Happy Hostess, Tired Cookie

Last night I had a few of my girlfriends over for a small housewarming.  I was so excited to not only spend time with my friends, but to cook for them!  I spent most of the morning perusing recipes that would be whimsical and easily alterable for one of my guests who is celiac.  I kept a running shopping list of all needed ingredients and prepared myself for a day of cooking.

The menu;

Ambitious.  Well, actually, ambitious doesn’t quite cover it, especially considering my late start.  More like completely insane!  At about noon I headed over to my drug dealer’s house; known to others as “Whole Foods.”  (That place, oh my goodness.  The artisan cheeses, the freshly baked rustic breads, the amazing goodies, food stands, and sampling platters…and that’s only the north side of the store.  If I could work there, I would.  But only 8-4, Monday through Friday.  And I need full benefits and a comparable salary to my current profession.  Shouldn’t be a problem.)  Anyway, picked up all my stuff for my soon-to-be new cooking adventure, and spent a little time meandering, collecting inspiration for my revolving mental recipe box.  Good times, but had to hurry home…the party was supposed to start at 6:00!

1:00 p.m.  Home.

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Time to get the butter out to get to room temperature for the bundt and egg whites out for the Pavlova.  Then, begin caramelizing onions for the gruyere bites, make the cranberry compote for the bundt so it had time to cool, make the raspberry sauce for the Pavlova so it had time to cool, roast the peppers in the oven and the tomatoes on the stovetop for the salsa so they had time to cool…oy!  The whole afternoon was an unfair game of the clock vs. me.  My girlies were coming and I had so much to do!  Ambitious?  No, completely insane.  I may have mentioned that already.

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Caramelizing onions, cranberry compote, raspberry sauce…check.

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Tomatoes in the skillet to get some color and tempt all those yummy juices to find their way into the pan…

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Oven roasted poblano peppers, sautéed onions and garlic in the ol’ processor, humbly awaiting the maters…

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‘rooms for the bites.

I had so many things going at one time, all the while planning what I needed to do next.  I was firing on all cylinders.  (I needed a drink already.)  Ultimately completing most of my mise en place (getting all the smaller parts of the recipes ready to add to the final parts of the recipes), it was time to dance with Pavlova.  Word origination?  A Pavlova is named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.  Why?  I think it’s because Pavlovas look like her elegant tutu, and they’re light and airy like a ballerina on her toes!

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Did what Ina said, but was worried at this moment that perhaps the sugar and glistening egg whites weren’t dancing on their tippy toes like they should have been. (I needed firm peaks, mine were soft. “Eh, I’ve beat them longer than Ina said, I’m sure it will be fine!”)

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Oh my goodness, she’s stunning! Glistening, sparkling, and smiling at me for a job well done…I’m assuming.

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Pavlova? Um. Pav-Nuh-Uh.

I pulled her out of the oven after two and a half hours, and it was an epic fail.  Runny.  Boo.  I think my oven was too hot from roasting the poblanos (I did turn off the oven and had the door open for a good fifteen minutes while fluffing my whites, but still too hot).  Or maybe it’s because I didn’t get the firm peaks like I was supposed to? Or maybe, I’m sure THIS is what it was…I didn’t use a standing mixer.  I don’t have one.  I’m sure this would have turned out if I had just owned one of those.  You know, you get to use the paddle, and the fancy bowl, and the machine does all the right work, whereas the handheld mixer just clearly doesn’t know what it’s doing.  Dumb.  Regardless, when a cook stumbles in the kitchen, you gotta pick yourself up, dust off the crumbs, and amend what’s left of the recipe.  So, new plan…serve the berries with the dreamy raspberry sauce (had to stop myself from eating like pudding when it was done…), the homemade whipped cream, and a spoon.  But, I warn you, Pavlova…we are not finished here.  I will conquer you one day.  And you’ll be beautiful.  And delicious.  And I’ll never look back.

Five hours later, my cooking was mostly complete.  I was still finishing things up when my girls arrived, but it worked out.  They sat at the bar, drank some vino, and many great conversations were had.

After a hectic day of trying to get my over-zealous menu completed while doing several dishwasher loads in between, taking out the trash, and getting myself all jazzed up for my party, I only remembered to take but a few photos…and they’re not very good.  (One day, I’ll buy myself a fancy camera and take a food-photography class.  Probably the same day I get my standing mixer.)

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Roasted tomato salsa. Worth every minute of roasting. This will be added to my recipe book. Amazing on the tacos, great with chips!

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Tomato, Basil & Balsamic bruschetta. I’ve been making this for years. It’s fresh.  It’s mouthwatering.  It’s a symphony of textures.  Scrumptious.

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Woops. Forgot to take a pic of the completed plate before serving. But these tacos (which I made into mini tacos for an app instead of a meal) were delicious. These will be made again. Yum.

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Bundt. It was heavenly. No better word. So moist. Just, wow! And the berries with whipped cream and the Pav-NO-Va that was in the trash…I remembered it in spirit though.

Sad to say, I forgot to take a picture of the gruyere bites.  They were tasty.  They kind of fell in the oven a bit…true to form I tried to put too much topping on each 2×2 puff pastry square, trying to maximize the tasting experience.  Yeah, don’t do that.

By the time I threw in the apron, I was completely wiped and just ready to enjoy my company.  It was a total blast (have I mentioned that cooking is my dearest friend?), but I was just done.

I learned a very valuable lesson last night, and was reminded of it again this morning when I saw all the leftover food.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT cook that much for a party where your only guests are women!  Women don’t eat, people!  They socialize, nibble, and sip.  The belabored smorgasbord would have been better suited if their husbands had been invited, which of course they were not!

It was a great night of laughing and tasting, both wine and sustenance.

For my next party, I’m catering.

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