Growing up I learned very clear and lasting lessons about one’s responsibilities as a home owner in a neighborhood. Do not be the person with the ugliest yard/house on the street. Don’t be the one with the dog that shits in everybody else’s yard. Keep your kids off everybody else’s ornamental grass. Wave and say “Hi” while walking by or when other people are walking by. And always, always, always, be friendly. If a neighbor is sick or has death in the family, bring food – a casserole is best. If they have embarrassingly loud fights that you’d rather not hear on a Sunday evening you go have a man-to-man or woman-to-woman, mention how it happens to everybody, and maybe if they need some alone time to work through their troubles like grown-ups their kids could come play with yours for a while. If they aren’t taking care of the outdoor appearance, casually mention how sympathetic you are to how overworked/busy they are, and by the way, your teenager wouldn’t mind picking up some extra cash by helping out, or you know a guy who does good work for cheap prices. If they park their car in front of your mailbox all the friggen time, drop in while they’re hosting to mention the inconvenience, oh, I saw that same fancy centerpiece on sale at K-Mart last week too, isn’t it just sweet?

I think you catch my drift.

I’m thinking this rule of friendliness must be a Southern thing though, because the assholes around here skipped straight to throwing golf balls at the house. From what I’ve been able to gather, some number of them have decided we’re too young to actually be good home owners, and maybe I should just move back to the Chicago ghetto and stop bringing down their middle-aged prestige. It’s so rare that I get to pontificate on how much better things are done in the South without either being facetious, being perceived as facetious, or talking about hosting that I should probably be grateful for the opportunity, but instead I’m reminded of another lesson I learned as a kid: under the right circumstances, the dinner table is a torture chamber.

So, when my dirt-covered vine-planting self realized that they’re hurling golf balls at my precious castle, my second response, immediately after the one where I figure out how to get away with burning down everybody else’s house, is to plan a dinner party. Nothing manages shock and awe better than showing a bunch of middle-aged ninnies that I can work too much, spend most of my time out of town, and still have a more comfortable house with a tastier spread than they’ve ever managed. Judging from neighborhood noise on the weekends I’m up against beer, brats, and football, which while undeniably alluring to the locals, is so very easily out-classed.

My menu instincts start with doing unholy things to shrimp and bacon for the appetizer, French Onion soup (which isn’t done properly in this state so far as I can tell) something slow-cooked and heavily seasoned in the middle and more unholy concoctions involving confections inside crepes, but it occurred to me that this would be a great time to do something different from what I normally would when aiming for shock and awe. I found a fabulous looking South African dinner menu earlier, but why stop with what Google provides when I have 2.3* people reading my very own blog? Come on, 2.3 people, what do you suggest?

My cooking tends to specialize in desserts and stews, so I’m particularly open to other areas of suggestion, but I’ll welcome anything tasty. I think I shall spend at least a portion of the intervening weekends trying out said recipes to find a menu that works well together. If anybody seems to care I’ll post results.

*Made this number up for comedic affect.

14 thoughts on “Recipe requests

  1. If you want to booze ’em up before/during/after dinner, and you’re aiming for a summer dinner party, may I suggest gin and tonics with a sprig of bruised fresh rosemary in each glass? Looks nice, tastes awesome, and may make everyone a little more relaxed and groovy. Possibly.
    Otherwise, I’ve got some good rum cocktails, too.

    1. Right! Boooze! I was already forgetting the booze. You totally just saved the party.
      Also, we’re thinking mid-late September, so more of a Fall affair.

      1. Autumnal, eh? OK…here’s what you do… 🙂
        In the next week or so, get a bottle of fairly good bourbon, like a Maker’s Mark, or, even better, Knob Creek. Also, get a squeaky clean jar or bottle that’ll hold about a liter of liquid. Pour the bourbon into the large bottle (keep the original, though) and then drop in pecans until the jar/bottle/whatever is full. Cap it and put it in a dark place for about 3 weeks, shaking occasionally. At the end of the three weeks, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined funnel and into the original bottle. You may want to label it as pecan-infused, just in case.
        A few days before the party, procure about a pound of Demerara sugar (it’s brown and kind of smoky-sweet) and introduce about a cup of that to a pint of boiling water. Return it to a boil and add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. Doesn’t have to be real high grade, but no Aunt Jemima shortcuts! 🙂 Cook the Demerara syrup over low heat until reduced to a thick syrup, then remove from heat, let cool, and add about an ounce of vodka to preserve it. Store it in the fridge.
        For the party, each drink should be made from 1.5 oz of your pecan infused bourbon, 1 oz of your Maple/Demerara Syrup, and 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters, poured into a rocks glass full of ice, stirred briskly and topped up with soda water to within about 1/2 inch from the top.
        Drink to impress! 🙂

      2. Oh, and on the off chance anybody’s allergic to pecans (or if/when you run out of the pecan infused bourbon), you can have another relatively cheap but easy option standing by… the Jack Rose.
        2 oz Laird’s Apple Jack (I usually see it for about $14 a bottle)
        1/2 oz lemon juice
        1/4 oz grenadine (I like to make my own, natch, from 1-16 oz bottle of Pom pomegranate juice, boiled until reduced by half and then adding a cup of cane sugar, dropping to a simmer and cooking until dissolved. Cool, add 1 oz vodka or rum to preserve, and bottle in a little plastic squeezy thing)
        Shake all ingredients with ice to combine, serve in a martini glass if you wish, or else over an ice cube in a rocks glass.
        You know, you could probably add 1/4 oz of the Maple/Demerara syrup to this too…might be interesting.

      3. Advice for dishery?
        Thrift store. I’ve no idea how universal it is, but the store I work at often has nice plate or glass sets coming in, for the cheap.
        If you’re trying to host twelve people and have everything match, I wouldn’t reccomend it, but if you want to give five or six people drinks out of crystal goblets? Can’t beat spending two bucks a glass.

      4. That’s already where I buy all of my dishes. I got a really nice set of white plates and bowls with silver edging and flowers inlaid last time. $3 methinks.
        The beautiful thing about serving for 12 is that I can do 3 different settings for 4 (which is doable from thrift storage) and just alternate setting them out. It winds up looking really great if you pick the sets right and make the table cloth etc. pull them together. Also makes it easier to remember which seat’s yours at a big table 😉

  2. My Grandma’s baked beans recipe:
    3 15-ounce cans of white lima beans (or butter beans)
    2 onions – sliced
    2 cloves of garlic – sliced
    1 18-ounce jar of BBQ sauce
    Mix everything together in a casserole dish and top with sliced pieces of bacon.
    Cook uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
    If you use bottled sauce, it’s easier, and nobody can really tell the difference. But you can make your own.
    BBQ sauce recipe:
    1 16 ounce can whole tomatoes
    1 small onion – sliced
    2 cloves garlic – minced
    1 TBSP sugar
    2/3 C Catsup
    1/3 C Worchestershire sauce
    1/3 C vinegar
    1/4 tsp pepper
    3/4 tsp dry mustard
    1/2 tsp chili powder
    Put everything in a pot.
    Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes.
    My grandma’s been making this dish forever, and (according to her) it’s always a hit at parties. I know I always liked it, and I was somewhat shocked to see how easy it is to make.

  3. Squizon, today’s secret ingredient shall be… Celery! *takes a giant comedic bite out of a bell pepper*
    No, seriously, anything you make that’s above average will make them think twice before turning your facade into a Par 2. And if not, well, build a potato gun and show them how it’s done.

  4. for a party, I suggest spinach/feta phyllo triangles. They’re like spanikopeta. Cut phyllo dough into long skinny strips about 2 inches wide. Brush with melted butter and put a glob of spinach/feta/dill/onion/egg mixture inside. Fold up like a flag. Bake. They’re crispy and delicious for appetizers.
    Twice-baked potatoes are nice.
    Make sure to have vegetables of some description. A nice spinach salad with red wine vinaigrette and almond slivers (and other salad veggies) is nice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s