(cross-posted to food_porn
Yesterday, we had telerib
over for a cookout, mosquito-fest (I'm so sorry, telerib
, we didn't know. Neither one of us gets bitten), and Scary Music War.
The menu had to be carefully chosen so that (a) I wouldn't wind up spending a lot of prime visiting time in the kitchen, and (b) the house wouldn't become unhospitably hot from stove use. Here's what I came up with:The Menu:
Havarti dill and horseradish cheddar cheeses, with assorted crackers
Anchor Steam and McHenry beers
Grilled marinated salmon with tropical fruit salsa
Summer couscous salad
Tossed salad with parmesan-honey-lime dressing
Fat Bastard chardonnayDenver chocolate pudding
with vanilla ice cream
Coffee and teaThe Preparation:
All the cooking happened in advance except for grilling the salmon and making the salad dressing. Oh, and the cheese tray. I would've just dumped slabs of cheese onto the tray and given our guests knives to help themselves, but curiousangel
made a nice little display of sliced cheesy goodness. Maybe he was nervous about trusting me with a knife around a Republican guest, or maybe it's just his superior aesthetic sense.
A couple of hours before the guests arrived, I cut a massive two-pound salmon filet in two and set it to marinate in a half-cup of olive oil, two or three tablespoons of lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and lots of minced garlic.
I took a little of the leftover garlic and put it in a bowl with a cup of dried couscous. I poured a cup and a half of water over the couscous, covered the bowl with foil, and left it to reconstitute while I chopped up some baby carrots and red bell pepper into a tiny dice - about a half-cup's worth. In a small bowl I mixed more olive oil (about a quarter cup), a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, some parsley, salt, and pepper. By that time the couscous had soaked up all the water, so I stirred in the diced vegetables and the dressing, recovered it, and put it in the fridge to chill.
I made the tropical fruit salsa for the fish: one barely-ripe mango, an eight-ounce can of pineapple chunks in natural juice (drained), and half a red pepper, all diced and seasoned with a splash of white vinegar, some crushed hot pepper flakes, and just enough sugar to take the edge off the tartness.
The tossed salad was easy: a bag of precut mixed salad greens, a sliced cucumber, a sliced tomato. (The dressing had a minced clove of garlic, yet more olive oil, some lime juice, salt, honey, and some grated parmesan. It was still a little too tart - the dressing recipe needs work, which isn't surprising given that I threw it together at the last minute.)
I also made the Denver chocolate pudding and popped it into the oven. It wound up way underdone - the same thing happened last time I made Denver pudding, but doesn't happen to baked goods in general with this oven. I'm not sure what's going wrong. Maybe the oven does run cool, and I only notice it more with Denver pudding because it's so hard to tell when it's done.
Then the guests arrived, and I was done cooking until it was time to grill the salmon over a charcoal fire. We sat in the courtyard drinking beer and demolishing the cheese tray, and then moved inside for the main course and dessert after I grilled the fish.The Analysis:
The only thing I would change, if I had it to do over, is the vegetable dish. I think I ended up with one
too many sharp-citrusy flavors - something softer and creamier would have been better. Maybe asparagus with herbed mayonnaise, or something.
This is the most I've ever had done in advance for a dinner party, and I loved it. I really enjoyed being able to hang out in the yard, drinking beer and chatting, instead of running back and forth to the kitchen. It was also good that the house had a chance to cool off before we ate - the dining temperature was much more comfortable than it would have been if we'd eaten right after I prepared a cooked meal.
The whole thing was a lot of fun. I want to entertain more.