Le Chef's Kitchen

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Le Chef (and Le Jeff) Cater a Dinner Party

with 5 comments

A few weeks ago on Cape Cod I was approached with an amazing request:  My neighbor, who reads my blog and has eaten my food, was having her family from out of town up for a week and wanted to hire me to cook food from my blog for a dinner party.  How could I possibly say no?  We put together a 4-course meal of dishes from the blog along with cocktail and wine pairings, and I recruited my brother Jeff to be my sous chef.  What followed was an incredibly fun and interesting evening, where we met wonderful people and ate some (hopefully?) delicious food.  This was my first “professional” cooking engagement, and I have to say that I would do it again in a second.  My neighbor’s daughter is, coincidentally,  training to be a food photographer, so all of the beautiful photos in this post are courtesy of her.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Edmunds

The menu was as follows:

Cocktail Course to start:  Raspberry Mojitos

First Course:  Cold Avocado Soup with Lobster and Scallions

Second: Lambert Family Baked Stuffed Clams; prosecco

Main: Lobster with Shallot, Garlic, Rosemary and White Wine Butter Sauce; and Gorgonzola Stuffed Tomatoes; sauvignon blanc

Dessert: Clementine Granita (part of this post)

Le Sous Chef Jeff and I did as much prep work at our house as possible, and brought over most of the food beforehand.  The avocado soup was made and chilled, and two lobsters were boiled and picked for the lobster meat garnish.  The tomatoes were prepped and stuffed and stored in the fridge, ready for the oven.  The baked stuffed clams were put together, also ready for their turn in the oven.  A mojito base was mixed up, ready for muddled raspberries and mint.  The granita was mixed and placed in the freezer, along with 8 hollowed out clementine rind cups.  The only part of the meal that didn’t get touched until we were ready to cook it was the lobster.

At 6 p.m. the guests began to arrive.  My raspberry mojitos quickly made the rounds as everyone settled in.  Michelle began taking her photos (which are light years ahead of mine) and Sous Chef Jeff and I started prepping the ingredients for the lobster and the garnishes for the soup.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Edmunds

Raspberry Mojito

Portions here are approximate….because I always mix by eye and by taste, especially when making a large batch of drinks.

  • 1 part light rum
  • 1 part lime juice
  • 1 part seltzer or club soda, with dissolved sugar (a sparkling simple syrup)
  • 1 part muddled raspberries and mint leaves (about 6 large raspberries and 1 large sprig of mint per drink)

In this case I used a bottle of light Bacardi rum, 1 1/2 pints of raspberries (with 1/2 pint reserved for garnish), 3 large bunches of mint, and an equal part of lime juice and seltzer.  I think I juiced about 2 dozen limes.  Sugar was used to muddle the raspberries and mint in a mortar and pestle, and the acidity was balanced by taste with more sugar.  Experiment, and you’ll get it right!  Make it taste like something you’d love to drink.

First course was the Cold Avocado Soup with Lobster and Scallions that I served at the Food52 Picnic.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Edmunds

In retrospect I would have served a slightly smaller portion of this soup since it is so rich, but the bowls were so big that I felt I had to fill them.  We had three more courses after this one, and I think I may have overdone it with the amount of food here.  When there are four courses to be had it is best to err on the side of smaller plates, I think.  Lesson learned.

Second course was the Lambert Family Baked Stuffed Clam.  I had planned to go out and dig clams for this dish, but unfortunately the tides were wrong and I had far too much other prep to do, so these came from the local fish market.   Again, compare my photography to Michelle’s, and you can see that I have a lot to learn!

I realized too late that we had left the parsley garnish at home after chopping and incorporating it into the clams.  Amateur mistake!  I paired the clams with a light prosecco, since under normal circumstances I would be drinking beer with them, and I think that a bit of carbonation goes well with the spiciness of the clams.  The spiciness in these clams almost wasn’t to be, because Jeff and I couldn’t find our Tabasco, and there was none at the house where we were cooking and it was too late to run back out for more.  Disaster!  Luckily a quick run to our other neighbor’s yielded green jalapeno Tabasco, which substituted nicely!  She is a former caterer so I wasn’t surprised that she had 8 varieties of hot sauce.  Thanks Sharon!

Michelle was all over the place taking photos, which was great.  I had hoped to have Le Sous Chef Jeff take pictures of the whole operation, but believe me, he was needed in the kitchen at every possible moment.  There was no time for taking pictures.  Michelle snapped this picture of us in action cooking the main course.  Yes, Le Chef gets to drink wine while cooking, and I love burgundy plaid.  Sue me.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Edmunds

Cooking 8 lobsters, bisected, on 4 separate pans on one stove is a bit tricky.  The last time I cooked this dish for this many people we did it in batches and kept them warm in the oven.  I wanted everything to be ready at the same time, so there was a lot of shuffling of skillets and burners going on.  I think it worked out rather well.  The tomatoes baked while the lobsters cooked, and everything went according to plan.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Edmunds

As usual, this dish elicited reactions of  “I’ve never had lobster like this before” and “wow, this sauce is like nothing I’ve ever tasted!”.  I’m always glad to hear that, because steamed lobster with butter is delicious…but it does get boring after a while, doesn’t it? (Most Pretentious Comment Ever Alert!)

Dessert was pretty much the easiest thing I could come up with, and it wound up being the perfect ending to the meal.  Light, cool, and refreshing, it was just the thing to add some sweetness to round out the evening without making anyone uncomfortably full.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Edmunds

When I last made this dessert I didn’t think of freezing the orange rind cups before serving, but it wound up being a great idea.  The granita stays frozen longer and you wind up with a much better presentation.  Garnish with the leftover raspberries and mint from the mojitos and you are all set.

After dinner Le Sous Chef Jeff ran back to the house and grabbed my Grandfather’s guitar.  The aprons came off, and we passed the guitar around the table singing songs until late into the evening.  What better way to spend a Sunday night at the Cape?

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Edmunds

Stay tuned for part II: San Francisco.

Le Chef-

Written by Drew

August 18th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Dinner

5 Responses to 'Le Chef (and Le Jeff) Cater a Dinner Party'

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  1. Oh my God! Fabulous review of the very best dinner and evening of impromptu entertainment. Mark & I and our family were relaxed via the lovely environment and delectable Mojitos, while the buzz of a professional kitchen was hidden just steps away. I pronounce Le Chef ready for a foray into the world of private cheffing! Kudos to Le Chef and Le Jeff, Cape gastronomy with a hip twist polished off with an outstanding tableside sing-along.

    (Thanks for the photo credits, look forward to SF!)

    Michelle Edmunds

    18 Aug 10 at 10:39 pm

  2. The perfect evening! Delicious food from land and sea, fine wines and beverages and a great time had by all. When dinner ends with singing chefs who play a mean guitar, it doesn’t get any better. Compliments to Chef and Jeff. Let’s do it again! Rich & Gail

    gail Bell

    19 Aug 10 at 8:45 pm

  3. That drink looks delish!

    bryce

    21 Aug 10 at 5:14 pm

  4. Andrew, wow! I only wish I was there for the party. You and Jeff outdid yourselves. Fran

    Francine Davidson

    27 Aug 10 at 7:05 am

  5. [...] to put together a cocktail menu and tend bar for a private party  in Lafayette, CA.  If you read my last post, you will remember that Michelle Edmunds took the wonderful photos of the dinner party that Sous [...]

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