Monday, March 29, 2010

AFMFL #7: Cold War Spy Dinner

Ok, so the grand-ass plans for this dinner involving sealed secret fake passports distributed to guests upon arrival, the staged intrigue game like atmosphere all night and the revealing of the "which side of the iron curtain are you from" at the end............well, they were just grand ideas.  What we did get, was a great night of food with two "eastern block" dishes along side to decidedly western dishes.  A Sunday evening of gluttony, and a wonderful way to say au revoir to our dear friend Joyce whom after months of spoiling us in Bangkok with her lovely presence has had to leave the Kindom of Smiles for the colder and less sanook lands of Taiwan and beyond.

And let the food begin.  Drumroll please......  From the West we started off with just about the most American starters there is:  the CHEESE LOG.  Three different kinds of cheese including good ole "american" white cheese along with edam and also some grated italian stink cheese courtesy of Tommy just in from Rome.  Then covered in dill and cilantro and served with fresh out of the oven baked bread.  Yes.  We all approved.

Moving onto the east we had an AMAZING (in my humble opinion) borscht from Poland called "ChÅ‚odnik" which was cold and without meat but with minced freshly boiled shrimp meat.  I could eat it every day.  Very different flavors going on there.  And the brightest most in your face purple you've ever seen thanks to the beets.

Onwards to the main course from the west, the 3 kilos of LONDON BROIL that were served up to the carnivores of the bunch.  PS - that's a LOT of meat, people.  Very simple almost orthodox (garlic, salt, pepper) and under the supervision of Craig these bad ass slabs of bovine breast were still moo-ing as they jumped off the blood soaked cutting board onto the diners plates.  I obstained from the carnage, but others seemed to love it.  

The east also had a "sleeper cell" favorite (Roger liked it the most) of Cuban beans.  We substituted kidneys for black beans since we didn't put them on to soak in time, but the salt pork seemed to make up for it.  No pics sadly, and we have only the savory fog of memories in our stomachs.

Thanks to everyone who made the evening another success in the project:  Joyce, Craig, Joe, Dale, Julia and Tommy.  Good times.

Oh and one last, shall we say low point of the evening.  What was supposed to be the "tie-breaker" giving the west the decided advantage:  A JELLO MOLD.  Too bad I didn't line the bowl or give it enough time to set up, which resulted in an ABJECT JELLO FAIL.  Still tasted good, sorta, if you didn't mind slimey goo.

Thanks again for Joyce for taking the pictures as I was too busy getting drunk, I mean cooking, to be bothered with archiving the event.  :)

AFMFL #6: Breakfast for Dinner (from Joyce's camera)

Just thought you might like some better shots of the sheer amounts of butter, grease, bacon and other heart failure inducing treats we enjoyed during the recent "Breakfast for Dinner" night.  Thanks to Joyce for the shots.  :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

AFMFL #6: Breakfast for Dinner

Yes, as we get behind in the marathon of gluttony, sometimes we look for ways to cut corners and to do easy things.  Well you know what?  Sometimes it's worth it.  Just to take seemingly mundane things to the extreme levels that make them rise above the every day.

It had been three weeks since I had done a dinner and my dear friend Tommy was in visiting from Rome, where he lives.  I wanted to throw two dinners together in one weekend to maximize the amount of times he could attend during his trip.  We had lined out the theme for the Sunday night dinner, but then we couldn't think up anything for the Saturday one, even though it was already Saturday afternoon.  

And so I had to put my southern foot down.  It's time like these that call for Breakfast for Dinner.  Good, down home, old fashioned greasy southern breakfast served up in the evening which makes it somehow taste even better.  So that I could get the dinner to "count" as one of the project dinners I had to use at least one recipe from the NY Times Cookbook.  Being a southern gentleman himself I thought Craig Claibourne would fail me not.  I chose a simple buttermilk biscuit recipe.  It actually was the least tasty thing of the whole damn dinner!  Hard and flat.  Damn you, Craig!  What were you a-thinkin', cuz your recipe for buttermilk biscuits ain't a-workin'!  (pause while the culinary ghost stirs from the grave to curse me and my ancestors).

 On the first day God said "Let there be light."  Well I feel pretty sure that on the second day he said "Let there be bacon."  Or at least he should have.  You just can't go wrong with bacon as a crowd pleaser.  I mean, I don't eat it.  I haven't eaten "meat" per se in over 21 years, but I've never been strict, liberally using broth and--as we shall see here--grease with abandon to make other stuff taste good.  After all, what southern kitchen is complete without a ceramic or glass jar of bacon drippings in the fridge?  It does after all make the BEST gravy.  Also a cast iron skillet (my very own courtesy of the folks over at LODGE) is indispensable too.  Biscuits and gravy just taste too good for words.  And NO.  I don't mean British "biscuits" which are essentially what us Americans would call "cookies".  These are flaky scone like creations that beg for butter and greasy stuff to smother them.  

The hashbrowns were frozen out of the bag.  Yes, I suck.  I know.  I cut corners.  But damn it, sometimes you have to.  When I realized in horror that I was out of cooking oil, I assessed my options.  When suggesting that we could use butter to fry I honestly thought some people's jaw would hit the floor hard enough to dent the wood.  But when Davina agreed that this was an option--and I might add here that she is a professionally trained chef, ladies and gentlemen--I knew I had something good in mind.  So I melted two cups of butter and let the hash browns swim around in the clarified lake of yellow dairy love until they were so golden you almost couldn't look at them directly, as if they had become a solar eclipse.  DAMN THEY WERE GOOD.  I mean DAMN.  I am determined to fry more things in butter.  Just the evilness of it is tempting in an of itself.  :)  Do it people.  Go forth and use butter.

And I might mention that all the dinners this weekend were free form affairs.  Grab a plate and gather round the kitchen, taking things off the stove as they become ready.  So much for the stuffyness of a sit down meal.  The food itself in this case dictated such.  It wasn't "high Southern".  It was most definitely "low Southern" and therefore I chose accordingly. 

Oh and so I could feel like I was participating I had bought some veggie bacon.  But since I was out to prove that I wasn't scared and rules were meant to be broken........I fried it in the leftover bacon grease.  Oh yeah, that's right.  Can't say it was that bad.  

Some sort of weird garlic and something german sausage was purchased as well and promptly fried up.  I gotta be honest, I really should have been some Jimmy Dean Country Sausage which comes in a roll or premade patties, but they alas do not offer this to my knowledge in Bangkok.  So it was some high brow german stuff.  Took a bit longer to brown and didn't make as much grease (can you see that I judge meat by the amount of grease they make with more being good?).

Tommy had brought me some amazing cheese from Italy, a "stinker" as he called it.  And so I made a cheese and cracker platter for folks while they waited on other things to be cooked.  There were even these special jams that were made to be eaten with the cheese.  I love Italians!  The spicy fig one was my favorite.  Went really well with the dried nuts and strawberries and candied mangos that I got.  Yum.  Sorry about the crappy pics overall this time.  I was up to my elbows in grease and hope some of the other guests who were lucky enough to attend got some good shots.  Thanks to Tommy, Craig, Joe, Davina and Joyce for making it a great night.  :)

AFMFL #5 Dinner Report: Mama Mia

Apologies for the very late posting of this entry.  My dearest Mother (known to the world as "Debo") and her husband Harold came to visit Thailand about a month ago and so of course I had to have a dinner while she was in town.  She is after all who taught me most of the kitchen wisdom I've gained and it was the least I could do to feed her a good meal while she was in town.

The meal centered around a gluttonous main dish of two white sea bass stuffed with and on a mountain of crab meat and herbs and spices.  Will have to come back and post the names of the dishes this time later as I don't have the cookbook with me.  It was out of this WORLD.  The fresh fish were cleaned and stuffed and the whole dutch oven went into the oven covered until it came out looking like this.  It was definitely the highlight of the meal.

Also had a wonderful green bean dish and a pan of broccoli au gratin.  I mean, you can't go wrong with a bechamel sauce.  :)

My mother was in charge of this lovely salad that we made a homemade vinaigrette dressing.

This was the meuniere sauce for the fish.  If you've never tried a meuniere, I demand that you run out at once and try it.  I would eat cardboard boxes if I could eat it with this sauce.

Good times by all, and were joined by Craig, Joe and A as well as my perennial helper in the kitchen, my amazing boyfriend X, sporting his new braids...  Thanks for everyone making it a lovely evening.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

AFMFL #4: Additional pictures by Cameron Wolf

These are some AMAZING shots one of the guests, Cameron Wolf, took at my 4th dinner.  Thanks Cameron, and enjoy the eye candy everyone!  Click on the title of this post and it will take you to the full facebook album where he posted them.