August 08, 2009

Food for Card Sharks

I think I might’ve fallen off the bandwagon or something.

I’m supposed to be cooking my way through my cookbooks and haven’t made even a teeny, tiny dent in them since June. In fact, I’m pretty sure that during the month of July, I didn’t touch a single one of them except to flip through one or two of them or to move a stack of them from one spot to another.

That’s sad. Really, really sad and maybe just a little bit pathetic too.

Last weekend, however, I felt like I might have turned the corner.

As the co-host for an evening of Euchre, it was my responsibility to bring food. And not just some little nibbles or bags of candy or something. I needed to bring my fair share of treats for about 12 adults and assorted children.

This was a challenge that I was totally up for.

I also knew that I could only get away with only just so much experimenting since I’d have to make all the food in a short amount of time and make sure it was good. None of these experiments where I spend precious time making something that winds up tasting horrid a la Bobby’s Pimento Cheese.

Knowing my friends, I knew sort of what I wanted to make. Knowing that much at least, I went with two recipes I’ve made before – Chiqui’s Creole Cream Cheese Dip and Pecan Chicken.

I modified the Pecan Chicken recipe a bit though. First, I cut the chicken so that it could easily be eaten in a bite or two rather than cutting them into strips. Then, because I forgot to buy more sesame seeds (the recipe calls for a quarter cup), I substituted two heaping tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. I also switched out the tablespoon of salt and tablespoon of paprika for a heaping tablespoon of Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning. Based on the reactions of the group and the return trips to the platter, these substitutions worked just fine.

Chiqui’s Creole Cream Cheese Dip was done per the instructions – except for one fatal flaw. I combined all the ingredients in my mixer rather than a blender. It makes a difference. The mixer on high speed wound up whipping the heavy cream, which gave the dip a weird fluffy texture. When I made it in the blender last time, I had an appropriately smooth, dip-like texture. So, basically, what should have been an excellent batch of dip was ruined by texture. I hate that.

I made up for one batch of dip gone bad with a different dip – Baked Bean Dip. I saw a photo of this on TasteSpotting, one of my most favorite Web sites, and knew it would be perfect for my group of Euchre-playing friends. Plus, it looked simple enough that I knew I could work into an afternoon of cooking without completely stressing myself out in the making of it and other recipes.

You can see the recipe for yourself at EatWellLivingThin’s Web site. My only tweak was to use a can of Ro*Tel instead of salsa. Based on the reactions of my friends and the fact that the pan was nearly empty by the end of the evening, I think it was a success. In fact, we cracked open a second bag of chips to scoop up as much as possible. Very satisfying.

My last recipe comes courtesy of Bakerella, who recently featured a post about Petit Fours and Cream Cheese Pound Cake. While I’ve gone through the nightmare of making petit fours myself, I could not resist Bakerella’s pound cake recipe. After making it for myself, complete with some strawberries and frosting, I have to say I’m glad I did not bother with trying to resist the temptation to make this recipe. This stuff was delicious and just a little bit decadent.

One of the nice things about this little cooking adventure is that I managed to make everything in less than four hours, including baking time. For me, that’s impressive since I can be so easily distracted by other things. Although, since I had a hard stop of having to be out of the house at a certain time in order to get to my friend’s house to set up before everyone showed up, I might have had more incentive to get everything done in a timely fashion. Personally, I do not think that this fact takes away from my accomplishment. After all, I made all four dishes as planned and didn’t dump one of them due to laziness or a distraction.

The only thing that would have made this night better would have been if I’d had the highest score of the night. I didn’t. Not even close. Boo…

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