Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dinner Parties and Other Disasters

Yesterday I spent the day putzing around here at 305, prepping for a dinner party I'd been looking forward to for quite some time. Liz and Bob and Paul and Melissa were all coming over for dinner. (Liz and Paul are pretty hardcore food peeps, by the way - they know a LOT about food and cooking and are excellent cooks themselves.) Needless to say, I was stoked. Pootie decided to get the heck out of dodge for the day and went kayaking with Jack. So I had the whole place to myself to just take my time, clean a little, and mess about in the kitchen.

Pootie Pie walked in at about 5:00 and said "I don't feel so good." I asked him what was wrong and he said his stomach was just really bugging him. (Insert ominous music here.) I'd felt pretty under the weather myself a day earlier, so I began to suspect we might be looking at a bug, rather than a gastrointestinal anomalie. And I got seriously concerned. He always gets this stuff much worse than I do, so this had the potential to end very badly. He went to lie down for a few before our guests arrived, and I tried not to worry about it and went on with dinner prep.

Assorted olives and pickled vegetables
White Bean Dip with Pita

Salad with Orange-Ginger Vinaigrette

Sichuan Cod
Wild Rice

Chocolate-filled Ebelskivers with Mint Ice Cream

Limoncello (deliciously prepared and graciously donated by Paul)

I got Pootie up before folks arrived, and we had our nibbles and some conversation outside on the patio around the fire. It was a nice night for it. We've had a pretty cold winter and the weather is starting to warm up enough that a fire outside is perfect. We talked about all kinds of stuff, from highways to kayaking to food (of course). Things were going pretty well and I was having a great time.

I pulled everyone in the house for dinner a short while later. The salad was fine. Then I served the main course. Dammit. Too much salt in the rice. I hate that. The cod was OK, though. Out of concern for Pootie's stomach, I put his sauce on the side. When it came time to clear the dinner dishes, I noticed he hadn't touched his dinner. Not a good sign. Then during dessert, he was up and pacing a little and looking through the fridge (I discovered later he was searching for ginger ale, which I got for him.) Then he started doing the Pootie "My Stomach Hurts Fidget". He rocks back and forth a little and kind of rubs his knees. He was deteriorating rapidly, and I knew we were down to the wire on saving everyone's evening, including his.

So it was time to face The Hostess Horror - I had to fold the party. And not during a lull, either. Everyone was talking and having a good time and so it was a rather abrupt ending. But it was definitely in everyone's best interest. 305 is tiny, and there is one bathroom. So there are worse ways that party could have ended. (Liz is convinced the whole thing came about because we were talking about pig's feet. )

It was a LONG night after everyone left, and as of right now (9:45 AM EST), my husband is still sleeping and seems to be on the mend. Hopefully I'll be forgiven, for booting everyone out to take care of my sick husband AND for the awful rice.

Sichuan Braised Cod
This is a modification of a Tony Rosenfeld recipe from Fine Cooking. He uses fresh chiles and I substitute Sriracha hot sauce. He also dredges the cod in egg and cornstarch and fries it in a skillet. Since that makes my vent-a-hoodless house smell like fish for days, I grill the cod plain and serve with the sauce.

Serving Size : 4
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2 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbs rice vinegar, more to taste
3/4 cup low-salt canned chicken broth (I used vegetable because Bob's a vegetarian)
1 1/2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs ketchup (yes! Really!)
1 Tbs. Sriracha Sauce
1 1/2 lb thick cod fillets (“cod loins”), cut into 4 uniform pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green,  parts separated
1 1/2 Tbs minced ginger

In a small bowl, mix the 2 tsp. cornstarch with the 2 Tbs. vinegar. Add the broth, soy sauce, ketchup and Sriracha sauce. Season the fish with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Place the fish on a foil and parchment lined pan and cook on a hot grill (about 500) for 7 - 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
Add the oil to a medium frying pan and over medium heat, add the white parts of the scallions, and the ginger. Cook, stirring, until the scallions become translucent and browned in places, about 2 min. Give the cornstarch mixture a quick stir and then pour it into the pan. It should come to a boil and thicken quickly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the fish to the pan, and flip it a couple of times to coat it in the sauce. Serve immediately with the sauce spooned over the fish and sprinkled with scallion greens.

Shopping List

Fresh Ginger
1 bunch Scallions (green onions)

Fresh Fish
1 1/2 lbs. cod filets

Asian Food Aisle
Sriracha Sauce
rice vinegar
soy sauce

Other Aisles
vegetable oil
chicken or vegetable broth

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