Friday, August 27, 2010

bridal hearts aflutter & honey butter

Entertaining and party-hosting can be tricky business.

Whenever I'm flying solo entertaining for a large party, I believe it is integral to make no-fuss dishes that are perfectly delectable awaiting the first guest that walks through the door.

Who has time when you're all glammed up to be searing meat, finishing sauces or perfecting a delicate dessert? Not I.

A simple tip when composing a last minute dish for an event is to
judge your audience.
With close family, "throwing together" a last minute ravioli dish could be an unspoken invitation to gather 'round, sparkling cocktail and all, for some Pasta 101.
A quaint affair for foodie friends last winter turned into an impromtu rustic dinner at my tiny abode.

On the menu: Leek Risotto with Mascarpone and Marjoram that I casually prepared with a glass of vino in one hand and a wooden spooon in the other while chatting with guests. Oversized charred baguette crostinis with gruyere stayed warm in the oven and were dunked in risotto bowls right before serving.

A past holiday party for 30 with family and friends was to designed to be "hands-free" for me by mixing supermarket shortcuts with made-from-scratch comfort foods.

On the menu:

Cheese Board with Honeycomb and Fresh Berries
Assembly only, honey!

Fig Jam with Cream Cheese and Black Pepper Crackers
All found on the shelves of your favorite market.

Chilled Boiled Shrimp
Homemade Cocktail and Spicy Honey Mustard
All kept chilled until just before guests arrived.

Roasted Poblano Yellow Corn Grits
Prepared and simmering with a wooden spoon in a large, alabaster Dutch oven perfect for self-service.

Roasted Tomatoes with Rosemary, Sage and Garlic Cloves
Roasted ahead and kept warm in the oven.

Pork and Sweet Corn Tamales
Local, purchased tamales steamed and kept warm until guests arrived.
Invited to a backyard barbeque? Go chilled. Panzanella, macerated fruits, spiced dips or ceviche would all be pleasing baked bean alternatives. I doubt an eagerness to reheat food in these sweltering temperatures, anyway.

On the other hand, when a group of long-lost sorority friends and champagne is involved, assembly-only preparations would definitely be the ideal option. This August, I co-hosted a Bridal Shower for my gorgeous friend Lacey complete with:

piping-hot hazelnut coffee,
whimsical umbrellas,
foaming champagne punch,

clever wedding-themed loaded questions,
bright butterfly cakes,
and camaraderie with sweet friends.

I eagerly volunteered to contribute food and designed my menu to be assembly-friendly and perfectly tasty served room temperature or cold. I also used seasonal and local influences when pairing flavors
(as I always strive to do).

My charming shower menu was:

Aged Chorizo Corn Muffins with Manchego
(photo courtesy of Lauren Williams)

Makes 12 large muffins.

1 c corn meal
(I used Lamb's Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal from Converse, Texas)
1 c AP flour
1 t salt
2 eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 t baking powder
2 T sugar
1 c whole milk
1/2 c aged Spanish chorizo, small diced*
1/4 c manchego cheese (6 month aged), grated*

*reserve additional for garnish if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl and toss with chorizo and manchego. Combine all wet ingredients in another bowl. Combine dry and wet ingredients until just mixed. Using an ice cream scoop, divide equal batter portions amongst muffin pan, about 3/4 full.

Bake approximately 12 minutes until slightly browned and firm to the touch. Set on a cooling rack.

Whipped Honey Butter

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
6 T honey (I used local Weatherford honey)
1/4 t kosher salt
Sprinkle of ground cardamom

Whip ingredients together in a food processor or with a spatula. Transfer to serving container of choice. Garnish with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of ground cardamom. Chill to harden then pull an hour before meal service to soften for spreading.

Nectarine, Bocconcini and Basil Skewers with a Balsamic Reduction (photo courtesy of Lauren Williams)

Makes approximately 20 skewers.

1 nectarine, sliced to wedges then halved
1 container cherry-sized bocconcini (fresh mozzarella)
20 fresh basil leaves, sliced in half (approximately 1 bunch)
1 cup fine balsamic vinegar
20 small wooden skewers

Reduce balsamic over medium heat in a small saucepan approximately 10-15 minutes until reduced to a syrup consistency. Meanwhile, assemble skewers beginning with basil, bocconcini, then nectarine to finish.
Cool balsamic reduction then transfer to a squirt bottle. Right before serving, drizzle reduction atop skewers with squirt bottle or a spoon.

Heirloom and Local Tomato Salad with Avocado, Fleur de Sel and Sunflower Oil

The trick to this salad is perfectly ripe ingredients and just-right seasoning. I chose sunflower oil for its delicate flavor careful not to overwhelm the tomatoes. Avocados add the perfect buttery addition and fleur de sel melts right in.

On a large platter, I arranged:
heirloom tomatoes (red and yellow with bursts of pink),
local yellow plums,
assorted cherries,
perfectly-ripe avocado,
fresh-cracked pepper,
fleur de sel
and a drizzle of sunflower oil.

Serve room temperature or slightly chilled for optimal flavors.

Roasted Hatch Chile Chicken Salad with Toasted Almonds
(photo courtesy of Lauren Williams)

Simply roasted boneless, skinless chicken breasts are pulled then combined with diced, roasted hatch chiles, fresh jalapeno, celery, red onion, fresh cilantro, fine mayonnaise, kosher salt, dried pineapple and toasted almonds.

Serve chilled in a pretty bowl garnished with fresh cilantro and toasted almonds.

The right-before-party prep was simple:

Warm foil-wrapped muffins in the oven, bring butter to room temperature, slice avocados and assemble platters.
Easy as pie!

1 comment:

L A C E Y said...

love it!!!!!!!! :))))