Sunday, July 8, 2007

Getting It Out

I have entertained three times in two weeks. The first was a simple snack tray and dessert for a family meeting I hosted. I love to cook. I love to make people happy with food. I suck at preparing my home for guests.

I work in advertising and as of late, the work has been stressful and the days long. The more I get up and dread going to work, the more I know I'd rather be doing something with food, but that's another post. I am so tired when I come home, usually around 7 or later, the best I can manage is microwaving and falling asleep a few hours later. Needless to say, I cook for myself on Sunday and eat leftovers for lunch and dinner until the weekend. I now understand the birth of convenience foods.

On Saturdays, I wake up to a full dishwasher (never emptied it from Sunday night) and a week's worth of lunch containers and breakfast and dinner plates -- all rinsed, but not clean. Then there's the dusting and sweeping (hardwood floors). By the time I'm done with the weekly cleaning, I'm pressed for time for the cooking part! This is a guranteed occurance every time I invite guests over.

Family Meeting
The food was great. I made mint tea, hummus, pita chips and a lemon and pine nut tart. The platter was colorful (I added tomatoes, olives, feta, sliced yellow pepper and broccoli), but it didn't look professional. I still struggle with that. The tart was the most difficult. Pie dough defeats me every time, but I refuse to give up!

Supper Club
A few co-workers decided to create a supper club. I volunteered to host the first. We have 10 in the club, but only four were able to attend. I like the smaller number better. I had a pretty ambitious New Orleans menu:

  • Hurricanes

  • Seafood gumbo

  • Roasted sweet potatoes

  • Sauteed greens

  • Shrimp etoufee

  • Bread pudding w/ whisky sauce

  • Coffee and chickory

Everything was very flavorful and good, with the exception of the greens. They didn't have enough garlic or acid. They were just too bland. Lesson learned because I prepared these once the guests arrived, so I didn't give them my full attention. Next time, I will be more careful.

I just loved serving everything in courses. (This reminded me I needed to purchase some chargers.) I even used my real napkins. We had a lot of fun, in part because we drank hurricanes for two hours straight. I can't wait until the next one. The next host is thinking of Thai-Caribbean fusion ...

Visit From Best Friend
One of my best friends came to town for her husband's family reunion. Her two-year-old and teenager were also in tow. Because the nine hour drive took 13 hours, I took my time cleaning and cooking. (I even cleaned the baseboards.) I roasted a whole chicken on a broiler pan with seasoned potatoes underneath. The chicken was a bit complicated, but worth the trouble. I placed aromatics in the cavity, a compund butter under the skin and rubbed the outside of the skin with oil. (Kudos Cooks Illustrated) I sprinked salt, pepper and poultry seasoning on the outside. I sauteed frozen corn with shallot, turkey bacon, butter and sage. I steamed broccoli and tossed it with olive oil flavored with garlic, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Everyone had seconds!

I had a good kitchen helper. My friend's daughter just discovered cooking. She liked to chop and slice and she minded the broccoli. I shared some knife skills and let her practice on some celery. I really enjoy teaching people about the kitchen.

They were kind enough to wash the dishes. My next charge was to make the chocolate cake as requested by my friend. It was hard! It was midnight before we let the cakes cooled. That was a really involved recipe (thanks Cooks Illustrated)! Man, it was good. I goofed and left out 1/3 of the flour and it was still good. The frosting is difficult. I might attempt that today, although I've already sliced into the cake!

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