Jun 9, 2010

First BIG Event

Taste This hosted Taste for Tips Sunday the 6th. One of my coworkers was gracious enough to let us host at her beautiful house and use her amazing kitchen. The nerves were wound pretty tightly and it was some rushed prep work that morning, but it paid off!

Our menu included:
Garden Salad with Smoked Almond-Cilantro Dressing
Creamy Ham and Potato Soup
Chipotle Smoked Artichoke Dip
Spicy Pepperoni Chicken with Penne Pasta
Baked Shrimp in Tomatoes and Feta
Spinach-Ricotta Fusilli
Devilish Angel Cake with Drunken Berries and Fresh Whipped Cream

I've never worked so hard in a kitchen! We were cranking out those dishes, one after the other. Paul and I practiced our kitchen communication and cooperation, and our guests waited to see what would come off the stove. And, whaddya know, they liked us! Well, they liked our food. I like to think they liked us, too.

We got great compliments from our guests and had fun in the process, even while we worked our asses off. Lots of satisfied moans and encouraging words. What can I say? It felt great to know we did good, and to have a successful start. We're 2 for 2 now.

Paul definitely took the show. His Spicy Chicken Pepperoni and smoky salad dressing were the big stars. Y'all need to try it!

All in all, we couldn't be happier as we left (not until 9:30). I wasn't even tired. Not until the next day, at least; but for the moment, we were riding high in our little PT Cruiser, with the back full of pots and pans.

Next up, a party for 50 on Saturday the 12th. It's mostly vegetarian, so it (hopefully) won't be as hard as it sounds. And a possible 4th of July job in Houston! We're hittin' the big time!

Until next time...

May 22, 2010

First Taste

We had a great time last night at our first gig! As a late wedding present, we cooked a three-course meal for Paul's co-worker, Jeanine, and her new husband, Josh. We packed what seemed like our entire kitchen, all of our ingredients, some beer and champagne for Jeanine and Josh, and a big wine glass for whatever shiraz we didn't use in the food (a happy chef makes for a great meal).

I'll admit, I went nerdy and wore my chef get-up that I bought a while back when Paul and I were still dreaming up this business. I refuse to wear the chef's hat, though. Makes my head look shapeless. A UT cap works perfectly fine. I even put my meat thermometer in my sleeve pocket. Might as well go for it if you're gonna look the part, right?

We really wanted to do it up, so our menu included:


Of course, when we unloaded all our bags, we were nowhere near organized, so it was slow going at first, but once we got going, everything went smoothly. Paul was lead chef because the recipes on the night's menu were mostly his. I tried to be the best sous chef I could and fight my tiny urge to be in charge.

First came the...

ACAPULCO NACHOS (a Paul original)

2 avacados, cubed
1/2 lb. cocktail shrimp
small container crab meat
1/4 lb. pico de gallo (or less or more, depending on your taste)
juice of 2 lemons
grated cotija cheese
small scoop tortilla chips

Combine avacado cubes, shrimp, crab meat, and pico de gallo in a large bowl. Add lemon juice and stir to coat ingredients. Spoon the mixture into the scoop chips and top with the cotija cheese.

It's a simple recipe and DELICIOUS! If you have the time and patience, you could bake wonton wraps in muffin tins to make small cups and serve the nachos in these. I'm tempted to find some way to fry the mixture in small balls. I'll get back to you on that. I'm also wondering what a little fresh basil or cilantro would do for the flavor. Definitely an easy recipe to make your own.

The vinaigrette was rather simple...

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
a handful of fresh raspberries
1 tsp. sugar

Vigorously whisk together vinegar, olive oil, and garlic or shake in a cruet. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly crush raspberries, add to dressing, and add sugar. Whisk or shake again to combine all ingredients.

The sugar is what made the dressing. It was tasting a bit oily, but the sweetness gave it more body.

By this time, I had opened the wine. I'm notorious for breaking corks, and this one was no exception. We ended up having to push half the cork into the bottle, but a few cork flecks never killed anybody...

I had been saving this bottle for a while. I got it free from my apartment's office when I filled out their annual survey. And doesn't free make everything taste better? Smelled a bit heavy, but tasted great. Full-bodied without coating my tongue with that barrel taste some red wines have. A couple of glasses, and I was one happy cook. (This is as sophisticated as my wine reviews get, guys.)

We were moving at a good pace. It was time for our big show-off piece, the spicy pepperoni chicken, another Paul original. It. Is. Delicious! I was wowed the first time I had it and requested it for my birthday last year.

Who doesn't love melted cheese oozing over big slices of pepperoni?

We finished it off with molten chocolate cakes and homemade whipped cream. Come on! It doesn't get better than that.

Our first job was over. We left behind two full, happy friends, and took our tired selves home to celebrate. We got a little too loud with the music, but that's another story...

May 19, 2010

Chicken Stock

I've always been leery of people who made their own chicken stock. When it's less than a dollar a can at the store, and it's even in low-sodium and fat-free varieties now, why would anyone go through the trouble? I mean, who really needs to show off that badly?

But after deboning and skinning a package of chicken thighs, I sneaked the remnants into a freezer bag, knowing I'd have to give it a try. And, seeing how I called in sick to work yesterday, I decided to give it a try.

The recipe I read seemed simple enough. I threw the leftover chicken parts in enough water to cover them, with a bit extra for good measure, and set it to boil. I put the lid on my pot to bring it to a boil quickly and sat down to watch some Food Network. A few minutes later, I ran to the stove after hearing a mess of sizzling. My water had boiled over! After I cleared that foamy mess, I let the chicken parts simmer at a more manageable temperature for an hour.

Since I didn't know until the next day that skimming the foam off now would make life easier, I went ahead and added my waiting vegetables and a handful of peppercorns.

Then I waited for about two hours. I didn't know, either, that you're not supposed to stir during this time. (Live and learn, right?) Being the compulsive stirrer I am, I couldn't help myself. When I finally tasted it, it tasted like greasy water! I added a bit more salt and pepper, threw in a couple cubes of cilantro (aren't those new cubes the most convenient thing ever?), and about 3 tablespoons of Knorr's tomato and chicken flavored boullion. I gave it another good hour before straining it, and who knew, it was pretty good!

After chilling it overnight and skimming off the fat, I was surprised to see that I had a bowl full of chicken-flavored Jello. I had to consult Google to see what I had done wrong, but apparently, this was a good thing.

Now, it's a matter of freezing it in cup measurements. Fun stuff, I tell you... Who would've thought chicken flavored Jello was so tasty?

Chicken Stock
Adapted from this recipe from my new favorite website, Allrecipes.com

bones and skin of 10 chicken thighs
enough water to cover chicken parts, and a little extra
2 carrots, cut into 2" chunks
3 celery stalks
1 onion, halved
1 teaspoon grated ginger
generous handful of peppercorns
3 tablespoons tomato and chicken flavored boullion
2 cilantro cubes
salt and pepper to taste

Bring water with chicken remnants to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour, occasionally skimming foam off top. Add the vegetables and peppercorn. Simmer for about 2 more hours. Season with salt, pepper, cilantro cubes, and boullion. Simmer for another hour.
Strain broth and chill overnight.

The next day, spoon the congealed fat from the top. If your stock is very rich, it will be a big bowl of loose Jello. Freeze and enjoy in future recipes!