19 February, 2012

Noodle-icious; a well-timed dinner party

Yikes!  Where have I been?  Cuba.  On my honeymoon.  Let's pick up where I left off...

A menu plucked from a Jamie Oliver cookbook can't go wrong, right? The book of wide-ranging recipes (from liver and onions to banoffee pie) presents a "revolutionary" way of cooking, specifically how to multi-task in the kitchen to produce killer menus to please a small crowd.  But even this enthusiastic cook was challenged by the timing when I started cooking for our first official dinner party in the big smoke...

There's seems to have been a reader backlash about exactly how many minutes are needed to cook his recipes.  The publishers wisely revised the title for the North American market (presumably) lest there be lawsuits (I wouldn't put it past some folk).  Jamie's "meals in 30 minutes" suddenly became just meals in minutes.  Interesting book politics, nest ce pas?

Each page delivers striking photographs and worthwhile menus (printed in a cool font) to tempt you toward the cooking fire.  The directions are given in the order you should/will cook - that is when to do each step across all the recipes (instead of you having to figure out when to flip from the main course to your appetizer or dessert).  

I am, pleasingly so, a natural multi-tasker.  I thought, Jamie's brilliant!  No one will have to think about timing multiple recipes again!  Just trust in the Jamie...

But, I was still somewhat stressed at different stages of the game, having to refer back to the photograph for inspiration (AKA why am I stressed over the timing of this menu, and is the discerning family I am trying to please really that discerning?) 

Despite my temporary flash of stress, the complete menu plan for this noodle-icious dinner was exceptionally great and everyone ate and ate some more.  Here's to the success of our first official dinner party in Toronto!

To start:  Nick and I whipped out a trio of smelly, oozy (French) cheeses and served them with my dad CZ's spicy grape jelly made last fall in Nova Scotia, plus warmed Greek olives and fresh raspberries (a last minute inspiration of colour for the tray).  Jessica brought us a bottle of her dad's red and we served it with dinner.  Perfecto!  Conversation rolled around our various parents and their love of home brewing, organic gardening, hobbyist viticulture, and lots of other interesting things I have since forgotten.

We Continued: Earlier I had picked Wittenvan's organic chicken breasts from the market (plump! juicy! ethical!) and followed Jamie's recipes for Fiery Noodle Salad, Amazing Satay Sauce, and Pineapple with  Mint sugar (the killer in this killer dessert recipe was the coconut yogurt dollop).   

A personal highlight from the party was when adorable Alison declared as I was still cooking in my tiny kitchen (knowing the format of Jamie's book) you made the whole menu!?  I was beaming a little amidst the dim lighting.  And hungry.

The hand held romaine cups, individually filled with chunks of grilled chicken, moderately fiery noodles and thick, peanut satay sauce were a hit.  My favourite was the noodle dish; try it for your fiery self.

Jump here for the full set of Jamie's recipes (but remember:  it may take longer than 30 minutes...)