Cooking with/for friends

Sorry for the long time between posts. Work's been really busy and I've been traveling a lot so it makes it hard to post about a lunch. My last trip was to visit one of my teams in Denver, I was whining about not being able to do lunch when my friend reminded me he had a full kitchen and if I wanted I could easily do a bento remotely. I plan on taking him up on that offer the next time I, it visit should be a fun experience. I've also been invited to a special event/project that I won't share just yet.

Anyhow, last week I was invited to work with a good friend of mine to cook for a dinner party for bunch of our development leads visiting from Europe. You can see us in hustle mode up there on the title photo. I even was wearing an official chef jacket, pants and had my thermapen nicely tucked away in my shoulder pocket. My friend Paula did a lot of prep the night before and we got an early start. We ended up working for about 14 hours and churned out six courses for about 30 people. Everyone seemed quite content so we must have done a pretty good job. I didn't get a chance to take photos of every course but here's what I did get.

We started with a nice pea soup shooter with a touch of cream and some crispy pancetta. Prepping and cooking in stages is one of those skills that I've had to learn out of self preservation. If I didn't break out my bentos over a weekend, I would be seriously wiped every Sunday. This was no different, we par boiled and sauteed most of the ingredients leaving the final whizzing and plating to be the last step. Ultimately, we should have made sure we knew where the stick blender was as we ended up doing stuff in batches in a blender. Anyhow lovely flavors and a good way to kick off dinner.

The salad course was Gorgonzola Apple salad in Red wine vinaigrette and candied pecans. We served this family style which gave us plenty of time to move into our first main dish. (all about stall tactics)

Our first "main" dish was pan seared scallops with risi bisi (risotto with peas) and garlic chives. I think the downsides of pre-prepping stuff bit me on the risotto, the rice came out a bit softer than I would have preferred, but most everyone put this dish as a favorite for the evening. The scallops were all slightly different sizes so we had to cook them by feel. We were snickering through the whole dinner thinking about all the "mistakes" we made that didn't get noticed by our diners. I completely forgot to put in the crisped pancetta into the risotto, which let me tell you makes a huge difference in taste.

Our second "main" was Chicken roulade stuffed with spinach wrapped in proscuitto. I brought my sous vide supreme down with me and we sous vide the chicken. The texture quality was very silky smooth and by poaching the chicken this way we maintained a nice juicy dish. I finished the roulades off under a broiler. It took a few pouches before we figured out how to not lose the proscuitto cover while bagging. At one point I had dubbed our perfect wrapping as a "proscuitto baby", I think you had to be there to get it. We served this with a roasted tomato with a basil infused olive oil. The tomatoes by themselves were very delicious and so easy to do. We just topped them with a bit of minced garlic, basil and oregano, roasted them in an oven and topped them with a bit of cheese. I'll have to remember this for a future bento.

Our final main was seared lamb chops served with asparagus and a gorgonzola sweet potato. We piped out the sweet potato and re-heated them under the broiler and recruited someone to help us with searing off the chops in a Big green egg. The lamb was simply dressed with a bit of salt and pepper. The egg did a marvelous job of searing the meat. Everyone must have really loved the lamb as there were calls for 2nds 3rds and 4ths.

Dessert consisted of a pumpkin bread pudding, unfortuneatly by that time I was so beat I didn't manage to get a picture. Paula used Challah bread which was a good choice and eased up on the cream to prevent a french toast effect. Very delicious.

I had a *fabulous* time cooking with and for my friends. It was a bit tough walking around the next day after being on your feet for so long. Definitely squashed any aspirations for cooking for a living :) but as a once and again dinner party I'd be up for it anytime! Thanks to my friends Ross and Paula for hosting and letting play in their shiny new kitchen. Ok I promise a bento next week so please stay tuned!


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