It’s not a party unless somebody gets EGGED…
“If you don’t like my cooking, lower your standards.” –Anonymous
Friday night we gathered the troops for a comforting American feast. The meal was simple but with enough gourmet twists to impress Fifi and our guests. We decided to start with guacamole and homemade pita chips, followed by hamburgers (since apparently ground turkey meat does not exist in France) with sweet potato fries and a simple green salad. I’m not even going to attempt to describe the ridiculousness of the brownie extravaganza that was Liberty’s highly anticipated dessert.
As far as our guests were concerned, dinner was effortlessly executed. (I have confidently made this assumption without asking guests’ opinions, so if any of them wish to lodge a complaint, they can leave me a note in the invisible suggestion box). Remember readers, as chefs and hosts it is your responsibility to fool your guests into thinking that your domestic endeavors ain’t no thang. In reality, there were burnt chests and buns (of the human and burger kind), ruined chips, an embarrassing incident in which someone could not tell the difference between prosciutto and bacon (quelle catastrophe!), and a large pool of melted ice cream on the floor circa midnight. Last, but not least, the night was capped off by a rather shocking incident that (spoiler alert!) may or may not have involved egging.* GREAT SUCCESS!
THE GREAT EGGING INCIDENT:
I happen to live above an older lady with very sensitive eardrums. As I found out on my first day in this apartment, if I walk around my apartment with shoes on, said lady will come upstairs and inform me that I am disturbing the peace. (Actually, what she said that first day was: AAAAAAAAAHHHH! VOS TALONS! LE CLAQ CLAQ CLAQ CLAQ. C’EST LE MERDE! Translation: AAAAAAAAAAHHH! YOUR HEELS! CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK! IT’S SHIT!) Since then, my roommate and I have been pretty diligent about taking our shoes off as soon as we walk in the door. Occasionally, however, we will walk across the living room before taking our shoes off, or walk from our rooms to the front door on our way out with our shoes on (God, forgive us). And that, my friends, is when we get “broomed.” The very nice lady downstairs bangs her ceiling repeatedly with her trusty broom as a “friendly reminder” of our “insensitivity.”
Therefore, Friday night’s guests were kindly asked to remove their shoes (which is asking a lot of the female guests/hostesses, since footwear can really make an outfit). Out of respect for our friend downstairs and our other neighbors, the music was also kept at a rather low level (with the exception of a few unexpected volume spikes when Fifi decided to get her groove on). Overall, this was a relatively quiet dinner party despite the rather impressive quantity of wine consumed. I am proud to report that we did not receive a single brooming! Instead, we got egged. EGGED. There wasn’t even a warning. No “tais-toi” (shut up) or threats of violence. A couple of guests were merely enjoying a digestive cigarette by the window when two eggs flew out of the night sky and splattered against our kitchen windows. Followed by a soda can. Luckily, the soda can missed the window and fell into the courtyard below. I mean, the eggs were bad enough, but the soda can could have permanently disfigured someone’s face (or broken the window…which I suppose could also have been traumatic). The cowardly eggers cleverly turned the lights out in their apartments and kept very quiet, so their identities remain unknown. Needless to say we were shocked by such adolescent behavior, but what can you do? C’est la vie! I guess it ain’t a party til somebody gets egged.
Holy Guacamole! (Serves 8):
4 ripe avocados (they should be soft to the touch, but NOT brown inside…duh)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 of a red onion, finely chopped
1/2 of a lime
salt and pepper to taste
To prepare your guacamole:
Peel and finely chop the garlic
Peel the red onion and chop it very finely (this is a skill that takes practice, so don’t beat yourself up if your squares are uneven. Most people are amateur gourmets and won’t notice.)
Slice a lime into quarters (you will only need two quarters to equal a half…not everyone went to MIT)
Slice the avocados in half and remove the pit. Remove the skin and roughly chop the avocados.
- Add the avocados, garlic, and onions to large bowl. Using a fork, smooth the avocado and mix the ingredients well.
- When the guacamole is relatively smooth, squeeze the juice from the lime quarters and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ole!
*Note: If you are not serving the guacamole immediately, cover the bowl tightly with saran wrap, or store the guacamole in a sealed container before refrigerating to keep it from browning!
Homemade Pita Chips:
4 large pita breads/pita pockets
Extra virgin olive oil
Espelette chili powder
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
- Separate each pita into two flat circles
- Drizzle the inside of each circle with olive oil. I find it best to use a kitchen brush and paint the pitas with a thin layer of olive oil to make sure it’s easily distributed.
- Using a serrated knife slice the pitas into “chip-size,” approximately 1-2 inches in width.
- Place the chips on a baking sheet and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and espelette chili powder (go wild, but remember it’s spicy!)
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown
*Note: Do NOT forget to keep an eye on these! I got distracted (Fifi has that effect on me) during the first batch and burnt them to a crisp. If this happens, just toss those babies in the trash and try again. It’s all about the learning curve, people.
Gourmet Hamburgers (Serves 8): These are the real deal. Fancy, not fussy.
2 pounds lean ground beef
Preparing your burgers:
- Finely chop the onion
- Peel and finely chop the garlic
- Mix onion and garlic into hamburger meat with 2 large pinches of salt and a large pinch of pepper. Knead all of these ingredients into the meat until they are evenly distributed.
Preparing your garnish:
- Slice the red onion into thin discs
- Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch rounds
- Cut the avocadoes in half, remove the pit and skin, and slice into strips approximately ¼ inch thick
- Wash and dry the lettuce. Separate lettuce into individual leaves
- Arrange the garnish in rows on a large serving platter.
If you like bacon on your burgers, feel free to fry some up beforehand. I entrusted Liberty with the task of procuring cheese and bacon for the burgers. She brought me prosciutto. “They’re both pork, right?” Yes, yes they are. And shockingly, the prosciutto tasted pretty good on the burgers when we crisped it on the grill.
Cooking your hamburgers:
- You can grill your burgers on a grill over a burner or on a barbecue. Either way the grill should be piping hot before you start.
- Place the burgers onto the hot grill. Cook approximately 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare burgers (usually the crowd-pleaser).
- If you want to add cheese, add the slice to the top of the burger approximately two minutes before removing it from the grill.
Preparing your buns: (Everybody like warm buns…)
- Cut your brioche in half and brush the halves lightly with olive oil.
- you can either brown the buns in the oven (at 300 degrees) with the insides of the brioche touching the baking sheet, or quickly brown them on the grill.
- Pay attention, these puppies can burn incredibly quickly (yeah, yeah, we know from experience).
Preparing your sweet potato fries:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
- Wash and peel your sweet potatoes
- Cut the potatoes into fries approximately ½ inch thick and three inches in length- (This is not the time to be a perfectionist! As long as the fries are pretty much the same length, you’re golden.)
- Place your fries on a baking sheet and paint them with olive oil using a kitchen brush- or drizzle them with olive oil if you do not have aforementioned brush.
- Sprinkle your fries with salt and espelette pepper to taste. (I recommend quite a bit of pepper…it really balances the sweetness of the potatoes.)
Cooking your sweet potato fries:
- Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25-30 minutes. They should be nicely browned and tender. Unsure if they’re done? Taste one. Duh.
**I really recommend investing in a kitchen brush. It helps coat things evenly and it costs about a dollar. Do it.
Salad Verte (Serves 8) = Salad for Dummies
Preparing your salad:
- Toss the greens in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice (no seeds, obviously), two pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until the leaves are lightly coated.
So simple. So fresh. So hot right now.
*Pre-heat the oven to 325 F
Butter and line the bottom of an 8x8in square pan with parchment paper
- Melt the chocolate and the butter in a saucepan over medium heat (stirring constantly)
- When melted, remove from heat and stir vigorously to cool it down-about 30 seconds
- Add the sugar, stir well
- Add two eggs, stir
- Add vanilla and salt, stir
- Add the flour, mixing very well, and add the nuts last if you wish (I hate them)
- Pour mixture into the WELL GREASED pan and voila into the oven
- Bake for 28 minutes and the minute you take it out of the oven flip it over onto a cooling rack and GENTLY remove the parchment paper (see technique section for a tip). Allow to fully cool
THIS IS THE HARD PART:
Okay, so this part of the recipe kind of sucks, but there’s no crying in pastry! So you will do it, and you will like it. The batter needs to go boom boom pow into the oven. It can not sit out! SO, to make the three layers necessary for this cake, you need to either
a.) have 3, 8×8 pans in which case you can triple the recipe and put all of the brownies in at the same time
b.) make it 3 different times.
So at the end of the day you should have 3 layers of brownies.
- Put the honey and sugar in a sauté pan over medium heat,
- When the mixture is thoroughly melted, add the cream.
- When the mixture boils, add the butter.
- When the mixture boils again, add the sliced almonds.
- Cook for approximately 2 more minutes, stirring constantly, then pour out the mixture onto a baking sheet that is lined with lightly greased wax paper. Spread the mixture as thinly as possible.
- Put in the oven until the crisp is at the desired brownness-I like mine less well-done, but it is a completely personal preference (approximately 10 minutes).
- When the crisp is still quite warm, put a piece of parchment paper on top of the crisp and flip the whole thing over onto a work surface (Just to be clear: the almond crisp should be between two pieces of parchment paper).
- Carefully peel back the piece of parchment that was underneath the almond crisp.
- Now, cut the almond crisp into two large squares that are a bit bigger than the brownie layers (so about 9in x 9in).
- The leftover almond crisp will be used to decorate the top of the cake so this can be up to your discretion, but I think four diamond-shaped pieces should do the trick.
WARNING: Be careful not to burn yourself. Let the almond crisp sit in the oven for about 30 seconds when it is finished cooking with the door open before removing it. I, being a dumdum, did not do this and boiling sugar jumped up and attached itself right beneath my collarbone. Now, the burn itself totally hurt, but what hurt a lot more was wearing the enormous bandage that prompted Fifi to say very sympathetically, “Liberty, we all understand weird skin conditions. You’ll be okay.” Yep, that part was much worse.
Praline Crush (or if ingredients hard to find-Nutella Crush):
- SO HARD: mix it all together in a bowl
*Note: I added cream to try to make the nutella easier to spread. HOWEVER (obviously?), that made the cornflakes soggy. DON’T do it Lucy, Don’t do it!
Melt in a double boiler-or if you want to make life easier just watch it really carefully on a low heat in a saucepan and then you don’t have to put it over the double boiler.
As always: Haagen daz (I’m going to say two pints but you can be skinny if you wish and just get one)
- Pre scoop onto a plate and refreeze so the icecream is very hard
- When you are ready to serve the cake just take the icecream out of the freezer and put all the scoops on to the serving platter.
- (Pre-scooping is not necessary if you are planning to not serve the icecream in a fancy way-basically if you are just going to scoop it out onto a plate then you don’t need to pre-scoop it
Here is how it goes starting from the bottom:
Brownie, nutella crush (or praline), almond crisp, brownie, nutella crush (or praline), almond crisp, brownie, decorative almond crisp (4 diamonds), drizzled chocolate.
- Ze Cornet: (Please see technique section )
Make your Cornet and fill it with the melted chocolate. Cut a teensy teensy tip off the top of the cornet and ziggle the cornet back and forth across the top of the cake.
- Serving Platter:
You have three options:
1.) Buy a beautiful square two-tired cakestand from Williams Sonoma
2.) Plop it on a plate
3.) Make your own! Which is what I did
How to do make your own serving platter (it is super cool):
Go to any bakery shop or craft store or this website http://www.bakingshop.com/weddingcakes/squarestand.htm
And buy a two-tiered square cake stand. Then buy gold (or any color) tissue paper is and some pretty ribbon. Cover the top and bottom of the cake stand with gold tissue and cover edges with pretty ribbon. Et Voila! (I of course couldn’t find normal tape so I used fashion tape (the stuff that keeps “everything in your dress”). Patience and a cocktail are both necessities.
*Note: If you decide to serve the cake on a two-teired stand like this and you put ice cream on the bottom layer….remember to put the extra ice cream back in the freezer after serving. Do not just leave it sitting on the cake stand. We overlooked the small fact that ice cream melts on Friday evening. Around midnight we noticed the lovely pool of ice cream sliding down the cabinets and forming a pool on the kitchen floor. PARTY FOUL.
Trick of the Trade:
How to remove parchment paper from cakes, pastries, etc. without totally screwing it up:
When you are removing parchment paper from something, it should always be on the top (meaning that you have flipped over the cake or other pastry onto the work surface and are now ready to peel back the parchment paper). Put something that has a long straight edge at the edge of the parchment and peel back the parchment using the straight edge as a guide. I used this wooden spatula, but the edge of a cooling rack works really well too. I have no idea why this works, but that is irrelevant. Can I get a “OUI, CHEF!”?
WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE! Any space can be turned into a sweet spot for a dinner party. In our case, this apartment had two aluminum tables and a desk in my room that we lined up. Any mix of chairs, stools, and couches will work for seating (and standing always works for the pity invites). If you’re going for a casual vibe, just add some bright plastic plates, printed paper napkins, and light a bunch of chunky candles for ambience. Can you dig it?
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