Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2007 Wrap up...

Christmas Party Menu

Shot of Eggnog apon arrival

“Dippy Things”:
Tuscan White bean Dip with Roasted Garlic
Green Olive Tapanade
Black Mission Fig and Kalmata Olive Tapenade
Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade
Homemade breadstick, crackers & crudite (for the diippy things)

Cheese platter with Dried Fruits and Nuts
Selection of Artisinal Breads

“Pick-up Things”:
Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Marcona Almonds
Truffled Chicken liver pate on Crostini
Roasted Tiger Prawns Marinated in Pesto and Parmesan and Wrapped in Proscutto
Tapas Style Meatballs
Stilton & Walnut Salad on Endive Leaves
Mini Turkey Sandwiches with Cranberry Bourbon Relish on Rye Crostini
Mini Panko Crusted Crab Cakes with Smoked Paprika Aioli
Pigs in Blankets with Homemade Ketchup and Spicy Mustard

“Sweet Things”:
Pistachio and Orange Flower Baklava
Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies
Cinnamon Biscotti

It was a hectic week of preparation for the X’s Christmas party. I was told the head count would be around 120, but having cooked for the X’s all summer long, I knew better and prepared for 200. Which, of course, was much closer to the actual turnout.

I had a slave in the kitchen for the week. An 18 year old kid that cooks at a local restaurant and is delusional enough to think he wants to be a professional chef. I’m not sure how encouraging I was as I repeatedly hounded him about the importance of working neat and clean, knit-picked over his knife skills and even tossed out some prep when it wasn’t up to snuff and told him to start over. Ah, yes, I’d forgotten how nice it was to have help in the kitchen. I can’t wait to have a sous-chef on the yacht…

Sadly, my sprout experiment that I had started didn’t quite survive the maelstrom of activity that week. The Orchid Room was a bit too dry and with all of the prep I had to do, I let the sprouts go un-watered for one day and the little sprouting tails on my seedlings quickly dried out and withered. But, I will have planting boxes in the window of the galley so I’ll try again another day…

One of my favorite projects for the party was to make sourdough breadsticks from the starter that I began last August. Tucked away in the fridge in the for the past five months I was unsure and a tad skeptical as to whether my little yeasty monster could be brought back to life from its chilly hibernation. I removed the dormant starter from the refrigerator, it had separated into a thick white paste with a pungent smelling, tea-colored liquid floating on top. But, besides the dark liquid, there was no mold and despite the pungent odor, it wasn’t entirely offensive. When the starter came to room temperature I gave it a stir to make a homogenized, white paste and added equal parts bread flour and warm water to match the existing starters weight. Within hours it awoke and became a bubbling, foaming mass. It still worked! Yeah! The breadstick recipe called for nearly 2-pounds of starter, so I fed my starter equal parts flour and water, matching its weight, 2 times a day for 3 days until I had more than enough to work with. Active and bubbly from it’s twice daily feedings, it had a strong, tangy aroma and was ready to be used…

Following Nancy Silverton’s recipe for Italian Breadsticks, I mixed and proofed my dough and piled it onto a well-floured counter into a soft, loose mound. It spread out into a loose, gelatinous blob. Using a metal pastry scraper I began cutting the dough into thin strips. It was very soft and delicate to handle. Gently rolling each strip to round out the edges, I placed them on a baking sheet and baked the breadsticks until they were a pail golden brown, then I brushed of the excess flour, brushed them with olive oil and Maldon sea salt and put them back in the oven until they were a deep golden brown. The kitchen filled with a toasty sourdough aroma as I pulled and replaced tray after tray from the oven. Mrs. X drifted into the kitchen as if lead by her nose. “Mmmm, Cookie, are these ready?”, “sure Mrs. X”. She bit into and all she could say was, “mmmmmmmmmmm. Can I have another?” and she at one more. “This one looks imperfect too, I really think I need to eat it”. “No problem Mrs. X, but I need some for the party”, “ok, just one more. I swear” she said as she walked out of the room munching a breadstick and with one more in her hand... I took a breadstick to try as well. It shattered in my mouth into light, crisp, shards. First the sourdough, then the crunch of salt and olive oil ambushed my taste buds. Perfection, I don’t think I will ever be able to enjoy a box of store bought grosini again. Mrs. X returned, “ok, maybe just one more?” Between the two of us, I think we devoured a dozen breadsticks. The homemade breadsticks were all different lengths and had little imperfections about their appearance; bubbles, and “spurs” and twists. They looked fun too. We stood them up in tall glasses all around the horsdeouvre table.

The truffled chicken tourine was another great treat to make, and extremely simple. I minced about 2 cups shallots and 3 cloves of garlic and sweated them together in a large saute pan with copious amounts of butter. When they were soft, I deglazed the pan with brandy and added allspice, black pepper, thyme and marjoram. Then I added 2 pounds of chicken livers which I sautéed just until they were barely cooked, but still pink in the middle. I placed the warm mixture in the food processor with 1 cup of the white truffle cream that my boss had given me and pureed everything together, adjusted the seasoning and then poured it into small ceramic bowls. I decorated the tops with herb leaves and a thin layer of clarified butter to prevent the tourine from turning an unsightly grey.

At 6pm as the guests began to arrive, the valets took their cars, their jackets were hung and they were greeted with a tall, skinny shot glass of brandied egg-nog. I rushed to fill the table with all that I had been preparing for the previous four days. Mr. X got his pigs in blankets and the guests did a formidable job of devouring almost everything…

The next day was the day before Christmas Eve ,a massive snow storm was predicted for that part of the Midwest. I had a flight out at 6am and between cleaning up after the party and packing my bags I had about an hour of shuteye before my taxi arrived and I was heading home…

I actually made another visit to the yacht right after New Years. The frames are in for the cabinetry in the galley and I can really see the progress. The hull is being sanded and painted now --- and in no time at all, she’ll be in the water….

I won’t be needed again until Mid-March and Mr. & Mrs. X have given me strict instructions to “get lost” and an “education budget” for which to get lost with. And so, I’m writing this blog as I kill time on my 18-hour flight to Bangkok, Thailand. My cooking lessons begin in two days in Phuket….

I think it’s going to be a good year…

1 comment:

prcrstn8 said...

Gawd, I miss it when you don't post for a month at a time. More, please. More!

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