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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: just another Tuesday night chez nous

Wineoncounters Every month, Foodbuzz hosts a special dinner series Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24, featuring twenty-four Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers, creating, eating, partaking in twenty-four unique meals occurring around the world during a 24-hour period.  What a fascinating idea, isn't it?  A glimpse into dining rooms and kitchens of home cooks just like us the world over.  Look at this sweet cooking party to stock the pantry for a mom-to-be friend, or this fun make-your-own-Mac&Cheese party.  How awesome are they? 

Jeff I've been wanting the play along for a while, the only problem for me has been timing.  The 24 meals are all supposed to happen during the same 24-hr period, and on the most convivial night of the week for most people, a Saturday night.  Well, suffice to say we are not "most people" around here.  David spends his Saturday nights creating convivial meals for his guests at Manresa.  I spend my Saturday nights watching Syfy.  (No, really.)  Around here, the night we let loose and have a little fun is on a Tuesday - Monday and Tuesday being the two days a week Manresa is closed, and after spending Monday night catching up on sleep, Tuesday night is the one in which we get to play.  How, you asked?  Usually with a gathering of also-non-Saturday-night-people that is to say restaurant-industry friends, eating simple food and drinking not-so-simple wines.  Once informed of this, the power-that-be at Foodbuzz graciously agreed to stretch out the 24-hr period a little,  just enough to cover our usual Tuesday night chez nous.  How sweet of them, yeah?


The usual suspects at our Tuesday night dinners are the two of us (of course), our neighbor Katy (who's also the event mistress for most of the lovely Outstanding in the Field dinners that we all know and love), and our good friend and the wine director of Manresa Jeff.  Adding to this are a roving group of restaurant friends, this time includes Dade Thieriot, the purveyor of fine wines at Dee Vine Wines, who came with his  fresh-off-the-boatplane darling Petra, and the inimitable Seigo Takei (previously of El Paseo in Mill Valley) and his lovely partner Keiko Takahashi (who was El Paseo's chef when it earned the Michelin star.) 

At our usual Tuesday night dinners, things are pretty simple.  Olives or charcuterie to begin.  Roast a chicken or two, or braise a big hunk of protein of some sort for a main course.  Someone throws together a simple green salad.  A few bits of cheese.  A tart or even a piece of fruit to finish.  Everything's served family style, everyone helping themselves to what they want.  The key is for it to be a dinner I don't have the spend the day slaving over - something simple enough that a pair or two of skilled hands could do pretty quickly.  We compensate for the simple meal by the wine we drink.  Around our house, we think life's too short - and free time in too short supply - to drink crappy wine.


This time, the food was perhaps a bit more involved than our usual Tuesday night dinners.  Our friends Seigo and Keiko love my Thai food, and Dade's Dee Vine Wines specializes in fantastic German Rieslings on top of that, so Thai food it was.  Even so, in the spirit of our Tuesday nights, I kept the menu very simple.  I made the starter in advance, Khao Tung Na Tung, Thai rice cakes with pork and shrimp in coconut milk topping.  The recipe is here.  It only needed to be heated right before serving.  With a bottle of champagne and a Riesling or two between bites of crunchy, savory Khao Tung, my guests were pretty happy while I put together the rest of the dinner.


The next course was a salad: pomelo, cucumbers, shrimp, in a light dressing made with a little lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and a pinch of sugar, topped with crunchy bits of roast coconut flakes and fried shallots.  It might sound a little odd collection of ingredients to you, but it was a hit on my dinner table that night - a slight bitterness from the pomelo, a hint of sweetness in the dressing, a toasty note from the coconut, and the lovely crunchy bits of fried shallots.  Try it and you'll love it.  I didn't really make this from a recipe, but it's basically the same as this cucumber salad I made this summer, substituting about 2/3 of the cucumber slices with segments of pomelo, and changing the acidity in the dressing just a bit to accommodate the citrus in the salad.


The main course was my famous Khao Soi, a chicken curry noodle dish from the North of Thailand. I said famous because I've made it for so many parties, and it's become a favorite of so many friends.  It's easy to make, delicious, and super fun, requiring a participatory eating experience, with each guest composing their own meal from the prepared ingredients.  I made a big pot of curry, this time only with chicken thighs - those often are the ones we fight over so I thought I'd preëmpt the war.  I set out the composed parts, cooked egg noodles, crispy fried noodles, pickled lettuce, sliced shallots, wedges of lime, a few pieces of dried chillis for the intrepid souls among us. 


A guest grabbed a bowl, put some cooked egg noodles at the bottom, a ladle or two of the chicken curry bubbling in the giant pot on the stove went in, then a bit of pickled lettuce and shallots, finally, garnished with crisp, fried egg noodles on top, a squeeze of lime, and then they could go to town on it.

The first dessert was a favorite of mine from childhood, a chilled dessert soup Som Choon - lychees and oranges with crispy bits of peanuts, coconut flakes, and fried shallots (yes, really), floating in a gingery, slightly salty syrup.  It's a refreshing end to the spicy Thai meal.  I'll post the recipe for this shortly. 


The final dessert, a sort of mignardises to go with green tea requested by Keiko, were the Grayasat (aka crack bars) I posted for the Chinese New Year celebration.  You might still remember them?  Quite healthy caramel peanuts, sesame, and puffed rice bars made with honey and palm sugar - half of which were made a little less healthy but a little more oh-so-good with a dip and a roll in Valrhona chocolate and cocoa powder. 


True to our Tuesday night tradition,we stayed at the table long after the food was gone.  More wines were broken out, with liberty now, no longer needing to consider the food: two aged Bordeaux, and old Burgundy.  The night was young yet. 


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