I love a good dinner party. Well, I love talking, I love eating, I love wine, as evidenced by this blog I love cooking, and since a good dinner party brings all of those together in spades, it’s almost by default that I love a good dinner party. And so, with my time in Brooklyn winding down, and the holiday season presenting the perfect opportunity to gather some old friends together, we recently hosted our first real, grown-up dinner party. Now, we’ve had “dinner parties” at the 428 before, but they were more casual affairs. Guests gathered via last minute text messages, grills were lit, boars were roasted, and, most significantly, meals were eaten upon the couch, or, weather permitting, al fresco. The last year and a half saw many of these such gatherings – grill-outs aplenty over the summer, mac ‘n cheese or lasagna nights throughout the winter, and, notably, August’s BBQ the Noun Not the Verb – an epic feast wrought from an entire day’s labor on the part of me and Mark, yielding tender pulled pork, bombastically flavorful baked (well, slow-cooked) beans, buttermilk broccoli slaw, chive biscuits, bbq sauce spiced with the homegrown peppers of the deck, a watermelon salad (courtesy of Ashley), and, if I recall, a mini-keg left over from Kegs and Quesadillas Part Deux. Unfortunately, this event was entirely unphotographed, and, as it was months ago, I’ve moved on. Instead, we’re going to focus on last week’s Small, Intimate Dinner Party.
I initially intended to make this drool-inducing asado negro recipe I spotted in the Times, but since good beef can be so prohibitively expensive, I decided to wait and have my mom buy me the ingredients when I’m home for the holidays and try it out on the fam. Stay tuned. Upon further online browsing amongst my go-to recipe sites, my eyes struck upon an intriguing phrase – braised leeks. I love leeks (and as anyone who has been fortunate enough to partake in my famed caramelized leek and gruyere bread pudding, I do great things with leeks), and I love braising. Mainly, because braising inevitably renders whatever you’re eating into a tender mess that’s just this side of mush (I mean that in a good way), and just concentrates the flavor so thoroughly you can’t help but lose yourself in each bite. I mean, pot roast anyone?
Thus, much as a good dinner party combines food, wine and conversation into an ineffable sum so much greater than each of its already distinctly wonderful parts, so too did the words of this recipe. Oh, and then according to this recipe, once the leeks were thoroughly braised I was to continue braising them ‘neath a little something called Devil’s Chicken Thighs (pollo fra diavolo). Yes, please. As the recipe was a little, um, specific, and I don’t have any pics of it, I’ll just send you over to Smitten Kitchen to check it out, and move on to the rest of the meal.
Which actually requires moving backwards to hors d’oeuvres. Historically, I’m not great with hors d’oeuvres. Well, I do make these awesome gougeres for Christmas dinner, but aside from those, putting together bite sized nibbles is usually a little too fine motor skilly for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating them (I have gone on record stating that passed hors d’oeuvres are my favorite meal), just actually preparing small individual things doesn’t really work for me. Still, when Elizabeth put in a special request for Pigs in a Blanket (hereafter known as Pig Newtons, or, I actually prefer Pigs Newton – it sounds a little more upscale, no?), I wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to stock our fridge with crescent rolls and cocktail wienies. And, as appetizers go, they’re pretty easy. However, we soon ran into a communication error, as my excited waving of the tube of Pillsbury in front of Elizabeth while she was on the phone didn’t elicit quite the excited reaction I expected. It turned out that what she really wanted was Devils on Horseback, aka bacon-wrapped cheese stuffed dates. Which I was still totally cool with, for several reasons: one – Assembly is pretty much the same as Pigs Newton, so I didn’t have to do anything too technical; two – the name totally fit with the theme for the evening (any guess what I made for dessert?); and three – bacon wrapped cheese stuffed dates kinda renders any other reasons irrelevant. I used regular cut bacon (the thick cut doesn’t cook as evenly or crisply for this recipe), wished I’d used pitted dates instead of whipping out the tweezers on the box of regular dates I found, some cubed Gouda cheese (although I highly recommend Gruyere), and 20ish minutes in a 400 degree oven (just cook ’em until the bacon reaches your desired crispness).
So we started with Devils on Horseback, moved onto Devil’s Chicken Thighs (with braised leeks), and finished with, you guessed it, Guinness Devil’s Food Cake! Aside from directing you to the recipe, I don’t have much to say on this other than:
Notice that the photographs were particularly good this time around? Thanks to Mr. Mark Iantosca.
And for another look at the dinner party, I suggest you MoveSlightly in this direction.