Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday Night Dinner

So the chocolate dipped coconut macaroons were a real let-down, literally, they just did not rise. Flat as furry coconut pancakes. This happens to me every once in a while, for reasons I am not sure. I follow the recipe almost precisely. But I didn't have too much time to contemplate my depressed cookies, because the main dishes and appetizers had to be planned for, prepared, and executed. I think I have been watching too many seasons of Top Chef.
I invited 6 couples for dinner avec kids, plus my brother who falls somewhere in between the two categories, for Friday night dinner. I devised my menu after getting this month's Gourmet magazine, which had a feature on a Korean meal. I was kinda sorta planning a pan-asian theme- but there are so many different cuisines when cooking Asian, it's easy to get unfocused. So I boiled it down to Thai and Korean (and one Japanese small dish).

The hors d'ouevres were mainly Thai in flavor. After some initial confusion over which protein to start with, I made Thai fish cakes, which were nicely spiced with red curry paste, and lots of lime. They were well recieved. Then I also offered miso marinated halibut pieces pleasantly salty- sweet after the mirin, miso paste, sake, and sugar mixture it was mightily marinated in for 24 hrs, turned slightly sweet when heated through. Then came Thai corn fritters, kind of a variation on an Indian onion bhajee, except with fresh corn kernels and chili powder instead of gharam masala. And a bottle of beer, I can't remember if bhajees use beer or not, but next time I make them I'm definitely going to include beer. Making the corn fritters was a little like extreme home cooking, kernels would explode in the boiling vegetable oil, narrowly missing my face, often stinging my arm or hand. All in the pursuit of a nicely crisped fritter. Then I made the pan fried sesame tofu I posted on in August. And at the last minute I improvised on a summer roll. I beat a couple of eggs and fried them until well set, and coarsely chopped them and wrapped them in rice paper roll with chopped napa cabbage, shredded carrots, chopped scallions, mixed as a salad with a few tbsps of hoisin sauce and chili sauce for some bold flavor. Everything was kicked up by the dipping sauces I served alongside the plates. My personal fave was the Thai peanut; thinned out peanut butter electrified by hot spices.

The main meal was accompanied by a Korean style romaine salad, and a Korean type of pickle of cucumber and tart granny smith slices floating in a bowl of rice vinegar, water, ginger and some sugar. I made another tofu dish which was all about the sauce. And then I slow-cooked Korean style short ribs, and made some Korean noodles (Jap Chae) to go with it. Just for good measure, in case someone was still hungry I made a roasting pan of spicy hoisin chicken thighs. A little deviation from the Korean style, but similar in flavors and spices.

The best thing about peparing this meal was shopping for all these exotic flavors. Looking for and ultimaltely failing to locate Korean chili flakes, was a bit of wild goose chase, but along the way I found lemon grass, chinese long beans, glass noodles, and napa cabbage at this awesome food emporium called International Food Mart. I will definitely go there again.

Dinner was fun after I sat down and let the vodka do it's job. I made some vodka cocktails with fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice, a splash of seltzer and a couple of spoonfuls of superfine sugar. Yum.

Thai Corn Fritters
Cut the kernels off 6 fresh corn cobs into a large bowl. Stir in 1 c. all-purpose flour, and 1/2 c. self-rising flour flour, 1 1/2 tsp. chilip powder, a bunch of thinly sliced scallions, a few good grinds of salt and a few more of black pepper. Mix well 1 bottle of beer into batter and let sit for half hour to an hour.
Heat corn or vegetable oil and then fry up fritters in quarter cup measurements. I like a deep golden brown color. Scatter chopped cilantro leaves over fritters being laid out on paper towels and squeeze a lime over fritters.

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