Sunday, December 21, 2008

eat a burrito

Next year might be build your own burrito. I think "make your own ___" went over really well.

Run down

Chris demands you pay attention to the pizza rules
Carey and Andrew dutifully do

I've been lazy about the dinner party. I've been more interested in going to holiday parties and removing the smell of cured pork before uploading photos this week. Sadly I did not take enough. Maybe they are being uploaded to facebook pages. Mine came out blurry and over saturated. Bah, whats important is the huge clash of friends and food. People had countless amazed reactions. I am grateful. I aim to please the crowd.

Pizza station, 29 toppings, no exaggeration!

Food really piled high this year. I had to come up with a system to organize everything. I built shelves, and labeled cups with all 30ish toppings. E.g. caramelized onions don't looks so appetizing if you don't know what they are. I even, somewhat obsessively, printed out directions and posted them above the table. Dough stretching instructions seemed more confusing then helpful. I wanted to add illustrations, but time ran low. I hovered near here half the night, to give advice. A few occasions I jumped in and pulled pies. Most people had trouble, but everyone had fun. I also constructed my dream pizza. BBQ sauce, pulled pork, red onions, sweet potatoes, and cheese. Damn.

Multi-tiered platters in the "side/appetizer room".
This was a really popular room. People kept saying "This is the 3rd time I
filled up my plate, and I already ate 2 pizzas..." One pal described it as
"gorging herself like a baby whale"

I thought I would keep sides simple, but that's just not how I roll. Its always fascinating to see what people do and don't like. Here is a list of things people really really like: Artichoke dip, Butter beans with celery and fennel, pineapple, grapes, salami, brie and cheddar cheese, carrots, and cut peppers, stuffed peppers, barley risotto. Okay so that's like almost all the food, but I can tell they really like that food, because people barely touch stuff like: cumin flavored gouda cheese, pesto dip and hummous, zucchini bread, the jello mold (granted it looked awful) the toffee, roasted fennel. People like the pizzas!

Dessert was out of control. Everyone brought it, and no one ate it! I gave away 90% of a cheese cake, and an entire red velvet cake. I brought a boat load of ice cream sandwiches to an office. Vegan ganache torte with apricots and almonds went over extremely well. It could have been a dessert party, nauseating. I really think this is getting skipped from now on. Just a few sweets on the side.

I'm relieved this is done. I had a real weekend, and kicked up my heels all week. I will say I am terribly pleased with the following dishes: spiced pecans, fig jam, roasted fennel, cracked pepper focaccia, and the pulled pork. Throw in some spinach and chick peas to that list, and I might never need another food for the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

picked over and gone

The very reason for this blog is over. It happened after a long slow week of cooking, which nearly made me want to forget food forever, and then in a very quick blur of a dinner party. It was fun, it was nearly worth it. I know everyone who came had a blast. The morning after the party I woke up in a cheese/banana pepper/salami scented bedroom, which officially made me want to forget about food. I am still living in filthy chaos. Food was put away, and pots scrubbed, but my floors are sticky under mixed up furniture.

I have too much food left, and its causing problems. Around 10-15 guests didn't show. Monday-Wednesday felt like an endless feast of leftovers, but now things are spoiling. I anticipated this a little, and sent food home with guests, brought 7 lbs of salami and 15 lbs of dessert to work, and froze some for a different day. Still I feel like I could pay more attention to whats happening in the fridge. I feel disrespectful trashing food. I will have to turn whats left into soup.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Miracle Pork

Come over, you are invited to eat this!

Last night two miracles happened. I was cooking the pulled pork. It did not take 2-3 hours. I gave it 4 hours, shut the heat, and left it in the oven to cook in the residual heat. I thought I would deal with it after I came back from a tiny bit of celebrating for a friend's birthday. After 3-4 hours I returned to luscious pork smells. Entering my apartment I heard the oven creak! Holy sweet jello! I left the oven on the entire time I was out, and at 450 degrees!! I ran to the oven, pulled the pork out of its foil packet, covered in hot boiling fat. That's when I realized two miracles had happened:

1) It a miracle that the fat did not catch on fire and burn down my home
2) Inside the foil was a perfect deep crusted amazingly tender piece of pulled pork, that slipped gently apart from the bone. It tastes heavenly, and I consider it a good omen.

No really its edible, and tender, and perfect, it only took 7.5 hours.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Evenly Brown

Today is day two of cooking for the party. Before this is was mostly prep (making dough, seasonings, chopping, buying). Friday and Saturday include very heavy cooking, and Sunday, a bunch of warming up.

So far everything is turning out brown. The rich mission fig jam is super dark with sweet almost smokey flavor that could easily land in the umami class of flavors. I made an almond crust for my vegan apricot and ganache torte, a light brown. I have pulled pork in the oven now, which is finicky and taking a long time, a crisp brown. Toffee, is toffee brown. Spiced pecans, spicy maroon.

I made a laughable muddy-orange jello molded salad. I decided to take a family classic, molded cranberry, and using some beautiful apples and pears. The fruit quickly oxidized in the food processor, and the peach jello went mucky when it all came together. It tastes lovely, but I'm not sure anyone will be brave enough to try it. It looks a little bit like garbage. I wonder if I can cover it...ready-whip maybe??

Sunday, December 7, 2008

can of sardines

Set on my rugs, propped up on stacks of storage bins, and
covered with tablecloths the seating looks inviting.

Table and chair situation is this: I have almost none. My 2 large tables are devoted to the prep area. I only own 2 folding chairs, one office chair, and 2 designer easy chairs. No couch! No futon! I live alone, so I have rooms with empty floor. The guests will have to sit on the rugs.

This sunday I went to Lowes to purchase plywood sheets to act as tables to sit around floor-style. My empty room/2nd bedroom/studio is 11 x 16 ft. I wanted 2 rows of narrow tables. I was aiming for 28 x 120 inches, seating the max amount of people and with room to move around. Well there aren't service people working in lumber on a Sunday at Lowes to cut wood. I had to compromise with 4 pre-cut 2x4 ft sheets. I'm guessing up to 12 people can sit at each table. The rest will have to stand, sit on my bed, or if they are lucky, snag a folding chair.

food shapes and food trips

Its starting to be hard to keep this blog with all the shopping, prep, and cooking to do. I certainly have not blogged all the food I prepared last week. Its hard to stop in the middle of cooking to snap photos. I cook really really fast. Last week alone I made focaccia dough, spiced pecans, candied orange peels, maple almond toffee, chocolate chocolate cookie dough for ice cream sandwiches, bbq sauce, and finished off the last few batches of pizza dough. I also went to shopping for food and supplies 5 times, to over 8 stores. I am constantly in motion and on top of my schedule. Most of the food only needs to be prepped, with less cooking than other years. I am grateful for my cuisnart's chopping, shredding, and grating attachments. All of the fresh vegetable based foods get made this last week, so everything tastes the way it should.

The menu has shaped up:

Cheese and fresh and dried fruit plate
spiced nuts
sugared tangerine peels
bacon wrapped figs
pesto, red pepper hummous, and artichoke dips
fresh baked breads
fresh made pizza dough with a huge assortment of toppings including: roasted vegetables, artichokes, olives, arugula, caramelized onions, sweet potatoes,seasoned tofu, chicken sausage, pulled pork, bacon, prosciutto, dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, homemade tomato sauce, pesto, bbq sauce, tons of cheese, and more....
side salads of sorts
home steeped limoncello
hot cider
many fabulous concoctions of the season
juice and sodas
beer and wine
the famous Donabedian dessert plate of decadence, which I request people contribute to.