Regardless, of the impending question I learned some great lessons from my première adventure in catering!The first lesson that I learned was that it's probably not the best idea to throw the party at an 86 year olds house when on a regular basis any type of change sets her off. I mean if your grandma was the type who obsesses/freaks out over the sugar container being in a different position than the day before, or throws a fit when her help leaves for a once a year vacation for 5 days, would you have 70 people to her house even with her blessing? We decided to do it because at heart Barbara Jean LOVES young people (and has actually talked of wanting a youth hostel at her house) and we were inviting about 50 youngins' over. Also, my brother was dying to have it there and her house was perfect. The second lesson that I learned was that catering calculations aren't exactly as easy as I thought. Taking a recipe for 6, deciphering how many "mini" portions that same recipe makes, then dividing that into 70 portions wasn't an easy endeavor. The repercussions of my shoty calculations meant that we had an exorbitant amount of leftover food (but hey that's better than not enough... right?). The last lesson I learned was if you cook for 70 people with you mother you should slip a Valium into her calcium pill box everyday for 3 weeks before the event. I can't tell you how long before the event that we talked about it, but I can tell you that she stressed over every last detail and had 342 questions for me everyday which almost threw me over the edge. At a certain point I actually contemplated buying ear plugs! Her daily questions went something like..."Sydney, what am I going to wear to the wedding, how is the soup going to work in the shot glass, will they be able to drink it without a spoon, which band should we choose, your making too much, I need a dress, We need to choose flowers, wait which band are we choosing, I need this and that.... and that and this". She really almost drove me insane but I really couldn't have done all of the chopping, sauteing and squeezing of 11 cups of lime juice for the ceviche without her help. If your mom communicates by making a to do list out loud 10 times a day and is prone to being a little too spunky, jittery and inquisitive then maybe you shouldn't cook with her. Despite our bickering and countless laughing sessions where my mom almost peed her pants, we got it all done and maybe in the end some of her questions were needed :)
We ended up making a Latin inspired menu:
Spanish peanuts with Chile de Arbol, cumin, lime and Chili pepper
Spicy Gazpacho soup with Turkish olive oil, avocado and homemade goat cheese and basil croutons served in tall shot glasses
Corn and Pasilla Chili soup served with grilled zucchini flowers from the garden, garlic and a touch of creme (also served in tall shot glasses)
Scallop, Salmon, and Halibut Ceviche with coconut milk and homemade plantain chips served in Asian soup spoons
Papaya and Avocado salad with hazelnuts and papaya seed dressing
Black beans with tomatoes, shallots and jalapenos
Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme's served in little petite egg cups
Dulche De Leche Cake-We bought this from Delessio Bakery in San Francisco. This cake has the most amazing meringue frosting and is incredibly rich from soaking in 4 different types of milk. You have to try this if you're around San Francisco!http://www.delessiomarket.com/
Mexican Taco Truck from 46 and International in Oakland, ca to do 6 types of taco truck tacos to add a little trendy flare to the event!
Here is a description and the recipe for a few of the things we made. You should know that I am kind of obsessed with a local Napa valley chef, Cindy Pawlcyn and most of my cooking comes from adaptations of her recipes which you can find in, Big Small Plates by Cindy Pawlcyn. If you have had my cooking I guarantee you have involuntarily tried something from this cookbook and let me tell you she knows what she is doing and seems like a really great person as well. http://www.amazon.com/Big-Small-Plates-Cindy-Pawlcyn/dp/1580085237
Salmon, Halibut and Scallop Ceviche with Coconut- Serves 6
I love the flavors of seafood and coconut combined. I also like that this dish fits perfectly with the environment of a day time pool party. Even though guests weren't in their bathing suits it's nice to eat something light and fresh during the afternoon heat. I also love raw seafood because its makes me feel like I am being healthy when I'm eating it. This recipe takes some planning, a little bit of lime squeezing and research to find the best place to buy great quality, yet not too expensive fish but it's a great recipe. We got the fish from Pier 42 from a friend who owns a restaurant by Pier 39. I'm pretty sure you can also go down to the docks there and get fish right off the boats!
4 oz Scallops, 8-12 oz salmon, 8-12 oz halibut
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (don't use the store bought bright green stuff)
1 tsp sea salt & 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped and seeded Serrano chili
1 red onion
1 14 oz can unsweet. coconut milk
1 or 2 avocados
cilantro and Oil olive for garnish
Slice the scallops into 1/3 inch pieces. Cut the salmon and halibut into 3 or 4 lengthwise strips about 1 inch wide then cut into 1/4 inch pieces to match the scallops. Add the fish to the scallops and put into a non reactive bowl. Pour 3/4 cup of the lime juice into the bowl and mix gently but well, making sure all the seafood gets coated with some juice. Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate 2 hours. Put the seafood in a colander to drain, and clean out the bowl while it's draining. Return the seafood to the clean bowl, along with the salt,pepper, chile, onion, coconut milk, and remaining 1/4 cup lime juice. Mix gently but well and cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hr but not more than 6 hrs. When you're ready to serve either crack open a few coconuts and serve in the ceviche in on the slices or serve it in Asian soup spoons like I did.
Spanish peanuts with Chile de Arbol, cumin, lime and Chili pepper I think it is essential to have something to munch on as soon as your guests arrive. I'm usually scrambling in the kitchen and a little behind and these nuts are a great amuse bouche with a sharp burst of flavor and will only fill your guests bellies a little. This recipe calls for Spanish peanuts which are small and round with red skins. I couldn't find them but wish I did because I think details like this are important and I really wanted that red color. I substituted by using a regular unroasted peeled peanut, briefly roasted them in the oven and then added red chili pepper to get the desired color. If you can I would make these right before people come over because they are great hot. Since I was catering and I had 90 other things to do I made them the day before and they still turned out great.
Makes a big bowl
2 whole heads garlic (not cloves, but heads!)
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 pounds shelled raw Spanish peanuts, with skins
2 to 4 fiery hot dried chilies, slightly crushed
pinch of cumin
pinch of chili pepper (might not need if you use Spanish peanuts)
1 tbls kosher salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Separate the heads of garlic into cloves. Trim off the root ends but don't peel the cloves, leave the skin on. Put the oil in a pan large enough to hold everything, and heat it until it is almost rippling. Add the peanuts, garlic, spices and chilies, and cook stirring and shaking continuously for 10 to 12 minutes until the peanuts have darkened in color. Add the salt and lime zest and juice to the pan and it give it another good shake. Pour it out into a serving bowl and Voilà!
Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme
I love the cafe La Bolange in San Francisco, ca. I appreciate that this place really makes you feel like you're in France. Everything from the food to the cutlery to the napkins alludes to French culture. They have the most amazing pot de creme that they serve in a cute little glass jar with parchment and a rubber band. If you've never tried pot de creme and you like chocolate you really should try it. It's a perfect chocolate dessert that is incredibly rich but not too overpowering in my book and not bitter. I've made this a bunch of times but adapted the recipe for the Latin themed party and added Mexican Chocolate. I don't know if your a hot chocolate person but there is nothing like Mexican hot chocolate brewing in a terra cotta pot that you use to wash down Huevos Rancheros at a brunch buffet in Zihuatanejo. I used the same type of chocolate for my pot de creme. Don't be scared about not cooking the eggs. It's ok. Be careful.. you might have leftovers and you might not be able to resist yourself from eating a little too much :)
12 Extra Large Egg yolks ( I know.. I know. a lot)
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups heavy cream ( I guess you could use 2 percent milk.. but I wouldn't :)
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 tsp salt
1 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 oz bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
2 oz Abuelita Mexican Chocolate (you can buy at an Latin American Market)
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. If your hands are clean crack the egg in your hand over a bowl you're using for scraps and let the whites drip through your fingers, saving the yolk. In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, vanilla bean (don't use vanilla extract here... find a bean!) and its scrapings, and salt and bring almost to a boil over medium heat. Just before the cream comes to a boil (the cream will start to rise up in the pan), remove from the heat and whisk 1 cup of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, then pour the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the pan with the remaining cream, whisking constantly. Be careful here. If you don't mix this fast enough or let it get too, too hot you could end up with eggs... Discard the vanilla bean. Whisk the semisweet, bittersweet and Mexican chocolates into the hot custard mixture until completely melted and smooth. Transfer custard to medium bowl and refrigerate, whisking occasionally, until cooled to lukewarm and very thick. Pour the lukewarm, thickened custard into 8, 6 oz ramekins. Cover and refrigerate until the custard is completely set, appr 3 hrs. Serve in little egg cups or little ramekins. Serve with 2 raspberries or whipped cream.
If you want any of the other recipes let me know!