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Monday, August 15th, 2005

Virtual 40’s-70’s Party

We have some great entries for the virtual 40’s-70’s party!

So Retro: Sandwich Loaf 2005/08/so-retro-sandwich-loaf.html

Pineapple Upside-down Cake 2005/08/virtual-40s-70s-party-pineapple-upside.html

Swedish Meatballs 2005/08/swedish-meatballs.html

Spiced Tomato Aspic

Snowy Chicken Confetti Salad

Also, don’t forget to check out the entries to the Does My Blog Look Tacky in This? contest!

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

40’s-70’s Party

The party was a success—even though a few of the dishes decidedly weren’t…

For my contribution, I made a Spiced Tomato Aspic from “The ABC of Salads” cookbook. It ended up looking like congealed blood and tasting like straight tomato paste; it was so tomato-y that I could barely finish one bite. I also made a Red Hot Salad, which was even worse than the tomato aspic! Luckily the last dish I made—Pork Roast from the “Siamese Cookery” cookbook, turned out amazing. I cooked the roast in my doufeu and the pork was rendered, yet again, meltingly tender. The pork had very subtle Asian flavors, but it was delicious. I will definitely be making this recipe again!

For drinks, I served Crater Lake Vodka and Plymouth Gin martinis and boxed wine. I had a hard time deciding which boxed wine to buy, so I went with the cutest packaging. Considering it was Chardonnay AND from a box, I was pretty impressed. The wine was very drinkable and inexpensive, and the next day, I was happy there weren’t any bottles to take out to the recycling.

To round out the menu, my guests brought:
Rumaki (marinated chicken livers and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon), which were really delicious and a huge hit
Celery sticks filled with Kaukauna cheese spread and cream cheese
Tuna noodle casserole, with potato chip topping!
A delicious coffee cake
Coconut cake, with a meringue frosting
Orange Jell-O with canned mandarin oranges and cool whip topping

Even though not all the recipes turned out, we still had a great time and it was fun to test out some strange recipes. Now I’m toying with the idea of recreating TV dinner menus, like Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and those strange and oddly delicious desserts.

Siamese Cookery Pork Roast

4 pounds pork shoulder
pineapple rind
2 teaspoons cumin
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1. Mix together cumin, garlic, pepper and salt and rub into the roast. Place rind of pineapple over roast, cover and bake at 300 for 3.5 hours.

2. When roast is done, remove and discard pineapple rind. De-fat the liquid and return to the pot. Combine soy, vinegar, brown sugar and parsley and pour over roast. Cook, uncovered for another 30-45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes.

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

Virtual 40’s-70’s Party: Tempting Ideas for You!

Just a quick reminder that the Virtual 40’s-70’s Party is coming up and posts should be made by August 15th. And don’t forget about the accompanying Does My Blog Look Tacky in This? contest!

In case you need a little inspiration, I did a quick, online search and found some winsome recipes from the 50’s. Ack!

You don’t really even need to read the recipes to know they’re good; the title says it all. Here are a few of my faves:

Baked Corn Chex ‘N’ Cheese Custard
He-Man’s Tuna Noodle Casserole (made with Ritz!)
Lemonade Fried Chicken (uses frozen lemonade concentrate as a brine!)
Pepsi-Cola Cake With Broiled Peanut Butter Frosting (uh…)
Fresca Cake With Maraschino Frosting

I actually might have to make this one:

Red Hot “Salad” (I decided to put quotes around “salad”)
Servings: 6

6 oz Cherry Jell-O (2 Pkgs)
4 oz Red Hots Candy
3 c Boiling Water
20 oz Pineapple, crushed and undrained
2 c Applesauce

Dissolve Jell-O and red hots (also known as Cinnamon Imperials) in boiling water. When cooled to room temperature, add pineapple and applesauce. Pour into oiled 8-cup mold. Chill before serving.

Then I found a few great book excerpts from the 40’s, 60’s and 70’s. I especially love the Conway Twitty burger and the “Legal” Martini using instant chicken broth and canned mushrooms.

Those of you attending my real-time party… don’t worry. I’ll be making real martinis.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005

The Hostess Project #5: North African Feast

I was intending to take it easy this month. I promised myself something simple, like pasta and a salad. Of course my imagination ran away from me and kept going and going, like that little pink Energizer bunny.

It all started with my main dish. I really wanted another roast leg of lamb—it’s just so easy and impressive. This time I found a beautiful, Moroccan Spice-Rubbed Leg of Lamb recipe on Epicurious. When an Epicurious recipe has that many glowing reviews, I feel confident that the recipe will turn out well. So completely ignoring my first rule of thumb for dinner parties, I proceeded with an untested recipe. Now one untested recipe is usually okay, but since I’ve had zero experience cooking Moroccan cuisine, I ended up with an entire menu of untested recipes. Typically this turns out one of two ways: a complete and total disaster or, much less often, amazing.

With a Moroccan theme nailed down, it was an easy leap to couscous for a side dish. Of course I didn’t want to make just any couscous; I wanted to make proper couscous. One that’s been steamed multiple times, with each grain lovingly separated by hand. I found the perfect thrice-steamed couscous recipe in the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook. Even though the recipe sounded elaborate and time consuming, it didn’t send out any alert bells because everything I’ve made from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook has been exquisitely delicious.

For the veggie I wanted something colorful (since everything thus far was brown). Moroccan carrot salads kept popping up in my research and I narrowed it down to one. The winning recipe was chosen because of its use of asafetida. Asafetida (a.k.a. “Devil’s Dung”) is known for its pungent, rotting smell. I’ve had a jar of asafetida languishing in the cabinet for a few months now and every time I open the door, the smell knocks me down and assertively reminds me that I need to cook with it. (In case you’re keeping track: new recipe #3).

The typical Moroccan appetizer is Bastilla, which is a savory-sweet phyllo concoction, but it looked too time consuming. Nothing else caught my eye until I started looking at Egyptian dips and spreads, which changed my dinner theme from Moroccan to North African. Du’a (or Dukka) is an intriguing mixture of ground nuts and spices that is used like a dip for bread (new recipe #4) and for my second appetizer I chose an Egyptian Fava Bean Dip (Foul Mudammes) solely because I’ve been obsessed with fava beans lately.

Some of the more traditional Moroccan desserts seemed difficult to make and most of them were deep fried (and couldn’t be made ahead of time). I started thinking about phyllo dough and the nutty, sweet, layers of baklava, and as if to reinforce this choice a few people had randomly told me that it’s quite easy to make. I did more research and discovered that there is an Egyptian version of Baklava, which is similar to the Greek except for the omission of honey and the addition of orange blossom water (new, and final, recipe #6).

Two nights before the party, I’m dripping with melted butter and swearing at the phyllo sheets that refuse to come apart, trying to remember who it was that told me making baklava was easy. I have little patience (or skill) when it comes to making desserts, so choosing to make baklava was a little like playing Russian roulette. After more than three hours of assembly and baking, I pulled the baklava out of the oven. On a whim, I had doubled the amount of nut filling so they were chock-full, but they were gorgeous! In fact, so gorgeous that I didn’t automatically swear off making them ever again, like I usually do.

The night before the party I picked up a beautiful five pound leg of boneless lamb from A&J Meats, which went straight into a Ziploc with the so-simple-to-prepare-I-wonder-if-it’s-any-good marinade. I also assembled the carrot salad so that it could marinate overnight. I wanted to give the salad a face lift, so I hand shredded raw carrots into long strands on my Japanese benriner; they were infinitely prettier than uneven hunks of carrot. I also made quick work of the two dips in my food processor. The Du’a nut mixture was driving me crazy (in a good way) because it was so fragrant while toasting and the fava bean dip barely made it to the party; I couldn’t stop eating it. It was creamy and luscious from the combination of fava beans and olive oil, and the curry tomato flavor was undeniably addictive.

This left the roasting of the lamb and couscous preparation for the day of the party. Unfortunately, the couscous was decidedly more complicated than I ever could have imagined. This was mostly because I don’t own a couscous steamer (a.k.a. a couscousiere) and had to assemble a makeshift one. And by makeshift, I mean really makeshift. The idea is to steam the couscous over flavored water three times, fluffing and separating the grains between each steaming. In order to steam properly, you need a tight seal between your water source and your couscous holder. I took a large pot and fit my largest colander inside. It was a perfect fit, except the colander touched the bottom of the pot. Excellent for boiling, not so good for steaming.

I tried a variety of items to lift up the colander and finally settled on a large biscuit cutter, but this left a huge gap at the top. I had read the proper way to create an airtight seal is to take a tea towel, soak it in a flour and water paste and mold it into place; I did the best I could with foil. This may seem like common sense, but I would like to point out that it’s important to watch the water and make sure it doesn’t boil over. I ended up with a bottom layer of gummy couscous and a stove stained bright yellow from turmeric. Luckily the ruined part of the couscous congealed into a solid mass so it was fairly easy to remove and discard.

The party started off great with the guests bringing a surprising array of cocktails from all around the globe. We had a wonderful twist on a Caipirinha (Brazilian), which was made with cachaça and a mint infused simple syrup. We then moved on to the all-American fuzzy navel. The best cocktail of the night (and maybe closest to being Moroccan) was a concoction of strong brewed mint tea, pomegranate juice, mint simple syrup and vodka. It was incredibly refreshing and the perfect summer drink.

The appetizers were a huge hit—despite the fact that my stove top went out and I couldn’t fry the pita breads. Oddly enough, this was a blessing in disguise because as I waited impatiently for the burner to heat up I realized that the pita breads I had bought the day before were moldy! I happened to have also purchased Lavash flat breads so no one was the wiser.

After cocktail hour we sat down to dinner. The broiled lamb was cooked perfectly and sported a nice brown crust. The lamb was juicy and tender and the flavor was outstanding. None of the marinade ingredients stood out on their own, but blended together they were complex and complimented the lamb. Despite the pains I went through for the couscous, I have to say it was worth it. Steamed couscous is an entirely different animal than boiled couscous. It’s light and fluffy with fully separated grains perfumed with the barest hint of turmeric and coriander. The cold carrot salad had a great crunch and a wonderfully exotic flavor (luckily asafetida tastes much better than it smells). Dessert was easy and delicious, albeit a bit messy. The baklava were flaky, sticky, sweet and fragrant with orange blossoms.

So six for six. Never before have I been able to successfully turn out that many new, untested recipes in one night. And not only did each recipe turn out well individually, but as a whole, the meal came together beautifully. The colors, textures and flavors were well balanced and had enough of a similar thread to tie them all together—and at the same time were unique enough to not be boring. I seem to be saying this after every Hostess Project party, but… this really was the best one yet. Either I’m getting better and better at this Hostess Project thing, or I’m damned lucky. I like to think it’s a little of both.

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005

Virtual 40’s-70’s Party

After completing the book meme that was going around a while ago, Deepfry (from Yum!) and I discovered we both share a love for collecting cookbooks from the 40’s-70’s. We started talking and decided to co-host a virtual party…

If you’d like to participate, here’s the deal:

1. Either host a real party (we’re hosting ours on August 13th) and have your guests bring dishes from the 40’s-70’s OR if you don’t want to host a party, just make a dish from the 40’s-70’s.

2. Photograph your food.

3. Post the photo(s) on your blog by August 15th and email the link to me or Deepfry. If you’re really feeling into it, please also post the recipe and/or a picture of the cookbook you used. If you don’t have a blog but would like to participate, just email us the information and we’ll post it.

Here is some inspiration:

Hope you can join the party!

Update: Don’t forget about the accompanying Does My Blog Look Tacky in This? contest

Thursday, July 21st, 2005

Wild Boar Roast Preview

My wild boar birthday party was a huge success! It’s going to be a future Hostess Project article for August, but here are a few random highlights for now:

  • I picked up the wild boar from Don & Joe’s Meats and was shocked to find it looked nothing like the pig I roasted last year; it, uh, had no skin.
  • The wild boar looked grotesque without any skin, but it was fascinating to see all the muscle groupings and how they fit together. We named him Francis Bacon.
  • I decided not to marinate Francis, but instead soaked him overnight in a vinegar and brown sugar brine.
  • While Francis was not very tender, he was delicious and boar-y tucked inside banh mi sandwiches filled with fresh pickled veggies.
  • People brought a beautiful array of appetizers including summer rolls, chicken and mango in wonton cups, galloping horses and peanuts coated in a coconut candy shell.
  • My brother made Vietnamese iced coffees, which require the cutest little coffee filter contraptions. I’m not a coffee drinker at all, but I couldn’t stop sipping these!
  • The simple syrup drinks were a huge hit, except for the pandan leaf; it was a little weird in the drinks and most people thought it smelled like old gym shoes.
  • The cream puffs I made for dessert were delicious tasting, but for some reason the cream never set up. I served the puffs with a bowl of the lemon-grass cream filling on the side, like a dip.

Oh yeah, and I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on top of all the guests’ coats (and purses and pokey cell phones) during the middle of the party. But maybe that’s not a highlight…

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

2nd Annual Pig Roast Preparations

I’m so excited! Today I ordered a wild boar from Don & Joe’s Meats for my b-day pig roast. I really wanted to order it from Exotic Meats, but they don’t have storage facilities and the idea of defrosting a fifty pound pig in my bathtub sounded, uh, less than appealing.

My plan is to roast the pig like last year, but then chop it up to make banh mi sandwiches. My problem is that I did a trial marinade last week and it turned out really boring—which is weird because it sounded good, but it was practically flavorless! Maybe my proportions were off?

2 stalks lemon grass
1/2 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 T fish sauce (nam pla)
2 T soy sauce
1 T tablespoons rice vinegar
pinch of 5-spice

Any secret (or not so secret) family recipe for a Vietnamese-style marinade would be greatly appreciated. I’m trying to avoid anything with lots of sugar because I’m worried the pig will burn, but aside from that any ingredient is fair game. Please help if you can!


Monday, July 4th, 2005

4th of July BBQ

I was invited to the very lovely home of F & A for the 4th. Little did I know that A had been to cooking school and loves to cook. When I saw that he had made two inch thick T-bone steaks, bbq’d chicken AND hot dogs, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit.

Monday, May 9th, 2005

Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, our family put together yet another amazing potluck feast:

  • Prime rib roast – My dad makes the best roasted meats ever. This one was studded with garlic cloves and slathered in a mustard and soy sauce glaze, then slow roasted until perfectly rare. (Dad, if you’re reading this, I need the recipe.)
  • Salmon – Two fillets of salmon baked with dill and lemons.
  • Popovers – My aunt made these amazing and beautiful popovers and I couldn’t stop eating them. I had three, slathered with butter and jam.
  • Shrimp and strawberry salad – I brought this dish and it’s one of my favorite salads. It’s really sweet and delicate with the strawberries and butter lettuce, but the garlic and mint dressing gives it a great kick. Plus it’s absolutely gorgeous.
  • Asparagus – Perfectly poached and served with mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice.
  • Creamed corn – I forgot to try this as I already had so much on my plate, but it looked delicious.
  • Garlic mashed potatoes – Creamy and garlicky. Mmmmm.
  • Rice crispy treats – My aunt makes these about once a year and I can’t get enough of them.
  • Marionberry pie / Strawberry & rhubarb pie – Mom brought these from Whidbey Pies Café, the makers of the best pies on the planet. I love the dense, seedy texture of the marionberry filling.
  • Vanilla bean ice cream
Saturday, April 2nd, 2005

Asian Fusion

For K’s birthday, she wanted to throw an “Asian fusion” dinner party. I’ve lost track of what that actually means, but for this party it meant a Chinese and Japanese potluck. K was looking for a good rib recipe. I told her she had to make my uncle’s amazing Chinese-style ribs and I offered to help cook.

The night before the party I helped her marinate the ribs and make Scallop Dumplings with Garlic Chives and Pork Dumplings. I haven’t made dumplings before so it took me a while to catch on, but by the end of the night, my dumplings were almost pretty. (I found this handy guide after the fact.)

Everyone was asked to bring something that went with the Chinese / Japanese theme and we ended up with a wonderful feast:

  • Smoked salmon and veggie sushi – The rolls were gorgeous and I couldn’t believe that N had made them. They were light and delicious.
  • Vegetarian gyoza and veal gyoza – A had made these the night before and pan-fried them at the party. They were served with a spicy oil sauce. The vegetarian gyoza were good, but the veal ones were amazing.
  • Scallop dumplings with garlic chives – We heated these in a bamboo steamer and they were fantastic—the garlic chives added so much flavor. We served them with soy sauce mixed with a few drops of hot chili oil, minced ginger and chopped scallions.
  • Steamed pork dumplings – These were good, but paled in comparison to the veal gyoza.
  • Pickled baby octopus (from Uwajimaya) – Bright red and too cute to eat, but I tried one anyway. Uh, ick.
  • Pickled shiso (from Uwajimaya) – This rocked my world and normally I don’t even like shiso. I need to figure out how to make it.
  • Quick pickled daikon – Zach made the pickled daikon in my new pickle press. It was very good, although I missed the crunch that comes from pickling a long time.
  • Pickled baby cucumbers with a sesame seed paste – Zach made this as well and it’s SO good. I need the recipe to so I can post it.
  • Fried soft-shell crab salad – The salad was good, but the crabs seemed a little watery.
  • Chinese long beans – I made these after having way too many drinks, but they were surprisingly good. I pan fried them in peanut oil and then threw in some sake and let them steam. Then I topped them with a little soy, hot chili oil and sesame seed oil.
  • Steamed rice – I totally forgot to serve the rice.
  • Ribs – By the time I served these we were all stuffed, but they were so good that everyone managed to eat at least two or three.

B made his signature drink, called a Sneaky Steve. The crowning touch was a single Kasugai Muscat Gummy that was deposited in each drink. By the time you were done with the drink the gummy was extra soft and had soaked up the vodka. Delicious!

For dessert K had requested a fresh fruit and whipped cream cake from Sweet & Fresh Bakery. This is one of my all-time favorite cakes.