Friday, March 16, 2012
An Anniversary to Remember
The LOML(Love Of My Life) and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary recently. We invited 10 guests to join our merriment. Each guest was to bring a favorite (moderately priced) wine shielded in some type of wrapping. We were supposed to rate the wines and make comments for each bottle such as “tastes like grapes”. But the evening got away from us and we never gathered everyone’s comment cards. Of course the wines were all enjoyed, without a drop left over.
The highlight of the evening, as commented on by a number of our guests, was the food. To plan the menu, I consulted a number of my cookbooks including the one dedicated to Spanish tapas recipes that have been adapted to the American market. Our taste buds continued to be titillated with each additional dish as the evening progressed.
All the dishes, except for the shrimp that needed to be grilled, were prepared ahead of time. One was waiting in a warming oven when guests arrived. A few were sitting at room temperature ready for service, while the dessert rested comfortably in the fridge.Menu:
Prosciutto & Fruit Skewers – very easy but with a twist. Instead of the typical prosciutto wrapped around melon I served a half slice of prosciutto, gently crumpled, on top of half of a peeled kiwi fruit.Roasted Mini Bell Peppers Stuffed with Rice – the original recipe called for halved full-size red bell peppers to be stuffed with a mixture of rice, sautéed onion, and chopped pine nuts. I substituted bite-sized, mini bell peppers, which I roasted and peeled off the skins (a somewhat tedious process). Then I sliced the peppers lengthwise, removed seeds and stem, and stuffed with the rice mixture. Several steps but easy with a delicious result. I served them at room temperature.
Chicken Wings with Garlic Sauce was the next dish coming from the hot oven. It was made a day ahead and just warmed up. When I went shopping there were no packages of chicken wings available so I resorted to a bag of frozen wing parts – it proved to be several blessings. First, the wing tips were already discarded and the other two joints were separated which saved the difficult job of hacking apart the joints; second, the wing parts were larger than what is normally available in fresh wings; and third, there were more than I originally thought I needed (good thing because the dish was gobbled down very quickly). The chicken parts were sautéed until golden with a head of peeled garlic cloves. As the cloves turned a golden color they were removed to a mortar and pestle for grinding. The chicken was browned on all sides and then removed from the pan. The roasted garlic was mashed with salt and parsley and returned to the roasting pan with wine and stock to deglaze the pan and create a thick garlicky sauce. The chicken parts with their juices were returned to the pan to mix with the garlic sauce. I made sure that the chicken pieces were cooked through. Instead of serving chilled (one option), I chose to reheat the dish in a warm oven.
I almost didn’t get to taste the Mango Chutney Grilled Shrimp because it was so popular. Did these guests come after having starved themselves for several days? Finding mango chutney in the grocery store turned out to be a major task simply because it isn’t a big item and they hid it way up on the top shelf next to the ham glaze… The shrimp marinated in a mixture of mango chutney, vinegar, shredded ginger, minced garlic and a bit of oil for an hour. Threaded on previously soaked wood skewers, the shrimp was grilled for about 3 minutes each side. When turned the shrimp was coated with marinade again. The rest of the marinade was boiled for several minutes until thickened and served as a dipping sauce. Un-skewered, the shrimp were ready for dunking and eating.
I chose a vegetable pate dish to help balance the menu with more vegetables. It was a layered affair – all of the vegetables were poached before layering began. The bottom layer, which became the top when the dish was turned out, was long thin carrots, followed by small bits of cauliflower, long green beans, mushrooms and tender leeks. An egg custard was poured over it all in hopes of holding the layers together. In taste it rated divine, in looks and serving it was way below average. But our guests’ stomachs ruled over look – thank goodness. There weren’t a lot of leftovers.
The LOML’s favorite dessert is flan. And since he is at least 50% of this marriage I decided not to experiment and served the tried and true traditional. I made individual servings of flan, flipped them out of the ramekins so they looked lovely and, fortunately, were perfectly smooth. It was a sweet ending to a delightful evening.