I recently had the opportunity to cater for Like the Spice Gallery‘s monthly dinner series which celebrates the current show and the artist gives a sweet talk and all there’s left is entertainment for all. It’s a cozy and close-knit community of local artists and Marisa and Leia do an awesome job at igniting a creative and stimulating environment. I initially approached Marisa to request her jury panel skills for the India Street Mural Project which she accepted and helped choose the 6 artists to be commissioned for the Greenpoint mural. We got to chatting about that thing and another and we shook hands on my catering their next dinner a week away. My heart skipped a beat and I briefly panicked but was super excited for the opportunity that was long overdue.
I labored for a day picking my menu and decided to be safe on my first round cooking recipes I’ve already tried so there’d be no room for failure. I spend the day before grocery shopping and experienced one too many nervous breakdowns as my debit card got denied 3 times. I wasn’t expecting the tax check to be deposited already by the gov’t but they must’ve raced to the bank, completely fucking over what should have been a smooth sailing grocery shopping experience. A friend ended up paying a chunk of it which I promptly reimbursed. I visited Traders Joe’s in Brooklyn for the first time and I was incredibly relieved at how low the prices were. Three packed grocery bags for less than $100!! Insanity. I was cooking steak so I went over to Marlow & Daughters and purchased $100 of sirloin. Yum.
I was expecting about 15 guests and budgeted $15 per person for groceries. Shopping costs met this mark fairly evenly and starting Friday morning I got to cooking. I first baked my dessert knowing it would take forever. I went with what I made last for a BBQ potluck at my crib the week before. At that time it looked like this:
It’s a berry tart recipe from none other than Dorie Greenspan’s Baking:From My Home to Yours. It was an awesome 3 hours of whipping, doughing, crusting, boiling, stirring, sniffing and tasting. I’ve never made tart before and grew up with the idea that corny losers eat fruit tarts (you tart). The shortbready crust was flakey and light, not as soft as I’d like probably due to over pressing into pan. The pastry cream was so damn simple but daunting to think I just put 6 egg yolks in a pot to stir along with 2 cups of milk. It came out super thick and wasn’t as smooth and liquidy as it should have been, it rather clustered into soft chunks which didn’t make it so pretty. Still it was vanilla pudding that was beautiful in its simplicity. For the dinner I added cinnamon to the cream and it came out like brown:
The brown pudding is pretty unbecoming and I added way too much cinnamon and glaze. The taste of cinnamon came on too strong rather than being a seductive hint. It also made the pudding too thick and clunky. Next time I’ll keep to the simple vanilla cream. I enjoyed slicing and fanning out the strawberries and placing the berries in as neat of a pattern as possible.
For appetizer I made the spinach hummus spread I’ve made for the Dinner Project (which reminds me I should prepare another). We spread the spread on each crostini topped with some garnish and oil. It was textured and thick, nutty and savory and the garlic rub gave out a potent roar in accompainiment. Recipe is here.
The main course included couscous with fennel and pine nuts which I’ve made before here, sirloin steak with tomato topping which I’ve made here, and herb butter rubbed spring vegetables which I’ve also made here. I noticed there was a lot of couscous left at the end of the dinner, hopefully it is because we served too much. The steak was roasted in the oven with just salt & pepper and it was medium rared to perfection. It was juicy and chewy, salty and gratifying. The tomato sauce atop the meat probably did better with the couscous. The vegetables were warming and buttery, a refreshing recipe with carrots and turnips. I had the hardest time trying to figure out the best way to cut and present the meat and thank god there was gallery help, one actually having waitressing experience and without her adept placement abilities the plate would’ve been a pile of meat swaths and hurricane mixed grains and veggies. I also made stuffed pepper for the first time for the vegetarians and didn’t even get a test bite so I can’t say how it tasted.
Overall the dinner was a success. I was present throughout the evening and was essentially exhausted. The next day was spent useless and idle, recovering from the madness and chaos that was dayful cooking. O, and I almost forgot! My dear friend Andrzej spent half the day in the kitchen with me rinsing and chopping vegetables and testing the food. If he weren’t there telling stories and making me laugh I certainly wouldn’t have finished in time, but more importantly I wouldn’t have had as much fun along the way. Hopefully this will lead to many future catering ventures hopefully yielding enough supplementary income to splurge on summer dresses.