So this wasn’t my first dinner party, but it is the first once since I started this here little blog. As dinner parties go, this one was disjointed, to say the least. Indecision, one of my few (ha!) less-than-awesome personality traits, won over and I just couldn’t pick a theme. What I ended up with were loosely french appetizers, moroccan main course and an english dessert. You know how you’re never supposed to try out new recipes on guests? Yeah I don’t follow that rule. Dinner parties are my chance to experiment with a whole lotta recipes all at once. It might be ill advised, but shoot, it’s fun.
The party started off with some savory, goat cheese–stuffed profiteroles. Due to a few, clearly deranged, non–goat cheese eaters, I used ricotta for half of them. I also added some lemon zest in order to brighten them up. As it turns out, choux is best made fresh; I made the choux 2 days in advance and perfect, they were not….ah well, now I know. Less than fresh choux didnt keep these from disappearing promptly. There were also pickled grapes a la smittenkitchen.com. I just love sk and she has not steered me wrong yet; I predict she will be mentioned a LOT in these parts. As completely counter intuitive as pickled grapes seem, they are nothing less than awesome. I used the hot-pickling method this time round; next time (and there will be a next time), maybe I’ll try the cool-pickling. The star of the apps, and maybe the star of the meal, was a savory Le Cake aux Olives from Table in the Tarn. ZOMG. Pancetta, soft smelly cheese, kalamata olives, herbs, parmesan-in the words of The Ina “how bad can that be?” Answer: it can’t. The main course was slow-cooked moroccan lamb from Bon Appetit and it was to die for. You’ll just have to take my word for it, since I neglected to take any pictures of said lamb… lamb that was in my presence for two days since I made it ahead of time. Whoops. I promise, I’ll get better at this…. I served the lamb with basic, lemony, golden-raisiny couscous and this fairly awesome harissa carrot salad, again adapted from smittenkitchen.com. The only changes I made to this recipe were to add more harissa and to replace the sugar with honey. Nom.
The end of the meal was that totally gorgeous summer pudding up at the beginning of the post. The recipe came from The Ina, to whom I would trust my first-borne. How can fresh summer berries and good bread possibly go wrong!? I doubled the recipe and used a 9″ spring form, which I would highly recommend as it makes the unmolding much less heart palpitation-inducing. I also lined the pan with saran, and it came out beautifully. It was the perfect, light summer dessert…until I topped it with this mascarpone ice cream (Daniel Humm, may I marry you?). There. are. no. words. As a side note, I would also like to marry my Kitchenaid, as soon as the goverment allows human-appliance marriages.The cherry (giggle) on the top of the night was this bing cherry daquiri provided by my awesome friends Jeanne and John. From now on, I’m always going with the, I’ll-make-the-food-if-you-bring-the-booze deal; it turns out just rosy for everyone involved.
“Le Cake” aux Olives et au Reblochon
Adapted from A Table in the Tarn by Orlando Murrin (recipe in Gourmet [RIP], July 2009)
This is spectacular. More a quick bread than a cake, in the American sense, it is perfect and savory and delicious. The original recipe suggests it be served warm, but take it from me, it will be devoured at room-temp as well. I went heavy on the black pepper and would highly recommend you do too.
1 c. cubed pancetta
1/2 c. black olives, rinsed, coursely chopped (I used kalamata)
3/4 c. grated parmesan
4 c. all purpose flour
1 T. (yes, tablespoon) baking powder
1/4 t. cayenne
1 t. salt and LOTS of black pepper
1 c. cubed Reblochon (I couldn’t find this semi-soft cheese so I used something the cheese monger said was similar. I should have written its name down, but I didn’t. Sorry. Any smelly, soft cheese will do.)
2 T. freshly chopped herbs (I used parsley, but you could use anything- dill, chives, thyme, etc)
1 c. milk
3.5 T butter, melted
1 lg egg
3/4 c. crème fraîche
- Preheat oven to 350 °F
- Pan-fry the pancetta until it’s good and golden; I was afraid of “chewies” so I let it render quite a bit. Let cool and mix in olives.
- Grease a loaf pan and sprinkle half the Parmesan over the bottom. It’ll form a lovely crust.
- Mix the flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, then add in the Reblochon, herbs, pancetta and olives.
- Mix the milk, butter, egg and creme fraiche in a small bowl and then fold wet mixture into the dry ingredients. The dough will be craaazy thick and sticky- kind of like biscuit dough.
- Dollop into the pan and coat with the remaining parmesan.
- Bake for 45–50 min, or until the skewer comes out clean (It was closer to 55 minutes for me. Be sure to avoid sticking the skewer in the molten cheese or you’ll never be able to tell).
- Eat it warm. Or room temp.