Intimidating Dinner
By Lydia on September 18, 2008 11:33 AM| | Comments (2)
Dinner parties are an essential part of my household cleaning. Generally, I only mop my floor when I know guests are coming over. Guests do not include my family, my boyfriend, or anyone I have seen vomit, visited in the mental hospital, or picked up from jail.

I woke up early yesterday and rode my bicycle to the farmer's market. 20 dollars and one incredibly full backpack later, I realized I had gone completely overboard and had to invite some company over. "Company" was to include the lovely Miss Audacious, Mr. Eddy, old friend Taylor and girlfriend Allison. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how nerve-racking I find cooking for people who are good cooks. Ted and Chris and Audrea, of course, ran the Bootleg Breakfast series, and I've been over to the house a few times for really awesome Indian food. Also, my guests had never been to my apartment before, so I was also nervously rearranging my books and records, trying to hide my less than cool infatuation with crime novels and the Matador back catalog.

At this point, I am almost done putting away groceries and suddenly remember my little fruit fly problem. It started about a week ago, and I thought that the source had been some little cherry-bomb peppers that had grown worms when they were supposed to be drying, but they had left the building, and my flies remained. That's when I looked with new eyes on Beer Mountain. Ah, Beer Mountain, epic in scale, the product of my and my guests perhaps unwise rates of imbibition, and my carless summer state, it had grown out of two cupboards and was spilling out of a closet into my kitchen space. It was time to let go. My mom took me to meijers, and I made out with a cool $25.

Back at home, it was cooking time. I had an idea of a sort of fall-ish menu with apples, onions, cabbage, and some fresh ham slice I got at the market. First the cabbage, a red one, also from the farmer's market, got shredded and apples got peeled and chunked. Those went together in a big pot with a few cloves, salt and pepper, and some butter. A few minutes later, I added a bit of wine and a bit of cider, and covered it, cooking on low. That went to the back of the stove while I dealt with the pork.

Meat, I think, is tricky. I don't really understand the different cuts and how to cook them, so I need frequent reviews of my most helpful cookbooks. More problematic is that I rarely find a recipe, then go to the store with a thorough list, then cook the food. Its more along the lines of find good looking food at the market, then go home and figure out how to cook it. This usually means that I have the wrong ingredients for any exact recipe, so there is intense cross-referencing action while I try to piece together cooking technique and flavor profile. The pork I got at the market was a fresh ham slice. The ham is the hind leg, fresh just means uncured, unsmoked, whatever. The ham can be cooked in any recipe for shoulder (shoulder is sometimes called "butt" which just makes no sense, but go with it) but it is leaner, and so can dry out sooner. Ham nowadays is much leaner in general than in decades past, and is much more likely to dry out with long, dry cooking times. Knowing this, after trimming the ham of bone and excess fat and I cut it into niblets and browned them in a dutch oven in a little olive oil, and then removed them. In the rendered fat and oil I cooked one and a half onions, chunked, until browned. Then I added a couple cloves of garlic and some ginger and about a palmful of cinnamon.Then the pork went back in with about half a bottle of 4 dollar pinot grigio, set on low, and covered.

Vegetarian dinner I had to make simple, as Bones was coming on, so I just whipped some pesto up and mixed some creamed tomato soup from the day before into it (Day before was You're Going To College Cooking Class, we made potato-leek and tomato soups.)  Both dinners were going on egg noodles.

Lastly, I threw an apple crisp together, with cardamom and dessert masala on top. Then everyone came over and I drank too much wine and pretended that my cool square plates weren't from the Crate & Barrel. I am a moron, but at least no one knows I am a moron who shops at outlet stores...

Sis, what the hell is wrong with the Matador back catalog?

The meal sounds delicious. Megan and I should have a cook-off with you some day this fall, though with her schooling, I don't know how well that could work out.

Well, that is just leftover angst from high school, when Josie and Ken made me believe that anything that had a melody was Way Uncool...

A duel with you and Megan would be rad, if intimidating. Ive never gotten over those damn kugels she made. So Good.