October 24, 2009

A Housewarming Dinner Party

I am, admittedly, a procrastinator. It's not the best of traits to have. However, I'm also a deadline-driven sort. The shorter the deadline and the crazier the expectations, the better.

Do you have a hand grenade that needs to be defused? After someone pulled the pin? No problem. Got it covered. (well, not an actual hand grenade. i wouldn't know what the heck to do with a hand grenade, but it makes for an interesting metaphor.)

These little tidbits of information about me are relevant because I recently moved. Quite frankly, without the right motivation, I would very likely unpack only what I really need and then curl up on the couch with a book and read and read and read. And watch football.

In any case, as a motivator to make unpacking boxes in my new apartment somewhat less onerous, I gave myself a deadline that also doubled as a reward. I invited a couple of friends over for dinner, which would mean I'd have to have things in some semblance of order before my friends arrived. Not to mention the fact that I'd have to have some dinner ready to put on the table.

I purposely kept things simple. In what still qualifies for a new kitchen, I didn't want to risk things going awry with a complicated menu. With that in mind, I decided to make Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Applesauce, Cole Slaw and Afternoon Tea. Plus, in terms of my cooking challenge, I made some decent progress and used three cookbooks. All of the dishes, except for the cole slaw, are new-to-me dishes and each comes from a separate cookbook.

The easiest of the three was Afternoon Tea from "Cowboy Cocktails." This was an easy drink. In fact, I'm not sure it gets too much easier. Iced tea (unsweetened) spiked with light spiced rum and slices of lemons and springs of mint for garnish.

Easy and refreshing. However, given the easiness of this recipe, I feel obligated to try one or two more recipes from this collection of drink recipes. I know. It's a terrible burden, but someone must undertake it.

Oddly enough, the second easiest recipe was the East Carolinian pulled pork, which came from "The South: The Beautiful Cookbook," a cousin to my beloved "Texas: The Beautiful Cookbook" from which I've made a few recipes (see here and here ). I'm sure this might seem like a controversial choice to some. After all, I'm from Texas. What the heck I'm doing going within sniffing distance of this kind of BBQ?

Well, I'll tell you why I made this recipe. I live in an apartment. I do not have a patio. I do not have a stovetop smoker. This is the only BBQ recipe I could find in my cookbooks that did not involve a grill, a smoker or a crockpot (i've made crockpot, bbq brisket already). This was a recipe with oven directions.

If it makes you feel better though, while I made the vinegary sauce from the recipe, I used Stubb's BBQ Sauce when it came time to make sandwiches. Regardless of your BBQ affiliations, this pulled pork dish was good. Well done, moist and flavorful with just the right amount of spicy heat. The leftovers were just as good.

As a side dish, I wanted to make homemade applesauce, especially since it's fall and I was making pork. My applesauce recipe came from "Joy of Cooking: All About Breakfast & Brunch." I've used this cookbook before, but I made muffins, which didn't count as a new-to-me recipe and, therefore, I felt that I couldn't check this cookbook off the list for the purposes of my cooking challenge.

I was nervous about making applesauce. The recipe didn't call for too much liquid and I was supposed to simmer the apples until they were soft. I was certain that, without constant hovering, I was going to burn the apples. I didn't.

Instead, I learned that homemade applesauce kicks store-bought applesauce's keister. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is going to become a go-to recipes. It takes some work with all of the quartering and coring of the apples, but it's definitely worth it.

As a motivator and a reward, I think the dinner was a success. I had a great time hosting my friends and can't wait to host another, even fancier dinner. More importantly, my friends also claimed to enjoy the meal. And I have no reason to doubt them since they went back for more drinks (what does that say about my friends, i wonder?) and cleaned their plates.

Applesauce - Makes 4 to 6 servings
From Joy of Cooking: All About Breakfast & Brunch

3 pounds of apples - choose a mix of apples for a better flavor
1/2 to 3/4 cup apple cider, depending on the juiciness of the apples
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, depending on tartness of apples
1 large cinnamon stick
1/2 cup white sugar or 6 tablespoons mild honey
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (optional)

If desired, peel the apples. Then quarter, core and slice the apples into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Put the apples, cider, lemon juice and cinnamon stick in a dutch oven. Cover and simmer the apples over low heat until the apples are tender, but not mushy. Stir the mixture regularly.

Stir in the sugar or honey, nutmeg and, if you're using them the ginger and mace. Cook only until the sugar is dissolved and thoroughly mixed in. About 1 minute.

Remove from the heat. Discard the cinnamon stick.

If you peeled your apples, you can probably mash the apples with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. If you're like me and don't peel your apples, you'll probably have to use a blender to get the right texture. Just pulse the apples in batches.

And there you go. Applesauce. Homemade applesauce. You can serve it warm or chill it before serving. It's excellent either way.

1 comment:

koreed said...

You had me at homemade applesauce, let alone all of the other great stuff!