11 July 2010

Good Food Gatherings (Menu #9 - #11)

Here's the plan for our Good Food Gatherings coming up this week. Sharing some timeless favorites from our kitchen, modified a bit to suit our tastes and cooking style, the line-up includes:
~ Grilled Balsamic & Rosemary Marinated Florentine Steak,
~ Country-Fried Chicken, and
~ BBQ ribs (with our modified Southern Dry Rub)!!

Our concept of Good Food Gatherings shifts the focus away from party themes, decorations & decor details.
Instead, the focus is gathering people together over good food and beverage in enjoyable surroundings.

This is entertaining pared down from extravagance and fanfare.  These are the gatherings pulled together to provide #goodfood, offering something to wet the whistle, but most importantly, allowing the time to share laughs and life with those who have joined at our table.  Take a look at prior posts, including Good Food Menus #1-#4 and Good Food Menus #5-#8.

Featured #blogswelove in the recipes selected for these Good Food Gatherings - Smitten KitchenSouthern Fried ChicagoThe Pioneer WomanSteak PerfectionThe Perfect PantryCooking with Amy, and The Hungry Mouse.

GoodFood Menu #9

Starter: Watermelon Feta Salad (The Savvy Host, see below)
Main: Country Pork Ribs (Smitten Kitchen's Molly's Dry-Rubbed Ribs) with Southern Dry Rib (The Savvy Host, inspired by Joy of Cooking, see below)
Side: Creamy Cole Slaw (The Savvy Host, inspired by Joy of Cooking, see below)

~ We like Smitten Kitchen's discussion of Rib Cooking How-Tos and the fact that her friend Molly found inspiration in Joy of Cooking's Southern Rub...underscores how delicious it truly is!
~ Remember - GRILLING is high-heat fast-cooking.  BBQing is low-heat slow-cooking.
~ A budget cut good for large groups, the country-style pork rib works SO well with this rub as long as it is SLOW-cooked...we also like traditional baby back ribs, spare ribs, and even thick cut pork chops
~ Be sure to let these ribs sit once rubbed for at least 2 hours.  We prefer overnight if possible.
~ Make the cole slaw into your own "specialty"! Add chopped bell peppers, sweet onion, grated radishes, jicama...creativity works here.
~ Don't grimace at the suggestion to use a "light" mayo - it works well in the cole slaw dressing, and you won't miss any taste (or creamy mouth-texture!).
~ For the cole slaw, rice vinegar and sherry vinegar can also be used.
~ Though we prefer the salad family style, consider the interesting cocktail appetizer twist of pairing watermelon, feta, watercress/arugula as individual refreshing bites!

Watermelon Feta Salad
serves 4-6 as a side
3 cups cleaned arugula and watercress
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cups cubed watermelon (seeded) - size is up to you, we like 1" chunks
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives (optional)
1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/2 cup chopped feta cheese (adjust to your taste)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
1/4 cup minced shallots
balsamic glaze - we like to use Roland Food's Blood Orange version
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Arrange chopped watermelon at the base of a large serving bowl (we like to serve this family style). In a separate bowl, combine onions, arugula and watercress.  Layer greens on top of watermelon.  Layer chopped olives (if using) atop the greens.  Lastly, sprinkle feta cheese across the top.  In a  separate container, blend olive oil, vinegar, agave nectar and shallots.  When ready to serve, pour blended dressing evenly atop the salad, and drizzle balsamic glaze decoratively against the white feta.  Serve.

Southern BBQ Dry Rub (for pork, beef or chicken)
creatively adapted from Joy of Cooking
makes 2 cups
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet paprika - use hot if you like more spice
1/4 cup ancho chili powder - chili powder can also work, but the ancho adds complexity
1/4 cup kosher salt - do NOT use regular table salt!!
1/4 cup cracked black pepper - freshly ground makes a difference here
2 TB chipotle chili powder - ground red pepper or flakes can work
2 TB ground cumin - if you are so inclined, toasting & grinding your own cumin seeds can really enhance the taste.
2 TB garlic powder

Mix well.  Spread liberally on meat, and allow to sit for at least 1-2 hours (ideally overnight) before cooking.

Creamy Cole Slaw
serves 6-8 as a side
4 cups chopped Savoy cabbage - you can use regular green or mix in some red cabbage - we like the texture of the Savoy the best
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
2 TB chopped dill
2 TB chopped parsley
1 TB kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise - we like the "sweetness" of low-fat canola mayo in this recipe
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 TB agave syrup or honey
2 TB celery seeds

In a colander, combine chopped cabbage with salt, mix well and let stand at least 30 minutes.  Combine the mayonnaise, cider vinegar, agave syrup and celery seeds and mix well.  Adjust sweetness to taste.  Rinse cabbage well, and spin dry (or blot with towels).  Combine cabbage, carrots, onion, dill and parsley.  Add mayonnaise dressing.  Mix VERY well.  Add salt/pepper to taste.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving and/or adjusting other flavors.

GoodFood Menu #10

Starter: Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts (Gastronomer's Guide)
Main: Country-Fried Chicken (The Savvy Host, see below)
Side: Crash Hot Potatoes (The Pioneer Woman)

~ We like to use skinless, boneless breasts and thighs in this fried chicken recipe.  You will not miss any crunch or flavor - and the buttermilk makes the chicken extra juicy & moist!
~ When buying chicken, we encourage you to opt for organic or free-range farm chickens if at all possible.  The tenderness of the meat, along with a true chicken flavor, will convince you.
~ These potatoes are SO easy and yet SO delicious - if you prefer to use thyme or marjoram in place of the rosemary, go for it!  We also liked adding a little paprika to each potato to spice it up.
~ For the salad, try toasting the walnuts lightly to bring out a more complex nutty flavor.  This is also very tasty with feta or Ricotta Salata in place of the goat cheese.
Country-Fried Chicken
serves 6
2 chickens, each cut into breast, thigh, leg, and wing pieces
3 cups buttermilk
1 TB kosher salt
1 TB garlic powder
1 TB sweet or hot paprika
1 TB freshly ground black pepper
2 cups flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 TB kosher salt
2 TB freshly cracked black pepper
5 cups high-heat frying oil (canola or peanut preferred)

Prep the chicken to brine in buttermilk.  Combine buttermilk, 1TB kosher salt, 1TB ground black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.  Add chicken pieces, toss to coat.  Marinate, turning the pieces occasionally for at least 2 hours up to 1 day.

For cooking, fill a large, deep flat-bottomed skillet with frying oil and set to low heat to begin. There should be between 1/2-1" of oil at the bottom of the pan.  Arrange a large baking sheet with a baking rack.  Have tongs available.

In a large bowl, mix flour, bread crumbs, 2TB kosher salt, 2 TB freshly cracked pepper.  Add chicken piece by piece, shaking off liquid, and turn as required to coat completely.  Place each piece on the baking rack to dry once coated.  Let stand for at least 15-20 minutes before cooking.

Turn up heat under skillet to medium (targeted temperature is 360-375 degrees F).  Add chicken to fill pan but avoid OVERCROWDING. Allow to cook for at least 5 minutes, until golden brown and turn. If chicken does NOT brown in 5 minutes, adjust heat slightly higher.  Allow chicken to cook another 10-15 minutes, turning as necessary.  Look for clear juices from small cut to confirm doneness. Transfer chicken to rest on folded paper bag to drain when cooked.  Adjust seasoning as neededTo keep warm, place cooked chicken on paper bag on a baking sheet and hold in oven set to no higher than 250 degrees F. 

GoodFood Menu #11

Starter: Grilled Naan with Tzatziki (The Perfect Pantry) & Roasted Garlic Three Ways (The Hungry Mouse)
Main: Grilled Balsamic & Rosemary Marinated Florentine Steak (Food & Wine)
Side: Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes & garden Cucumbers w/Balsamic Vinaigrette (The Savvy Host, see below)
~ Naan is tender, baked Indian flatbread.  Heating it up on a hot grill makes for delicious snacking not only with Tzatziki and Roasted Garlic, but also with hummus, baba ghanouj and other fresh spreads and dips.  We like the 365 Everyday Value brand from Whole Foods Market.
~ For the Tzatziki, we highly recommend using Greek Yogurt if available - the texture and thickness will convince you.
~ Need to better understand the different cuts of steak?  We like How Many Different Steaks Are There? from Steak Perfection.
~ On a budget, we borrow from Italian culture and serve the steak family style, rather than providing one steak per guest.  Sliced and beautifully presented on a platter of greens (often arugula) accompanied by a sprinkling of chopped rosemary and a drizzle of Balsamic Syrup, this is Tuscan elegance. Bonus? Each guest can take as many slices as they like, at the exact temperature of doneness they prefer.
~ For the salad, using the bounty of garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers in whatever style of slice or cut you prefer, makes this a delicious side.  Feeling creative? Add ribbons of fresh basil, diced shallots, slices of sweet onion, or shavings of parmigiano cheese...

Balsamic Vinaigrette
serves 6
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon honey or agave nectar syrup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together in a bowl, or blend.  Can also be made in a jar - shake vigorously.

Julia Child's Clafouti: Recipe (Cooking with Amy)
Grilled Peaches with Red Wine Syrup (Planet Green)

~ For the clafouti, we opted for a mix of blackberries and blueberries.  The beauty of Julia's approach is that it's a great basic for many of the fresh summer fruits - cherries, berries, peaches, nectarines, apricots.
~ This version of red-wine poached peaches includes grilling the peaches - a feature we love - AND the syrup has rosemary and vanilla bean which truly takes this dessert up a knotch and a half.
~ Either dish works well with vanilla ice cream.
~ We also recommend serving either with a dollop of this savvy host favorite...

Marscapone Whip 
Serves 4
1 cup of marscapone
1/4 cup Amaretto or brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar 

Combine and blend all ingredients carefully (it will splash) until creamy.  Adjust flavors to suit preferences.

Happy Entertaining!

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