Dinner Theme: Cajun/Creole

Saturday, February 28, 2009
Time : 11:45 PM

In honor of Mardi Gras we collaborated on a cajun/creole feast. I swear we just get better and better at this every time! Our menu this time was small but satisfying.
Chicken Andouille Gumbo: This was my dish and I think I hit it right on the nose. I used a recipe from nolacuisine.com and pretty much stayed true to it instead of experimenting. This person definitely knew what they were talking about. The chicken in this recipe baked to a nice brown and then simmered in the stew for nearly 2 hours. When I went to take it off the bone it didn't take much effort. If I made this again I'd try just doing a chicken gumbo and doubling the chicken, getting rid of the andouille altogether. I used quite a bit of Frank's Red Hot in this, as it was the only hot sauce we had on hand, and it added just enough spice to say "creole." I also managed to injure myself (like always) with what nolacuisine calls the Cajun Napalm; Read his "recipe" on making roux—it's highly entertaining.

Bread Pudding: Andy made the bread pudding that is linked above; I've had a lot of bread pudding and I have to say this is the best I've ever had. It was purely sinful. I threatened to eat the entire rest of the pan.

Drinks: We didn't have any themed drinks for this meal because it was so informal. But I did try making a daiquiri. Since I didn't have anything normal (strawberry, for instance), I made a coconut daiquiri using Malibu. It was interesting, it wasn't terrible. It was very strong! I recommend daiquiris for this meal, or beer works just as well!

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posted at 11:45 PM | Permalink | 1 Comments

Dinner Theme: Italian

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Time : 1:00 PM

John had a craving to cook up some homemade pasta so he suggested we do Italian. I had no qualms with this since Italian food is my one of my all-time favorite genres. This dinner was...fantastic! If you want a solid menu to impress, with a few changes to accommodate for your own tastes, this is the one for you.
  • Panzanella
  • Italian Wedding Soup
  • Ravioli stuffed with spinach & ricotta in a creamy tomato seafood sauce
  • Game Hens with Pomegranate
  • Rum Babas
  • Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Peel
  • Drink: Italian Wine
  • Drink: Limoncello

Panzanella: The panzanella was great. Instead of making it as a tossed salad, Rebecca stacked the elements on pieces of broiled french bread (a la bruschetta). It was a fancy little appetizer and a fresh start to the meal.

Italian Wedding Soup: This was my dish and I loved it. There were so many variations on the soup online, I finally picked Giada De Laurentiis's version and worked from that. The meatballs were AMAZING. I had leftover meatballs and ate them for days afterwards...and never got sick of them. Even if you don't want the soup, this recipe is worth it just for the meatballs.

Ravioli: John made some homemade ravioli and covered it in a creamy tomato seafood sauce made with blended mussels. Top notch.

Game Hens: Game hens are always delicious. Andy stuffed them with pomegranate and it was a nice surprise when digging in. I believe this recipe was from Mario Batali's truly awesome book, Molto Italiano.

Desserts: The Rum Babas was another recipe from Molto Italiano cooked by Andy, this simple dessert was very dense and filling. Huge buns covered in a sauce. It was ok, but not something I would make again. The chocolate covered orange peels was something I made on a whim. They were delicious, and you can't really screw them up. But they are pretty time consuming.

Drink: Limoncello (the non-creamy version) is heaven in a bottle. I'm excited to drink this on ice this coming summer. Perfect hot day treat.


Italian Wedding Soup


Meatballs:
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Soup:
  • 12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound curly endive, coarsely chopped (1 pound of escarole would be a good substitution)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tools
  • Large Bowl
  • Baking Sheet
  • Large Pot
  • Whisk
  • Fork
  • Ladle

To make the meatballs:
Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and pork.

Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.

To make the soup:
Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add the meatballs and curly endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the curly endive is tender, about 8 minutes.

Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend.

Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute.

Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour into bowls and finish soup with parmesan cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

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Dinner Theme: Oktoberfest

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Time : 11:34 PM

With the liquor store shelves full of Oktoberfest beers, and the leaves starting to turn colors, we just couldn't help ourselves but celebrate our German ancestors' favorite drinking and eating holiday. Our final menu:
  • Saucission
  • Homemade Pretzels
  • German Potato Salad
  • Beer Cheese Soup
  • Pear Tart with Riesling Sauce
  • Oktoberfest Beers

I cooked up the German Potato Salad based off Bobby Flay's recipe at Foodnetwork.com. I'm not going to lie to you, it was fantastic. Bacon, potatoes, can you really go wrong? John's beer cheese soup was a classic Wisconsin-German staple. Rebecca's tart was also very good. Saucission, while a french sausage, is still sausage. Plus it was purchased from a German store, and it made a great appetizer.

The potato salad recipe is linked above. It's pretty basic, try some different things with it!

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posted at 11:34 PM | Permalink | 1 Comments

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My friends and I have been having theme dinners on and off for over three years now, and I thought I'd start sharing some of our theme menus. We love food and hNs is my way to share this enjoyment with as many other people as possible.


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