It’s been awhile since I really rolled up my sleeves and got cooking, so I used one of the years most boring and unentertaining reasons to get a few friends together. If you guessed Emmys 2008, you just won your category. Unfortunately I didn’t realize just how brain-numbingly dull this year’s telecast would be (save for a hilarious bit by genius Ricky Gervais and his American counterpart Steve Carell) before we had to actually sit through it. Had I known I would have changed it to a Sunday Night Football viewing party since the game would have been way more exciting.
I recently got a book called Wine Bar Food, and although I didn’t really use any exact recipes from it for my party, I took a lot of inspiration from it and decided on a finger-food-only menu. Personally, I love going to restaurants with a friend in tow and ordering a few appetizers- they almost always seem more interesting to me than main dishes. It also gives me a chance to sample several different tastes, textures and preparations without getting too stuffed. I wonder if chefs need to make appetizers more interesting since they are the smaller, less-famous items on any menu and can’t stand up and be bold alone like a porterhouse steak or king salmon could. Whatever the reason, I love small bites packed with flavor and had a lot of fun creating several tapas-style dishes for my friends.
I did most of my prep the day before- seasoning the baby lamb chops, making the porcini risotto then creating balls with it, whipping up a batch of the always-trusty Batali tomato sauce (with an extra touch of a few squeezes of anchovy paste), and lightly blanching and shocking some vegetables for my crudités platter. After roughly slicing up some Japanese eggplant, yellow squash, sweet onions and zucchini I tossed it all with herbes de provence and whole garlic cloves and slow roasted it all together. A few pulses with the food processor and an addition of marinara turned it into a ratatouille spread which topped some soft goat cheese on toasted crostini. The day of the party I simply whipped together a white bean dip with cannellini beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and Italian parsley and tossed together some panko, olive oil, garlic and parsley to top off some littlenecks I got at Bristol Farms. Thank god I asked the fish monger there to shuck them for me- I had it in my head that I could give it a go but after watching his face turn bright red trying to force those suckers open, I was happy I didn’t.
For dessert I just plopped a hunk of soft, silken tofu along with a bar of melted 72% dark chocolate, 1 TBS cognac, the zest of one orange and a bit of powdered sugar into my Cuisinart, processed until smooth and poured the mixture into five small glasses. You’ll be surprised but I guarantee you that silken tofu + melted chocolate makes wonderful vegan desserts- and I don’t make them because they’re vegan, I make them because they are all fast, easy and incredibly rich.
I think the clear winner in the food category was the lamb chops, with the clams coming in a close second. Ironically those two dishes were the simplest to create. Trader Joe’s has gorgeous little Frenched racks of baby lamb and all I did was trim more of the fat off (there was quite a lot), season overnight, sear and finish off in the oven. I had some salsa verde left over from the Summer Squash Gratin (from the brilliant Lucques cookbook) that I made for my dad’s retirement party which went well with the meat. The clams involved topping each with the breadcrumb mixture and a dab of butter, then baking. Hard, I know, but someone has to do it right?!?!
To make the evening a bit more interesting I had everyone fill out an Emmy ballot, and my friend T ended up taking the prize of five mini bottles of various types of booze. So congrats T! Hope you and your mini bottle of Limoncello continued the party at your place!