I love to invite friends to my home and cook lots of different food. It's become a tradition of some sort that I host one holiday party at my house around this time of year. In years past, I've invited friends from university and friends from work. This year, I hosted a skating party for my friends from speedskating. Looking over my previous menus, I notice that although the complexity of the dishes have not changed much over the years, I have definitely improved in terms of variety and getting all the food ready with shorter amount of time. Let's take a look at this year's menu:
- Cheese Plate: Presidents brie, Balderson 1 year aged cheddar, Bergeron smoked gouda, unripened goat cheese served with candied walnuts, dried apricots, dried cherries, roasted almonds, water crackers, and cream crackers
- Charcuterie: assorted sausages from Polish deli
- Chili con carne served with baguette
- Pork shoulder braised with Apple Cider, Thyme, and Tomatoes
- Garlic Smashed Potatos
- Pasta Salad with Sweet Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives in Ranch Dressing
- Baby Romaine Lettuce Salad with Dried Cranberries, Sunflower Seeds, Croutons in Honey Dijon Pear Dressing
- Apple Cranberry Crisp
- Vin Chaud
- Caramel Ceylon Tea (Yummy! From The Tea Leaf), Green Tea, Apple Cider
This luncheon menu is heavy on comfort food that I can prepare ahead of time because it was served immediately after a morning of outdoor ice skating. The cheese and charcuterie were one of my more brilliant ideas because they are filling munchies, especially after exercising.
While everyone was mingling, I had an opportunity to reheat the chili, pork shoulder, and baguette. The salad was a cinch to put togehter. The only items that require a la minute preparation were vin chaud and smashed potatos. Vin chaud (French version of mulled wine) is one of my favourite beverages after playing outdoors in winter. In retrospect, since the majority of my guests are not into alcoholic beverages (during lunch especially), I could have scratched this from the menu. However, the aroma of the spices and wine was absolutely mouthwatering. The smashed potatos is so easy to prepare yet the result was amazing. I boiled some baby red potatos until tender. The potatos were drained and smashed to small pieces with a rice paddle (trust me, rice paddle is the best utensil for dealing with potatos). As a finishing touch, I mixed in a generous glob of Boursin, a processed cheese spread with garlic and herbs. Voila! Smashed garlic potato in 3 minutes! This dish was very well received. It will definitely be my go-to recipe for potato preparation from now on.
The chili is one of the dishes that I regularly cook so it was one reliable choice. The pork shoulder, however, I was quite skeptical. First, I rarely cook meat so my confidence is low to start with. Secondly, I have a tendency to under-season meat. Looking at the beautiful 5lb pork shoulder that I bought from Cumbrae's, I was more than a little hesitant. Luckily, the slow long cooking rendered the pork tender and succulent. The sweetness of the sauce penetrated through the meat and it was actually a little like pulled pork. I'm quite happy with the final result.
Happy New Year everyone! May 2007 be another year full of great cooking and baking from Dessert By Candy and you!