This past Saturday I catered a 13 person event. This seems less impressive when it’s revealed that it was for a group of principles, one of whom was my mom, and the dinner was at my house. Nevertheless, I did do almost all of the cooking for it. I say almost because my Dad is somewhat of a gourmet chef himself and he was keen on doing something on the BBQ. We started planning about a week in advance, trying to figure out a menu. For a while we were set on ribs. Big racks of ribs. Racks of wonderfully sticky, tender, fall off the bone ribs. Then my Mom questioned our menu choice, commenting on how messy ribs were. That was enough to banish them from the menu and result in my Dad making daily remarks about how good ribs were, how much he wanted ribs and how everyone was doing ribs but us, (and by everyone he was referring to Rob Rainford and Bobby Flay… you can’t beat the FoodNetwork), but fine, if Mom didn’t want ribs, there would be NO ribs. Instead, pork loin was decided upon as a suitable alternative, with chicken for those who didn’t want pork, (3 pork loins and 6 pounds of chicken to be precise, go big or go home). The final menu was as follows:
Appetizers: Sausage, cheese and almond puffs, shrimp cold rolls.
Main: BBQ’d pork loin and chicken. Honey mustard potato salad and a romaine salad with veggies to accompany.
Dessert: Peach rhubarb pie and rhubarb pie with brown sugar, sour cream and oatmeal crumble toppings.
But of course, the pork and chicken couldn’t all be done the same, and plain old bbq sauce was not going to cut it. My Dad bbqs all year round. You want a steak in January when it’s minus 20 degrees out? We do it up right, on the bbq. This meant I had to come up with a few different marinades. I’ve been wanting to try making jerk chicken for a while, so now was the time. 16 ingredients and a food processor later, I had my jerk sauce. I am sorry to say however, that I had to wuss out on the heat factor, including the scotch bonnet peppers because apparently not everyone can handle spicey. Seeing as though this was not my party, I figured I had better try to please the masses, (this also led to deciding on the title of a future blog- It’s my party and I’ll spice if I want to). The end result was a sauce that was quite good in all respects, very flavourful, but I couldn’t really call it jerk sauce. It went over well with the principles though, and I guess that’s all that matters. I also whipped up some “magic dust” for a dry rub on one of the pork loins, courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine, (along with Gourmet magazine, my literary equivalent of the FoodNetwork). The magic dust also had a fairly lengthy ingredient list, including paprika, dry mustard, and sugar among others. Finally, for those fearing intense flavour, a marinade of roasted tomatoes was doused on some chicken. All of this was put on the night before, to give plenty of time for the marinades and meat to become good friends. Same deal for the potato salad, it always tastes better the next day. Saturday I made pies in the morning, with rhubarb from our garden, (because like Chef at Home always says, using ingredients that are in season is the secret to great food). No matter how many times I make pie crust, it always seems to turn out differently. The odds of it turning out just the way I want it to are slightly better than winning the lottery. Luck was on my side Saturday and I was fairly happy with the result, (no dice on the lottery ticket, I accept donations…). Finishing the pies early gave me enough time to go into town and buy a new bike. My previous one was 13 years old and made from leftover parts of my brother’s bikes, I deserved a new bike… But I digress. The afternoon was devoted to appetizers. I’ve made sausage, cheese and almonds puffs quite a few times, they’re always a hit and they’re easy to make, done. What took hours, literally, were the shrimp cold rolls which consisted of shrimp, mango, red pepper, bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, green onions and carrots rolled up in a rice paper wrapper. I started by chopping everything up and setting it out like an assembly line. Then the rice papers needed to be soaked in water to soften them, but before being able to roll them I had to dry them off enough that everything didn’t just slide out. This was an exercise to test my patience. I would have probably quit much earlier, but the principles started to arrive and this gave me an excuse to stay in the kitchen instead of having to socialize. I’m happy to cook for them but that’s where my part of the hospitality ends.
The evening on the whole was a success and of course there were leftovers, because like I said, go big or go home and we went big. This meant Sunday night was a repeat of Saturday, minus the principles and with the addition of my parents’ friends the Quiggies. It’s Mr. Quiggies birthday later this week and as he’s quite fond of chocolate I made a chocolate layer cake with strawberries and maple whipped cream.
I got the recipe out of a cocoa cookbook and the method was just weird. There was no butter/margarine/shortening, only a tablespoon of oil and the eggs were supposed to be beat in 1 by 1 after the flour and dry ingredients had been added. Well by the time I had added all of the flour I had a big clump of batter, thicker than any cookie dough. For those of you who aren’t in the habit of making cakes, this is not the way your batter should be, ever. My electric beaters were not prepared to handle this and the process of beating in the eggs, individually was a difficult one to say the least, peppered with curses and lots of spatula work, (or was it spatula work and lots of curses?). Eventually I ended up with a batter that resembled a fudgey brownie consistency (and tasted much the same, as my repeated sampling confirmed) which I poured into the cake pans, popped in the oven and hoped for the best. I then sat down to “clean” out the bowl… Much to my amazement, the cakes rose and the process of putting it together with strawberries and maple syrup whipped cream went along just swimmingly. Another success!
My dad is still complaining about the lack of ribs.