version of  My Mother’s Rouladen.  And I don’t think the recipe has changed, in over 50 years, at least not that I can remember.  Along with the Rouladen we served Thyme Mustard Spaetzle, a traditional German dumpling/noodle and Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts.  Brussels Sprouts??? Yep, and a hit.  The trick with Brussels sprouts is you need to get them small, then soak them in salted ice water for about an hour, that takes the smell that so many associate with them, and the bitterness out. Delish!

My Mother’s Rouladen

Thyme Mustard Spaetzle

Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts

So on to the Finale.  And back to California.  Northern California.  So I guess I really should have called this, around the world minus 432 miles.  Apricot Almond Torte, from Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St Helena.  Well, I’ll just say YUM…I made it on Friday, but I could have done it on Thursday.  Held beautifully in an airtight container, on the counter.

Apricot Almond with Brown Butter Torte

I set the table with an international flair…I wish I had taken some pictures before it became the happy place for dinner.  But I am notorious for forgetting to get out the camera and shoot a picture, I’m going to have to get better about that, because I also forgot to take a picture of anything that was served, except the appetizers and  sorbet and that didn’t really film well.

So now that you have a cooking time-line…here’s is the day of the party, service time-lime…(this time I had no help, well, except for my husband, but no outside or teenage help…but it all worked out well).  It was also the first time Mr. Landon got to come to dinner, and I’m sorry, but a 3 month old really doesn’t care too much about your schedule, it’s ALL about him (Doug, Erin, he was a Prince).

Guest Arrive – 6:00 (or there about, again it’s that whole schedule thing, so remember to be flexible)
First Course – 7:00

5:00 – make the guacamole and order sushi
5:30 – Bring in all the food.  Pick up the Sushi (husband). Cook the meatballs.  Cook the mussels.  Make the soup stock.
6:00 – Set out the appetizers.  Set lower oven to 350.
6:45 – Put the mole in the oven.  Begin the steamer.  Strain the soup stock.
7:00 – Finish soup and serve.  Put the rouladen in the oven.
7:15 – Set tamales to steam
7:30 – Serve Mole and Tamales
7:45 - Serve Intermezzo
8:00 – Fry Spaetzle and Brussels sprouts
8:20 – Serve Main
9:00 - Whip cream for tart and serve dessert

Ok…I guess I need to mention one little mishap and give you a word of caution.  It’s only fair, and I’m not perfect.  I put the mole and the rouladen on the same shelf in the oven…side by side.  When I went to check on them and pulled out the oven rack, well, I guess one side was heavier than the other and…oops…the rack came off the track…so there I am, trying to hold the rack with two heavy pots on them and keep what’s in the pots inside the pots…”Ummmm, could someone come help me?  Please!”.  Husband to the rescue, he grabbed a couple of hot mitts, the pots and we got it all adjusted with minimal spillage.  But I do have to say, cleaning an oven that has spilled mole on it, well, it smells a lot better when it’s not cooking at 500++ degrees.

The Wines...yes, the picture is a little blurry, but we were too.

The Mess

Lindy - Just get er done!

It's so worth it though when you get to entertain good friends.

LindySez: It was all good.  I had so much fun, and the company was terrific.  Cheers!

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