Sunday, April 20, 2008

Foodin' of the finest order.

Today, M and I answer the ultimate question for the 21st century: Is it possible to prepare too many deviled eggs for a get-together?

Today was my day to catch up with all the chums I had missed since I got sick -- people I haven't seen for over a month or so. It was awesome. But one of the best parts was the food prep. I love this kinda thing: preparing food on a big scale, going through a huge range of dishes and exploring different options. While I was unwell, I came up with the plan (probably part of the whole
getting-out-of-hospital-let's-do-something-dinky backlash) for a vaguely 70's-inspired afternoon tea. Actually, it originally was going to be some dainty teacakes and things, and then I thought of deviled eggs and the whole thing got wildly out of control.

Speaking of deviled eggs, this has been the central bone of contention in our food preparation. M dislikes eggs in general and hates boiled eggs in specific, and so any dish that involved their widespread application was always guaranteed to invite comment. M claimed to have called all our invitees and asserted that they had all refused to enjoy deviled eggs. I claimed he was talking out his trousers. Fortunately, he was distracted by a small, contained bread fire and so the deviled eggs continued apace!

Perhaps it was the heady excitement of the day, or the scent of deviled eggs in the air, but we got caught up in the 70's atmosphere and made vol-au-vents. We used frozen puff pastry, and then cut out rings and bases -- in the picture on the right, the rings are being cut out. We made a corresponding number of bases (same sized discs, but without the bit cut out of the middle) and then stacked 'em up and baked them. Then we were faced with the challenging decision of what to put in them...tough battle. By now, the deviled eggs were in the fridge, so I considered that argument won. But then we brought the vol-au-vent cases out of the oven and they looked awesome! Golden brown, crispy, puffy. Perfect. And then we made the filling: half we filled with spinach and goat's cheese, half asparagus and mushroom. Mmm. Filled 'em up and popped 'em in the oven to warm through. Oh yes. In the interests of not over-catering, we only made about 10 of each flavour, but ohhh, it was hard not to chow down on them while we waited for our guests. (Who promptly chowed them down anyway.)

While the vol-au-vents were cooling (and the deviled eggs were laying low in the fridge), we made sandwiches.

Lots of sandwiches. Miles of sandwiches. Delicious, fresh cucumber sandwiches. I bought little baby fresh cukes from the markets that morning. Lovely and fresh, with plenty of butter and salt. Oh yes again. And we made some tomato and avocado ones, some egg and cress, some avocado and cress, and so on and so on and so forth. Plenty of avocado, cress and cucumber, that's what I'm talking about (apparently).

In addition to which, we had spent the night before making lemon tarts, honey joys and other tasty things. And plenty of 'em. The lemon tarts were inspired by a recent attempt to make lemon butter, which was a little too thick -- but ideal for lemon tarts! Behold!

But the piece de resistance (I know where the accents go, but I'm not sure how to do them in blogger) was M's pumpkin pie. He was pretty damn proud of it, and, oh boy, he should be. The smell was heaven; the pastry firm and light; the filling plump and thick and not at all runny. The entire house smelt like warm, wholesome, autumn pie. The guests agreed. There was only one slice left, and that was only because it was ferreted away in a secret coat pocket.

It was exquisite.

I have been an over-caterer for most of my cooking life, and today I thought was the ultimate compliment: all we had left was a couple of sandwiches, a slice of pie, and a few honey joys (which are going to work with me tomorrow, to be circulated among co-workers). It was awesome. I'm so happy with how the afternoon went. It was so wonderful to catch up with our friends, and I felt proud for doing all this cooking and food preparation and it coming off so successfully.

Oh! I almost forgot, we also served champagne, orange juice and rosewater coolers (rosewater, lemonade, gin, lemons...oh my, yes). Refreshing, tasty and completely gone by the end of the afternoon. Yes indeed, a triumphant catering.

There was one last thing: M's canapes. Beautiful (that's them above). He came up with these at the last second, and whipped them together in the space of about fifteen minutes. The guy's got brains coming out of his fingertips. Checkout a closeup:

Pretty good, huh? Those are rounds cut out of toast, topped with tomato, avocado, cayenne pepper, chives and mayonnaise. Bee-yew-tiful. And they disappeared pretty damn quick.

Oh, and the deviled eggs? Forgot to photograph them. Gone within the hour. Je ne regrette rien.

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