Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dinner Party # 2


Newlyweds...new place...and new toys to mess around with...all lead, subconsciously or like a bullet train that won't be stopped, to dinner parties. All of a sudden, while you are still feeling your way through your new role as wife and partner (sometimes gingerly and other times with glorious abandon), you are, without warning, by forces both without (well meaning and hungry friends and family) and within (oh you so know you want to preside over a table laden with delicious food saying things like, "it was my pleasure"), thrust into yet another role...that is hostess.

My first dinner party as officially-married-couple was given for C's grandmother before she returned to the States. There is nothing to document this monumental first because, as I was cooking for my new mother-in-law as well as grandmother-in-law, both good cooks in their own right, I was just way too nervous to take pictures. Or even think. Thankfully, everything turned out well and I managed to relax and enjoy the evening. So when dinner party # 2 rolled around I was ready with my camera, poised to document every moment.

Despite the performance anxiety, I actually enjoy orchestrating these dinners and the days leading up to them. Planning excitedly, going over endless menus and recipes, dragging cookbooks to bed and pouring over my choices, writing out my menus on (don't laugh!) special stationary, deciding on the place settings (I mixed and matched different patterns here) & centerpieces (my mom bought me orchids), thinking up of the little details (instead of having salt and pepper shakers, I like to crush red, green, and black pepper with sea salt and serve the mixture in small dishes with tiny silver spoons -- you can see it in the picture above), and my pièce de résistance...a minute-by-minute game plan of the day itself.

For a little pica pica (appetizers), I had Warm Marinated Olives and Grilled Nectarines with Ricotta and Prosciutto. The olives can about because for Dinner Party # 1. We bought marinated olives from a specialty deli which has them laid out temptingly in wooden vats...we scooped them into small platic containers and then merrily had them weighed...only to find out they were mind numbingly expensive. I kid you not...more expensive than all our cheese. So this time I decided to try doing them myself, to very saticfactory results. I used a recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook. I used regular olives from the supermarket (although the recipe does call for Picholine, Moroccan, and Nicoise, I was still smarting from my last olive purchase and wasn't about to go into olive debt one more time), just rinse them well and pat them dry. Then toss with orange and lemon zest, fresh thyme, and minced garlic. Right before your guests arrive warm them gently so all the flavors infuse. Very good and a great way to jazz up olives on the cheap.


The idea for the Grilled Nectarines with Ricotta and Prosciutto came from the fabulous J of Kuidaore. Inspiration struck when I read her post on jamón. She prepared a dish of Grilled White Peach with Mascarpone Foam & Jamón Serrano with looked and sounded so good I just had to try it. Due to ingredient availability and lack of J's wondrous foam-making contraption, I made do with grilling nectarines on our brand new contact grill (I heart, I really heart), then dabbing a generous splodge of ricotta on them, and wrapping them in thinly sliced prosciutto. Thank you so much J for the inspiration! This was delicious and a crowd pleaser.

I decided to serve a salad as my mains were quite heavy. This one I got from the Donna Hay magazine issue 23, called Marinated Basil Bocconcini. I followed her recipe for the basil marinade (with anchovies...yum!) to the letter and left the bocconcini to soak ahead of time. The original recipe calls for arugula but I couldn't find any in the places I usually do, so I had to settle for regular curly lettuce. The original also has prosciutto, but since it was already making its presence felt amongst my appetizers I just nixed it here.

The main event was quite a big deal for me as I have never, ever made roast pork before. I have no idea what behooved me to attempt a completely untried and untested dish during a dinner party, but there you have it. I used a recipe from Donna Hay's The New Cook, Roast Pork with Apple Stuffing. I followed it religiously, as it was my first time to make it, only tossing some dried apricots in with the apple and fresh sage stuffing. The pork was very good...tasty and tender (thank you Donna and cooking gods!), however, Donna's roast was crowned by a glorious crackling, and although I was very obedient with her commands, mine (as you can see) yielded nothing of the sort. Why oh why? Did I not rub your rind lovingly with lemon and salt as instructed? Then started you off at 425F for 20 minutes before lowering the temperature? Any help/tips/suggestions would be greatly appreciate as I really liked this dish and do want to make it again but I want my crackling!


As veggie sides for the roast pork, I simply steamed some asparagus and french beans (haricots verts), tossed them (separately) in butter with a generous sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Now, this (below) was actually the dish which I decided to make before the other dishes came about on the menu. It is also the dish, among everything else served here, that I am most familiar with. Fabada is something which a number of people in my family (men and women, maternal and paternal side) cook. Each has their own recipe and I have learned from all. Now I have my own. I believe there is a different recipe for Fabada for every person out there who makes it. It's something I both love to make and love to eat. My way involves days worth of shuttling from store to store for ingredients (I buy my chorizo Bilbao and ham bone in one place, my Morcilla -- if I use it -- in another, my bacon slab in yet another, and so forth) and a long slow cook over a fragrant bubbling pot. It's not the most photogenic dish, but it is really, really good...something that I can truly say is one of my specialties.


Dessert was another old standby, found when I just started exploring food blogs and was enamored (still am!) with Clotilde's adorable blog, Chocolate & Zucchini. The recipe is taken from Je Veux du Chocolat! by Trish Deseine and is called Gâteau au chocolat fondant de Nathalie. It is chocolate perfection if you like your cakes rich, dark, and melty. You can find the recipe here. This is my brother's favorite cake that I make. On another note, I am in love with my dessert plates.



The evening was a roaring success! Everyone was happy...my grandmother was amazed that I even cook...my mom proud...and everyone else in a blissful state of satiation. Good food and good company...what could be better? :)

44 comments:

Mila Tan said...

Your lola didn't know you cooked? Wow, she should check out your blog.

Great pics and food looks amazing. Love the plate with the two forks logo!

Maricel said...

Hi! May I know where you bought the bocconcini?

Pille said...

Oh, it sounds all wonderful! I will have to wait another few months before I'll be able to host proper dinner parties again, and I cannot wait!
Will have to try that chocolate cake, too!

Mae said...

Oh, my! What a delicious feast! That's a really good spread you have there. Glad even though you're so busy, you've made room in your plans to take the photos to share with us. I know how hard that must be with people circling around.

When we do dinner parties at home, i don't get a chance to photograph the food :(

Like you, i love the preparation bit - deciding what to prepare, linens, who to invite, crockeries, etc...

A job well done... so when's the next one?

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mila! She was quite surprised...she knows I cook but I guess I have never made a full on dinner for her before...well, it definitely won't be the last :) Love that plate! The others all say different things (like "Ok, maybe just a sliver") and have pictures of different cakes on them :)

Hi Maricel! I got it at Santi's...the Rizal Dairy Farms (Market! Market! and in the Salcedo Market as well) carries a local version of small mozzarella balls also :)

Hi Pille! Thanks :) The chocolate cake is absolutely great...one of my first food blog recipe finds :)

Thanks Mae! Thanks for your nice words...you always have such great dishes :) It is a bit strange taking pictures with all the guests around so I take a lot of them in the kitchen before the dish goes out. When I take pictures at the table, my husband usually just says, "It’s for her blog...have you seen her blog?". Heehee :) Stay tuned for the next one!

J said...

hi, what an absolutely fabulous dinner menu! and gorgeous photographs too...foam or no foam, that appetizer looks like a total winner to me ;)

Tanna said...

Joey, that is so very incredible! I'm blown away by your attention to detail.
The photos are super - the whole appears even greater than the sum of the parts!
It's always so helpful to hear how someone else sees and idea and redoes it into something new and wonderful!!

Pam said...

Delighted that things went so amazingly well! Your food looks incredible!

briliantdonkey said...

OMG!!! I haven't even read the whole article yet,,,,,,I immediately saw that top left picture(one shown again later sliced and started drooling to much to read)so I cheated and scrolled through the rest. Hey! were those brussel sprouts I saw!?! k, going back to read the rest now.....theres not brussel sprouts rob ,,,,,there are no brussel sprouts rob,,,,,Im sure they only LOOKEd like it,,,,,,there is no boogie man errrrr brussel sprouts rob.....

bd

briliantdonkey said...

OKAY guess those werent brussels after allwhew! wow everything looks like it turned out better than awesome! Nice job!

and now I am hungry again.

Rob

Katrina said...

A. MAY. ZING.

So...has anyone ever pretended to be your friend, just so they can go to your exquisitely planned dinner parties? ;-)

I must admit, even though I don't cook and am the farthest you can get from domesticated, I, too, harbor fantasies of being the gracious hostess. One day, one day... ;-)

ChichaJo said...

Hi J! Thanks very much :) Appreciate it...you are always a source of inspiration :) Guess what, just as I was thinking that foam is beyond me, I find the very same foam-making-thing here! Oh boy, is my credit card finger itching now!

Thank you so much Tanna! I am blushing :) One of the reason I read food blogs is also to see how people reinterpret ideas in new and wonderful ways... :)

Thank you Pam! It was fun :)

Rob! Hello there :) Sorry to dissappoint, no brussel sprouts this time ;) One day soon so stay on your toes...hehehe :) Thanks for your words of encouragement! Just don't eat too much late at night before sleeping...

Hi Katrina! Thanks!!! No, so far nobody has pretended to be my friend just to get my food...unless there is something going on that I don't know about, haha! Yes, the inner gracious hostess lies in wait inside us all whispering things like "please, have some more" and "thank you so much for coming"...

Anonymous said...

Hi, great blog! just a note from a fellow foodie and proofreader, haha:
it's stationEry (paper) not stationary (adj, meaning still). also, it's poring as a verb meaning to look over, not pouring meaning to dispense something over something else. :)

I just wanted you to know, I am offering these little corrections, knowing of course that they were probably unintentional typos. :)

Cheers.

ana said...

Wow, it must have been a great dinner. =D

christine said...

Holy smokes, Jo! You have really outdone yourself this time! Funny how it was the pork roast that got Rob drooling, and yet it was the least of all that enticed me hehe (though EVERYTHING was enticing!). The grilled nectarines/prosciutto and bocconcini salad - ooh lala! Very very well done! You are a full fledged domestic goddess now! :)

angelika said...

Joey, what great dinner party you have thrown. And, again, I realize - the two of us like to go into detail, as for preparations, table decorations and little details. And it's great when guests realize what is "behind". A big magic moment indeed ! BTW, I can't tell you exactly why the pork has not got crunchy, the only thing I can recommend it to cut it crosswise. Then it might be like pork scratchings on top. Maybe !

anneski:) said...

hi joey! great food, great pics (i can almost taste the food just by looking at them), great tableware, great table setting, great everything! I'll link you up, hope it's okay. :)

Eggy said...

Looks brilliant! Try scoring the skin of your pork before roasting next time. You'll probably get a better semblence of crackling :-) Although crackling or not, I'm sure your meal was nothing short of fabulous!

ChichaJo said...

Hello Anonymous! Thanks for the heads up and the free copy editing :)

Hi Ana! Thanks, it was...Not just because of the food but especially because of the company :)

Hi Nens! Thanks so much for the "holy smokes"!!! :) The grilled nectarines/prosciutto was fantastic...easy to put together and delicious...will figure out a seafood thing for you ;) You know me and my piggies...I love them soooo

Thank you Angelika! Yes! I do like that part...thinking of the details...every little bit counts! :) Thanks for the advice on the crackling...I'll do that next time. Now that I look back I think I really didn't score it enough...

Hi Anneski! Thank you, thank you, thank you! And thanks for linking to me too :)

Hi Eggy! Thanks! I did score the rind, as Donna instructed, but looking back perhaps I should have scored it more...or deeper? Anyway, I will be sure to do that next time...thanks again :)

tattum said...

WOW Joey!! I really, really admire you!!! Just have no words... Besos!!

stevi_moshogianni said...

you did a great job. good luck in all your dinner parties to come, although you don't need luck, you've got knowledge!

coffeepot said...

looks wonderful!

Zita said...

Lovely dinner! Sarap naman. One thing I've learned from my mother-in-law about cooking roast pork is to put the pork on top of a water bath. Use a large baking tray then pour hot water, then put the grill and place the pork on top and bake it. The water makes the pork moist. But make sure that the pork is not submerged in water. Works everytime for me. I've tried it w/out the water bath, and the meat was dry. I haven't hosted a dinner party in a while. I'd preffer to be the guest! LOL.

briliantdonkey said...

::::Rob! Hello there :) Sorry to dissappoint, no brussel sprouts this time ;) One day soon so stay on your toes...hehehe :) Thanks for your words of encouragement! Just don't eat too much late at night before sleeping...::::


hmmmmm sounds kind of suspicious to me. Kind of like the person nobody knows maybe got to you. Holding you hostage or something? If she is making you speak against your will then clear your throat once......if not then twice....she whom we dont know will never know.

BD

canDIshhh said...

they look ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE!!
can I have some?? :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Tattum! Nice to hear from you :) Thanks for your nice comments!

Hi Stevi! Thanks for dropping by and for the compliment :) I still need the luck! :)

Hello Coffeepot...thanks! :)

Hi Zita! Thanks :) And thanks for the tip for the roast pork/water bath...sounds champion...will try it!

Hi Rob :) Hhrrrmm, hhrrrmm...

Hello Candishhh! Thank you :) Unfortunately, everything is gone!

ces said...

i can just imagine your excitement playing with your new kitchen toys! and they're lovely! and you're a great hostess indeed joey!

Lori said...

Joey, I also love that dessert plate, although mine would say, "I'll have the whole cake, please!" :) I also make fabada and I LOVE it to death. Ay-yay-yay, reading about your newlywed adventures makes me reminisce about mine. (cue senti music here).

Ipshi said...

This is going to be a long comment so please bear with me ... i found ur blog on one of my walks around blog-land and im hooked.

i love ur love of food and i completely relate to it!!

u make cooking so easy that i actually was inspired t bake a cake wit one of ur recipes.. and even one of my co-workers (who doesnt like me) loves me now!!!

u have the most drool worthy pics ever!!! these latest pics were so yum that im hungry even tho i ate just an hour ago!!

ur descriptions amaze me!! of the places u travel to or when u talk about various ingredients and spices... ur a really good writer!!

i bought a jar of nutella just cos of ur description of it .. i wanna find out bout how to get a bottle of stroop .. i dont think ill find it in bombay (india) so easily tho!!

so temme this .. can u gimme an easy microwave friendly recipe for a good dessert??

and one more favor... may i link u on my blog?

irrespective of whether u answer the above .. keep up the great work and thank u so very much!!

Melissa said...

Wow.....looks like it was a grand success! You can't go wrong with a Donna Hay recipe!
Bravo Joey!

Marketmanila said...

Oh my God!!! The menu looks like something out of a cooking show by some celebrity chef or something! Yikes!!! It looks fantastic! You realize, your meals will just get more and more elaborate...heehee...

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ces! Thanks! :) It is really exciting to have all these new things and a place to call my own in which to play with them :)

Hi Lori! I couldn't resist when I saw those plates :) Hehe...I'm hearing the senti music already! See you at your demo!

Hi Ipshi! Thanks for dropping by :) My goodness...I am so happy and very flattered at all your wonderful comments! Thank you for making my day :) I am so glad that the recipe worked for you! Funny that you should mention Nutella because I just made those cupcakes again this weekend...as for the stroop, I can't get it here (Manila, Philippines) either...oh well. I don't have any microwave recipes, dessert or otherwise...sorry! But if I do come across one I will let you know. And yes, definitely you can link to my blog...thanks!!! :)

Hi Melissa! Thanks :) You said it...Donna rocks! :)

Hi Marketman! Thank you! You know I get a lot of inspiration from you blog...especially the entries describing meals you've prepared, or the place setting entry (loved that one)! I know what you mean about getting more elaborate...your imagination just starts to run away with you! :)

Puspha said...

Wat a scrumptious spread!!!

cin said...

looks like a wonderful spread! my mum was pretty amazed to know that I could cook too after getting married, but I tell her that I learnt from the best :-)

Midge said...

Oi ne! Bocconcini, gateau au chocolat, and roast pork - heavenly!

Oh, and a tip for some lovely crackling: add about an eight of a teaspoon of white sugar to your lemon-and-salt rub. It does the trick for me. ^_^

ChichaJo said...

Hi Puspha! Thanks :)

Hi Cin! Hehe...our "hidden talents" ;)

Hi Midge! Thanks for the crackling tip! I am definitely trying this again and again until I get crackling! :)

JMom said...

Gosh, wouldn't I love to attend one of your dinners! :D and so many new toys to play with! Your table looked beautiful and your food even more so.

I don't know why, they tell us over and over again never to try new dishes during dinner parties, but I do it all the time too! Sometimes that's the only opportunity you get to try something new. Your roast still looks delicious though. Zita is right, I have tried this method of having some moisture in the oven and the cracklings always come out perfectly. My mom even sprays her roast with water during roasting to ensure crispness.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Jmom! Thanks! I know, it's such a temptation to try new things...and I feel too that it's an opportunity to try something new (as it's unlikely I would try a roast pork just for me a C!) :) Thanks for the tip on the moisture...will keep it in mind!

Lani said...

Congratulations, JOey. You're such a wonderful hostess and cook.

Yup, spray water while roasting the pork to ensure crispiness, JMom is right.

Ivonne said...

Next time you have a dinner part ... don't forget to invite me!!!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Lani! Thanks! :) Will definitely try the spray technique next time! :)

Hi Yvonne! Will do! :)

Elna Smith said...

Wow fabulous dinner! Everything looks so yummy! You seem to be a great cook! As a new bride, I didn't know how to cook as I've always relied on our family cook to prepare all the meals and was never interested in cooking. My mom would always say "you'll learn when you need to!" True enough, i did learn when I had to! That is, after I got married and moved out of the Phils. By the way, I love your blog and keep coming back when I get the chance. I wonder if you can share with us your fabada recipe. I did try some from a recipe I found over the net but wasn't very pleased. Would love to try your recipe. Thanks a lot. Keep up the good works!

Paz said...

I wish I were at that dinner party! Yum! Looks like you did an excellent job on both those parties.

Paz

ChichaJo said...

Hi Elna! I'm really glad you enjoy 80 Breakfasts...thanks so much for your nice comments! :) I know what you mean, I only really started cooking "when I had to", not when I got married but when I lived on my own abroad. There was a time when all I would eat was tomatoes and stale bread. Those were the days. Oh boy. I've been meaning to do a post about fabada at some point, including the places I get my ingredients, but if you'd like it soon please email me at eighty_breakfasts@yahoo.com. Thanks! :)

Hi Paz! Thanks :) Maybe one day we will all have a dinner together!