I’ve been absent over the past few weeks busying myself with holiday stuff and of course studying. However, over the holidays I had the chance to cater my sister’s “first… and last cocktail party”, her words not mine. No, I didn’t poison everyone with the food I made and there’s nothing wrong with my catering abilities, except maybe not being able to torch meringue properly (i.e. setting a few cupcakes on fire). I promise you there was nothing wrong with the food nor the drinks but instead, of course, the company. You see, my sister has a lot of friends, girl friends actually, and in my experience girls who don’t know each other don’t tend to want to get to know each other.
So, I’m making it sound like there were some bitch slaps thrown and some awful words tossed around but none of that happened, though maybe I did hear a few whispers. It was actually more of a strained “I don’t know you so I don’t like you” type of atmosphere. Though, luckily I just got to stay out of the way and in the kitchen most of the time, the place where I feel most comfortable.
As for the actual catering job, I think it went pretty well. The menu included a few vegetarian items, a meat option, fish option, as well as gluten free options. For the savoury dishes I included a braised soy mustard pork belly on romaine hearts with pickled carrots, lox on a potato pancake with horseradish sour cream, garlic creamed mushrooms on polenta squares, caprese skewers with a balsamic dip, and crackers with cheese and apple slices. My sister, being the picky lady that she is, fought me on those crackers and cheese. I had originally planned on goat cheese stuffed dates with and without prosciutto but she just had her heart set on the crackers and cheese. In the end no one really ate them. Lesson learned for next time, listen to your little sister, though I guess there won’t be a next time.
The drinks included a festive spiced rum lemon apple cider and a grapefruit mint mojito. “This tastes like happiness” said one of the drunken guests.
Last but not least were the desserts. On the menu were peppermint macarons, mini lemon meringue buttermilk cupcakes, and vanilla panna cottas with a raspberry coulis topped with chocolate shavings. All the desserts went down a treat and we ended the night with a Kris Kringle gift exchange. As luck might have it, I chose a real kitchen torch from my cousin and now I don’t have to set tiny cupcakes on fire with my dad’s industrial blow torch!
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis
Makes 8 half cup servings
Panna cotta recipe adapted from this recipe to make it easier
1 tbsp (10g) powdered gelatine
2 tbsp (30g) cold water
2 cups (500mL) heavy cream
1 cup (250mL) half and half
1/3 cup (83g) of granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
Add the 2tbsp of cold water to a small microwavable cup. Sprinkle over gelatine and let sit for one minute.
In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the cream, half and half, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds with the vanilla pod on medium heat. Bring just to a boil over moderate heat. Microwave the gelatine mixture for about 20 seconds or until melted. Remove vanilla pod. Remove the cream from the heat and add the gelatine mixture. Stir until fully incorporated. Pour into 8 ramekins and chill at least 4 hours or until set.
1 pint of raspberries
2tsp of lemon juice, or to taste
2tbsp of sugar, or to taste
Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Check for flavour and add more lemon juice or sugar if necessary. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.
The panna cotta’s can either be un-moulded by dipping the ramekins into hot water and running a thin knife around the edge or can be eaten from their ramekins. I used clear plastic wine cups for the party and then topped each with 2tbsp of raspberry coulis and a bit of chocolate shaved with a vegetable peeler.
Apple Cider with Spiced Vodka
1 bottle of vodka
3 sticks of cinnamon, broken in half or thirds
2 pieces of star anise
1 vanilla pod or vanilla extract
non alcoholic fresh apple cider
The night before you wish to make the drink, pour out about a shot of vodka from the bottle, reserving it for another time. Add in all the spices to the bottle and gently shake. Let sit overnight. The vodka will turn a medium amber colour and smell like the spices.
Add an ounce of spiced vodka to a glass, 1/2 an ounce of lemon juice and top with half apple cider and half carbonated water.