Weekday Entertaining

This week, was a little busier than our typical schedule. On top of  work (for us and our eldest), karate, and soccer, we squeezed in haircuts for everyone, the eldest had to ref one night, I went to bunco in the neighborhood, we hosted our neighborhood board meeting, and had clients over for dinner. We wrapped up the week today enjoying a UM win at the Big House over BYU. This evening I’m relaxing, the pizza is ordered and I’ll be pouring the wine after I pick it up. Sadly, with the speed of the week I neglected pictures.

Cooking after work can be a challenge, entertaining takes that to the next level and planning is key! After my skirt steak Sunday dinner I broke down a 7 lb. pork shoulder to make sure that was ready for the week. I used to shy away from large cuts of meat and even more daunting were bone-in cuts, but when I was shopping this week, that was best looking cut. I removed the excess fat and bones, and cut it into about 8-10 large pieces which I cover with foil and a rimmed cookie sheet and kept it in the fridge until Tuesday. (Pizza is ready, time for wine.)

On Tuesday, the boys had pizza and I was running to bunco so I had a bit of time after work to pick up the fresh ingredients for the client dinner and then run home for the rest of the prep of the pulled pork sliders, I made the rub and evenly pressed it into the pieces of pork, covered it back up, and returned it to the fridge. I also made the vinegar sauce and then ran to bunco.

On Wednesday, I put the pork in the crock pot and headed off to work. I got home about 5, pulled out the cookie sheets and had my younger son bake the cookie dough that I made on Sunday. While he worked on  that I started the slaw (the yummy one my MIL brought over for the Low Country Boil), shredded the pork, reduced the sauce, and then finished the coleslaw and put it in the fridge to get a chill. (I would have preferred to make it on Tuesday, but ran out of time.) After that was set, I cut up some carrots, celery, and bell peppers. I set the table with the slider buns, veggies, dip, pork, sauce, cheese, pickles, sliced jalapeños, slaw, chips, and cookies (Nestle’s original recipe – it’s the best).

All week at work we had 2 of the team members from a key client in town for an important project; it’s been ongoing for about 4 years, so we know the team rather well. Over the years I’ve taken a bit of sass for talking about what I cook a lot, but never cooking for them. So I decided to take the plunge, since I wasn’t in the mood for another restaurant this week. I carefully selected the menu to avoid allergies and food preferences and ended up with the following menu:

  • Strawberry Balsamic Baked Brie
  • Sun-dried Tomato Goat Cheese and mixed marinated olives
  • Shrimp and Lobster in Key Lime Sauce
  • Herbed Garlic Rice
  • Roasted Asparagus
  • Double Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone Cream and Raspberries

I left work a touch early, picked up fresh bread from the local market and headed home. My first objective was the Pavlova, although simple it needs to bake for over an hour and then cool slowly in the warm oven. (It can be made a day in advance, but the board members are great and we chatted long after the meeting was done.) The meringue is fairly simple, just be gentle when folding in the cocoa, chocolate, and vinegar. You may still see the specs of chocolate, but it shouldn’t be streaky. Once it was in the ovn with the timer set I could move on to other activities. The next task was to clean the shrimp and lobster, chop the lobster, and then set them in the fridge on paper towels in individual bowls so that they drain and dry before you cook them.

I then rinsed and sliced my mushrooms and set them aside to dry on an old towel until I needed them. I minced the garlic: 3 cloves into the lobster skillet and 8 into the pot for the rice. The Brie was next on the list, I cut the rind from the top (no need to be perfect) and set it in my Brie baker. The next step was to clean a pint of strawberries, quarter them, and put them in a small pan with sugar and balsamic vinegar, and then cleanedd the raspberries  and set them aside to dry. I also had the rice measured, my lime ready to be squeezed, parsley and basil chopped, the table set with china, and wine chilled. My friend and coworker arrived 15 minutes early to help with last minute details.

She put out the goat cheese, olives, and crackers on our breakfast bar then snapped the ends off of the asparagus while I put the brie in the oven, started the rice, and cooked the strawberries. I poured the berries over the brie, returned it to the oven and just after my guests arrived, served the brie. My kitchen is arranged so that guests can sit at the bar while I cook. As they enjoyed appetizers, I whipped the Mascarpone Cream, topped the Pavlova and set it in the fridge. Just as the rice finished cooking I stirred in the herbs and started the mushrooms. At the same time I started the shrimp and lobster I broiled the asparagus,  they were thin and only took a few minutes. My target for serving was 8, and I was very excited when we all sat down at 8:04.

 Slow-cooker Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches

serves 12

INGREDIENTS and DIRECTIONS

For dry rub:

  • 3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix ingredients in small bowl to blend.

For Vinegar Sauce:

  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hard cider
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated onion

In a large nonreactive saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the sauce to a container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

  • 2 untrimmed boneless pork shoulder halves (also known as Boston butt; about 6 pounds total)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • Buns or slider buns
  • Assorted toppings

Place pork, fat side up, on work surface. Cut into 8-10 very large pieces. Place on large baking sheet. Sprinkle dry rub all over pork; press into pork. Cover with plastic; refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

Place in a slow cooker with enough vinegar sauce to almost cover. Cook on low for 7 hours (if home turn over at 3-4 hours). Strain sauce into a medium size sauce pan and then shred pork and return to crock pot (on warm setting only). Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce by half. In a small dish whisk together the cornstarch with about ¼ cup of the reduced sauce and then whisk into the sauce. Return to a boil and continue until sauce reaches desired consistency (it will continue to thicken slightly while it cools).

If desired stir some of the sauce into the pan with the pork and serve the remainder with the sandiches along with your desired toppings (i.e., pickles, slaw, cheese, jalapeños).

Apple-Cabbage Slaw

serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound green cabbage (about ½ medium head), cored and thinly-sliced
  • Table salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a colander, toss together the cabbage with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Let sit until wilted; about an hour. Rinse with cold water, drain and dry cabbage well with paper towels. Add the cabbage to a large bowl with the apple and scallion.

In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, oil, Dijon mustard and red pepper flakes to a boil. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to coat. (Yes, it is hot when you pour it over the veggies.)

Cover and refrigerate the slaw until chilled (1 hour to 1 day). Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Baked Brie with Balsamic Strawberries

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 8 ounce round of brie

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook stirring occasionally while the juices cook down slightly and the strawberries soften, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove packing from brie round. Slice the top rind off of the top of the brie. Return the brie round to the bottom of it’s wooden packaging container. Place on a baking sheet and bake 7-10 minutes. Top with balsamic strawberries and bake an additional 3-5 minutes. Serve with bread or crackers.

Lobster in Key Lime Sauce

This isn’t quite the same as the way I made it above. I’ve made it a couple of times now, and I have determined that the shrimp, although delicious, detracts from the lobster. I recommend choosing one or the other and I chose lobster for drafting the recipe.  You could also do this with just a simple long grain rice rather the the herbed one that I prepared.

cook 20-30 minutes ∙ makes 6-8 servings ∙ difficulty Easy
INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup butter, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, fresh, sliced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 3 pounds Florida lobster tail meat, chopped
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • juice of 1 Key Lime, freshly squeezed (regular lime is okay too)
  • 8 cups cooked long-grain rice

DIRECTIONS

Cook rice according to instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 T. butter and sauté garlic until just fragrant. Add the mushrooms and scallions, and sauté until just tender, about 2 minutes, remove from pan with slotted sppon and set aside. Add 2 T. butter with lobster and pepper flakes and sauté until the lobster is just cooked, about 2 to 3 minutes (cook in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding your skillet and be careful not to overcook). Return the mushroom mixture and add the remaining butter, wine, key lime juice; continue cooking until butter melts and is thoroughly mixed throughout the seafood. Serve with rice.

Roasted Asparagus

I don’t really have a recipe for this, simply spread out your stalks on a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then salt and pepper and toss to mix. Broil for about 3 minutes and serve. It should still be crisp. 

Herbed Rice

No recipe for this either,  in your saucepan add  minced garlic to taste with a bit of olive oil. Heat over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant and just beginning to color. Stir in the rice so that it is well coated and then subtitute broth for the water listed on the package.  Otherwise, cook as directed and stir in freshly cchopped basil and parsley when it’s done. (~½ cup for 6-8 servings of rice)

Double Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone Cream & Raspberries

prep 20 min ∙ cook 1 hr 15 min ∙ makes 10

INGREDIENTS

For the Pavlova

  • 6 large egg whites
  • Pinch salt
  • 1½ cups superfine sugar (see note)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

For the Marscapone Cream

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, cold
  • 1½ cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Topping

  • 1½ cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated or shaved into curls (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a dark marker, draw a 9-inch diameter circle on the parchment paper by tracing around a 9-inch cake pan or plate. Flip the paper over so your meringue won’t touch the marker.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy soft peaks form, about a minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form, 8-9 minutes. (The meringue will be glossy.
  3. Pass the cocoa powder through a sieve or sifter and add to the meringue. Add the vinegar and chopped chocolate. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the mixture until well combined. It should be a light mocha color with no white or brown streaks.
  4. Secure the parchment paper to the baking sheet by adding a dab of meringue under each corner. Mound the meringue onto the parchment inside the circle. Using the spatula or a butter knife, spread the meringue to fill the circle. Even the top and sides just slightly — it shouldn’t be perfectly smooth or overworked. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the meringue is puffed and crisp all over, yet still a bit wobbly underneath if you touch the center. Don’t worry if the top is cracked — that’s normal and it all gets covered with whipped cream in the end. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, and leave the meringue in the oven to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. (The meringue won’t collapse as much if it cools gradually.)
  5. Before serving, carefully peel the meringue off of the parchment paper and place it on a serving platter. In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream and vanilla until combined. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until it holds soft, pillowy peaks. Do not overbeat; it should not be too stiff or grainy. Mound the mascarpone cream onto the meringue and gently spread it out about an inch from the edge (don’t worry if the meringue cracks in the process). Top the pavlova with the raspberries and sprinkle the shaved chocolate over top. Cut the pavlova into wedges, wiping the knife in between slices, and serve.

Note: If you don’t have superfine sugar, place regular granulated sugar in a food processor and pulse until fine, about 30 seconds. This pavlova can be made ahead and assembled up to 12 hours ahead of time. Keep in the refrigerator.

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