Saturday, June 9, 2012

Party at my Place

Here's my Petaluma Post column for June:

With all of the catering that we do I often get asked if we entertain at home.  The answer is absolutely.  I enjoy hosting our family and friends, often for holidays and special events.  I take a lot of cues from the catering company but do it in a much more laid back style.

When someone asks if they can bring something, I say yes!  I like my family events to be community affairs, and getting everyone involved is part of the spirit.  But my inner event planner does come out when answering that question… My first thought is to think of the person.  Are they always the first one to arrive (like most of my family), then ask them to bring an appetizer.  Are they coming from far away, then maybe help with paper products.  If they are the one that is never one time, suggest a dessert.  Take the extra help, they will feel like a part of the party.

At home, with teens in the family I feel you always need a nibble when they arrive; they are always hungry.  Our favorite starter is always a simple crudit√©; baby carrots, snap peas and cherry tomatoes (can’t get easier than that).  Then mix up your favorite dip, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy; ours is a ranch dip made with low fat sour cream and mayonnaise.  For the summer, fruit is always a great addition.

Of the classics Deviled Eggs have definitely made their come back to my table, and I’m even seeing them more and more on the catering side as well.  They are simple and can be served at room temperature.  But I have made a tweak I’ve found very useful.  Hardboiled eggs are slippery, and with a curved bottom the slide all over the tray (unless you have one of the special deviled egg trays).  I also don’t think that half a yolk produces enough filling.  So I do a three quarter medium sized deviled egg.  Stand the egg up on its fat end by slicing just a bit off the bottom to make it flat, then take just enough off the top to get the yolk out.  Now you have a whole yolk per egg to work with.  Remember, use a medium size egg instead of the extra-large, it makes it an easier bite.

Deviled Eggs
1 dz eggs - hard boiled and peeled
Slice the eggs and remove the yolks as described above
Fork smash the yolks
Add in 2 Tbl prepared mayonnaise
1-2 tsp of Dijon mustard
1 Tbl sweet pickle relish
Mix together
Refill eggs

Truffle Deviled Eggs are great gourmet alternative.  Simply replace the tablespoon of pickle relish with half a teaspoon of Diced Truffle Tapenade.  The tapenade is available at gourmet food stores, here in Petaluma Whole Foods carries it.  These are my favorite!

I love to mix it up on the salads, this is a place that you can pull out your favorite magazine and experiment.  Baby arugula is high on my list; it has great body and holds up well, and will not wilt the second that you dress it, making it great for warm days or extended serving times.  My favorite toppings are some fresh parmesan and toasted pumpkins seeds, with a sherry vinaigrette.  I never think you will go wrong with a fresh vegetable salad.  One of my favorites is an update on your classic three bean.

1 head celery, washed and sliced
2 red bell pepper, washed and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, washed and diced
1 red onion, diced
2 lbs green beans, cleaned, cut and blanched
1 - 14oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 14 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup sherry vinegar
2 cup olive oil
1 Tbl dried or fresh oregano
¼ cup agave syrup

Mix up the night before and allow it to sit overnight.  This salad travels great!

There are two favorites in our house for a summer BBQ.  Pork Ribs or Fried Chicken is always the debate.  For my ribs I like spare ribs, they are easier to cut apart.  I remove the silver skin next to the bones and rub with our house dry rub.  Then typically bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes the day before to blanch cook.  Day of the BBQ bring them out and grill 15 to 20 minutes, then slather with your favorite sauce, grill an additional 5 to10 minutes.  Cut and serve.  Great hot or at room temp.

PSC’s Dry Rub
yields 1 quart
2 cups Brown Sugar
1 cup Kosher Salt
¼ cup Paprika
¼ cup Chili Powder
¼ cup Black Pepper
¼ cup Granulated Garlic
¼ cup Granulated Onion
¼ cup Italian Seasoning
1 Tbl Cayenne

Mix it all together, and store in an air tight container, preferably in the dark.  Holds well up to a year.

Fried chicken is a family favorite, and yes it does make a mess.  But boy is it worth it!  It’s a great item that you can do a day ahead.  Reheat in the over or serve at room temperature.  I always double up with an extra package of drumsticks.  Can’t  beat food that’s already on a stick!  For a little extra flavor boost try adding a package of ranch dressing mix into the flour that you dredge in.  Also remember to season that flour with salt and pepper.


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