Sunday, April 20, 2008

Party time

So a couple of weeks ago, we hosted a little party for the people in Jess' office. I was going to blog about it after my "Tired!" post but gardening kept getting in the way. So, I'll talk a little bit about it now.

We decided that we wouldn't do as much cooking for this event as we had for past events, and we narrowed it down to a few things I would make and then we would supplement that with frozen appetizers that could be heated and served on the spot. The Trivection oven makes that a snap, and cuts the baking time for most of those items to about 6-7 minutes (20 minutes in a conventional oven) so I just thought that would be perfect. I was so sure that this would be an easy party that I didn't hire a helper to heat and serve food and mix drinks so I could enjoy it.

At any rate, we decided the menu would consist of several appetizers, a 'mid-way' dish, and a dessert. Our appetizers were a made-from-scratch seven-layer dip; orange chicken; florentine and lorraine mini-quiches; chicken taquitos served with a sour cream and sweet corn relish dip; and chips with assorted salsas. Our mid-way dish was Penne Bolognese; and our dessert was a four layer chocolate cake, which you saw the construction of in the prior post.

I made up a gallon of hand-squeezed Margaritas to have on hand. Since I am also a good bartender, I usually custom-make other drinks for guests, but without having disposable barware on hand, we wound up with a ton of glasses to wash after the party. That was dopey. But I got rave reviews on my pear martinis and mojitos.

Jess did a major job of house cleaning while I was prepping food. Thank god, because that was a big job. Mail had to be sorted and tossed, carpets shampooed and vacuumed, floors vacuumed, bathrooms cleaned.

The seven-layer dip was quite a production. I don't like most recipes for seven-layer dips; people have produced so many shortcuts to the original idea that most aren't that great. I wanted mine to be hearty and taste very fresh, so I went the hard way. It would take more than two hours start to finish. But oh, my, was it good.

Making the guacamole (my favorite ingredient) took eight avocados, along with lime juice, onions, chopped garlic, scallions, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, and salt. I usually add some diced tomato, but didn't since seven-layer dip has a layer of tomatoes and it would be redundant.

So here's the start of the dip:


I began making the guacamole. Eight avocados were cut up in the bowl and covered with lime juice, but not mashed. I like my guac chunky!



Adding the onions, garlic, chili powder and cumin...



...and finally, the jalapeno, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.



Okay, I only have so much time, so I'll cut to the chase and show the finished product. Layer 1 is refried black beans, to which I added chili powder, cumin, salt, and cilantro. Once they were delicious, they were spread on the bottom of the 9x13" pyrex. Layer two was one lb. ground beef which I seasoned with my from-scratch taco seasoning. Layer three was 1 lb. Kraft Mexican Four-Cheese blend with taco seasonings. Layer four was 24 ozs. of sour cream. Layer 5 was thinly sliced lettuce. Layer 6 was cherry tomatoes which had been sliced in half. I use cherry tomatoes or Campari® small tomatoes during when home-grown tomatoes aren't available. They come a lot closer to real tomato taste than the cardboard-flavored full-sized tomatoes. Layer 7 was 4 chopped scallions.



Here's the finished chocolate cake, which was sinfully rich. I cut it into 20 slices, that's how rich it was. I served it with ice cream, because to eat it on its own was just too much.

The food all turned out terrific, but man, oh, man, I will never have another party like that without help! I was so busy mixing drinks and coordinating the continuous supply of food that I didn't get too much time to enjoy the party. Fortunately, some people hung out in the kitchen and chatted with me so that I got to enjoy the company even if I couldn't join the party.

Pear Martini
3 parts Ketel One® vodka
2 parts Mathilde® Pear Liqueur
2 parts Hero® Pear Nectar
1 part pineapple juice

Fill shaker 1/3 way with crushed ice. Mix and pour ingredients over ice, cover and shake well. Pour into martini glasses and garnish with a mint spring, ripe pear slice, or fresh pineapple chunk.

(Hero brand pear nectar is the absolute best. Kern's will work, but you will need to use three parts, since it is much more diluted)

Guacamole
Serves 2-4

3 ripe avocadoes (no brown in inner flesh!)
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. finely diced white or red onion
1 Tbsp. cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 scallion, chopped, including green parts (don't use wilted parts)
1 large clove garlic, minced finely
1 jalapeno pepper, (remove ribs and seeds) diced finely
1 Campari® tomato, diced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Make a lengthwise cut in each avocado, starting at the stem cap and going to the bottom of the fruit and up the back in the same way, ending at the stem cap. You will slice around the pit. Holding the avocado horizontally in one hand, gently twist the sliced avocado apart with the other hand. Carefully but firmly sink your knife into the pit and twist to remove. Make three diagonal cuts on each half, then make three diagonal cross-cuts. Use a serving spoon along the inside of the skin to scoop out the fruit, and you will have perfect chunks. Pour the lime juice over the chunks; sprinkle the cumin, chili powder and garlic powder evenly over the chunks and then add the remaining ingredients. Fold ingredients in gently with a spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. It's now ready to serve, but you can use a fork to continue to blend if you like it smoother.


NOTE: The writer cannot be responsible for your cutlery prowess or the sharpness of your knives, both of which are highly important! You should only use this cutting method if you are a seasoned professional with a knife. I also never use garlic from a jar in guacamole - it's wrong! I add the powdered garlic to give it another layer of flavor.

4 Comments:

At 1:55 PM, April 20, 2008, Blogger Jess said...

It was a fabulous party, like only you can do!

 
At 1:34 AM, April 23, 2008, Blogger Cooper said...

OMG ...I am salivating! That seven layer dish is the most beautiful looking one I have ever seen. As for the cake, words fail me. Totally luscious! You're a treasure, Marc.

 
At 7:54 PM, April 23, 2008, Blogger Dantallion said...

Is there anything you can't do? Thanks for the guac recipe (I absolutely love guac) - I can't wait to try it!

 
At 9:18 PM, April 23, 2008, Blogger Marc said...

Coop - *blush*

Dan, I hope you try it - we love it.

 

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