Saturday, December 14, 2013

Memento: Southern

Tonight was Memento time again - our bi-monthly supper club potluck. This was the first time hosting the group for Linda & Nancy, at their beautiful home in West Seattle. Celebrating Linda's roots, the theme (revealed at the last Memento) was 'Southern', with two mandatory, classic Southern ingredients picked at random for each course.

Linda & Nancy started us off with their plate, celebrating Black Eyed Peas & Cheddar Cheese. They did so in the form of two deviled eggs and two fritters. The first egg was a smokey pimento cheese deviled egg with chorizo, and the second was a Sriracha deviled egg with pancetta. Alongside them on the plate were two black eyed pea fritters (Johnny cakes?) with porcetta. And of course there was a big punch bowl full of delicious Southern Comfort punch that Linda whipped up soon after Dan & I arrived. Everyone agreed that Linda's deviled eggs were the best they'd had.

Next up, Carolyn & David payed homage to Tomatoes & Cornmeal. Their inspiration came from comfort food - specifically their son Logan's favorite: tomato soup and grilled cheese. A delicious tomato bisque soup with a beautiful swirl of cream shared the plate with three cornbread cubes, one with a decadent topping of melted cheddar cheese - which makes me want to top every batch of cornbread I make in the future with cheddar cheese.

Another queue I'll be taking from this Memento is a square, rather than long rectangular table arrangement. It was wonderful to be able to talk with everyone around the table, and a peak under the tablecloth revealed it was simply two folding tables side-by-side. It also would increase tablespace for dishes for events like Thanksgiving.

Our third course was created by Lizzie to feature the seasonal flavors of Sweet Potato & Pumpkin. First was a green salad with red onion and goat cheese, using roasted sweet potatoes as a perfect replacement for croutons, and a little crunch courtesy of pumpkin seeds.

Alongside the green salad was a 4 oz mason jar filled with what's known in the South as a 'congealed' salad. Not the most appetizing name, but it's essentially a gelatin salad. This one was sweet potato, with a smoother texture courtesy of the sweet potato. It was topped with whipped cream and pecans. Despite the name, it turned out to be absolutely delicious, tasting like Thanksgiving.

Dan & I supplied the fourth course, inspired by Rice & Molasses. We stole a page from Marcy & James' playbook and merged Southern Italian food (specifically Sicily) with American Southern food, creating an Arancini di Riso.

Neither of us had heard of them before they became the dish du jour on the Halloween episode of Top Chef, and Dan quickly thought of using that as our rice component, then stuffing it with molasses baked beans.

Using Food Network's recipe as a jumping off point, we made and cooled a batch of simple risotto first, then combined it with parmesan and eggs and rolled it into balls. We pushed a little bit of red kidney beans (cooked with some vegetable stock and molasses) into the center and chilled them. Ultimately, they were rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried at 350 degrees F until golden brown.

Dan made a peach sauce with Sriracha (a happy accident that this ingredient popped up again) to top the arancini, which was very good. Spicy and sweet.

I also made an agar-agar aspic of collard greens & shiitake mushrooms with vegetable stock spiked with liquid smoke and soy sauce to take the place of pork products so commonly cooked with collards. I warmed it to 140 degrees F still in the silicon molds, submerged in our Sous Vide Supreme. Unlike gelatin, which melts when reheated, agar-agar never unsets. I unfortunately didn't get the collards completely encased, so my cubes fell apart a little, but I think still tasted good.

Dan also revived his cocktail from last year's Oscar's - a combination of ginger ale, bourbon, peach nectar, and campari.

Highlighting Peaches & Greens, Marcy & James served the penultimate course. An epic pork meatloaf topped with yummy peach chutney. It rested on a bed of collard greens. Although we repeated collards in our course (planned based on theirs), the two shared little in common. Where ours were cooked down, Marcy & James still had a crispness to them, and they didn't shy away from cooking them in some bacon.

Rounding things out, Anna & Jason put a Seattle-meets-the-South take on Buttermilk & Brown Sugar.

First came out cream and sugar, then cappuccino cups of Americano coffee. Although the South is more about tea than coffee (as Anna pointed out), going with an Americano seemed appropriately Southern, it it's own way. And Linda & Nancy had sweet tea on hand, of course.

Finally, they revealed mini bundt cakes of buttermilk pound cake filled with a cinnamon struesel - their wonderful Southern take on coffee cake - paired with roasted granny smith apples. The cake was designed to share, so everyone shuffled to sit next to their spouse, which proved very good timing.

Carolyn & David passed out the invitations to our next event, which they'll be hosting.

The invite for our February get-together, arrived in suitably Willy Wonka fashion, a la the golden ticket. The theme will simply be 'Chocolate' - which their kids ask for each time they're hosting. Dan & I should have a challenge, given we have the traditionally salad course.

The night also ended with a surprise gift for David, several months in the making. David loves skulls, doesn't drink, but adores those Crystal Skull vodka bottles. He has a small one, but Anna & Jason bought a big bottle and were gracious enough to drink it. They passed the bottle to me on Halloween, to let me get creative with it. I filled it with water and Glycerin(to make the water more viscous) and a few colors of Martha Stewart Glitterthen put it on a Multi-Color LED Light Base.


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