Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sheik: Old Man

Attendees: L.L., Sheik, Bean, Dolly, & Peanut
Fresh Whiskey Sours
Gougeres (cheese puffs)
Main Course:
Filet of Beef with Bearnaise Sauce, Potato Gratin, Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Dessert #1:
Apple Crostata
Dessert #2:
Coconut Macaroons

My eldest brother Sheik turns 36 on March 2, so I decided that we'd celebrate his birthday a bit early. It was also Bean's first night out in her entire (3-month) life, so I had to make it extra special. The cocktail was my favorite: Ina Garten's Fresh Whiskey Sours (enjoyed here by Sheik). I swear, I could drink these all day.

The gougers were a bit deflated, but who can tell from this aerial shot? I think I'm slowly getting the hand at making Choux Paste- the baking strategy is another story. Plus, they were all gone by the end of the night, so at least they tasted good!

Frank Stitr's recipe for potato gratin was so good!

Peanut set the table.... nothing but class when you come to dinner at our place!

I fell in love with Bearnaise sauce the first time I had it (at a restaurant in a tree in St. Maarten, circa 1988... for real). In my first attempt, I got the flavor, but I didn't get the consistency that I like. Maybe next time.

Sheik loves coconut, but Dolly and Peanut hate it, so I had to make two desserts. Coconut macaroons and....

My first crostata (apple). This is what it looked like before I put it in the oven...

And here's how it came out (don't you love the Pride candles Peanut found?)!!!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Just Call Me Cupid

Attendees: Me, my mom (L.L.), my dad (Pit), and Peanut (who's taking the picture)
Remote attendees:
My brother (Sheik), sister-in-law (Dolly), and niece (Bean)

Pomegranate cosmopolitans

An assortment from the Whole Foods Olive Bar, chosen by L.L. and Pit

Coq au vin and red wine risotto

Dessert (in-house):
Coeur a la creme

Dessert (remote):
Strawberry tarts

This year was a very special Valentine's Day. On Tuesday, my little niece Bean had to go to the hospital to "get her heart fixed", which meant that my parents would come to DC and stay with Peanut and me. Bean's surgery was a success, and I knew that two days later, while she was still recovering, it would be up to me to make sure that my parents, my brother and his wife, and Peanut all had a very special Valentine's Day Dinner.

I wanted the entire meal to be red, so we started off with delicious pomegranate cosmopolitans!

My dad bought Peanut and me these flowers for Valentine's Day!

My brother Sheik's favorite dish in the world is Boeuf Bourguignon, even though he hates onions and mushrooms, the two staple ingredients of the dish. Coq au vin is, in my opinion, the chicken version of Boeuf Bourguignon. It's wonderfully flavorful, and I complimented it with Risotto cooked with red wine . While my parents and Peanut and I ate this at home, I made an extra batch for Sheik and Dolly- I hope they had a glass of wine and lit a candle while eating theirs, too!

Everyone knows that Valentine's Day is about dessert. I made coeur a la creme. Peanut enjoyed it, but I'm not sure he thinks it was worth purchasing the heart-shaped porcelain mold.

I knew that coeur a la creme wouldn't travel, and that Dolly loves her some strawberries, so I decided to make a separate dessert for her and Sheik. Since it was my first time making pie crust, I asked L.L. to help.

I was quite impressed with what we accomplished.

I have amazing friends - Mountie is in Brazil trying to develop a vaccine for hookworm, so he asked me if I would make a tart for Seamus on his behalf. I was more than happy to oblige- perhaps going a bit overboard with the presentation!

But it can't be a Valentine's Day post without a picture of Peanut! Here we are, with that little miracle Bean who's now got a fixed heart. What better Valentine's Day gift is there?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Agreeing on a Menu

Attendees (From upper left): Charles, Gregory, Peanut, Lance, Big-D
Cheese and crackers, cajun mix
First Course:
Highlands baked grits
Main Course: Roast pork loin with fennel (a Barefoot Contessa standard)
Mini orange chocolate chunk cakes

Creating the menu for Saturday night's dinner was a nightmare- we started planning it on Wednesday, but Peanut and I couldn't agree on a thing until Friday night. I wanted to do southern comfort with a twist, which was an idea he wasn't too thrilled about. Here he is trying to stab me:
Anyway, I always try to make new things, but Peanut was eager to make something that I'd made before and that we knew would turn out well. So we compromised.

We realized an hour before our guests arrived that we didn't have a cocktail and neither of us wanted to go to the store to buy mixers. So, it was Manhattans, enjoyed here by Charles.

Peanut agreed to a southern-inspired dish for the first course that I hadn't prepared before. I had to continuously stir grits until they were "done." But how the hell does a boy who grew up in Buffalo and went to school in Chicago know when that is? Apparently, when a spoon stands up by itself, around 45-50 minutes.

The grits were put into Ramekins and baked, then taken out of their dishes and served with sauteed mushrooms, prosciutto, and shallots and a lemon-butter sauce, a recipe by Frank Stitt.

The Contessa's roasted pork loin with fennel is a standard that never fails to disappoint.

Damn me! I always forget to take pictures of dessert until they're half-eaten. I made 6 individual orange chocolate chunk cakes, served with a chocolate ganache on top. The ganache topping was imperative, because the silicone mold I used decided to keep parts of the top when I initially "unmolded" them.

So, in the end, Peanut and I were able to compromise on a menu, and all parties went home relatively happy. Of course, that could have had everything to do with the Manhattans....

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Heavy Hors D'Oeuvres

My friend runs O'Neill Studios, which every year throws an art show that benefits Autism Speaks. In my opinion, it's one of the best parties in DC... fun art, fun crowd, and all for a really important cause. This year, there was even live painting accompanied by a Mardi Gras Brass Band (I think they're the band that plays outside the Dupont Circle Metro in the summer- they are SO good)! They serve heavy hors d'oeuvres at the benefit, but we thought we'd start the party at our place with some of our own.

Carter and Trevor joined Peanut and me. Two of my lady friends were also supposed to attend but couldn't find parking--- damn Dupont Circle on a Saturday night!!!

For cocktails, I mixed 1 cup champagne with 1/4 up limoncello. Serve this over crushed ice and perhaps a raspberry or two.

The spread.... and me looking "arty" (Trevor's words).

Close-up: Italian bread with hummus and spinach artichoke dip. All store bought. What?! I had a busy day!!!

I also grilled up some chicken and served it with a peanut dipping sauce. I am having an obsession with peanut butter these days! Everyone seemed to like the dipping sauce, but there was something about it that left me wanting more. This picture also makes it look really red, like ketchup, which is one of the reasons I think I was unimpressed. Oh well.... onwards and upwards with the (culinary?) arts!