Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, Sep 10th - Dinner Party - Mushroom Crostini, Paella de Mariscos and Watermelon Gazpacho

Seafood Paella
We had friends over for dinner after much Outlook and Agenda juggling.  It only took 2 months.  Not bad.  K and V are readers of my blog and Twitter followers but not Twitters.  I don't know for certain if their fans or they read out of humourous curiousity. Eitherway they're reading, yay! 

They're quite into food and wine as we are so planning on having them over is that much more fun.  V joked that she'd taken an extra spinning class to prepare :^D.  It was going to be a bit trickier being a Friday so the Time Management Machine had to have her thinking cap on.  If it were a Saturday or Sunday, we'd leisurely cook and prepare bits all day, particularly the dessert.  I had to start that first, of course. 

I chose to make a Paella for the main.  The thing about the Paella is a bit of a double edged sword.  It is quicker and less complicated than some mains so works well for a Friday dinner party but you cannot really prepare it too far in advance or it will get cold or mushy.  So I was cooking for a while when K and V arrived and had some snacks and appetisers.  It was alright since our kitchen is open plan so is conducive to cooking and talking. As well, they were interested and enjoyed the process as well, I think.

D bought a lovely mix of Olives for the coffee table and Roasted some Cashews for the guests (badam-cha).  Blogging after a dinner party is a lot of work and probably too much reading.  We normally have 4-5 courses so I will not post all the recipes but will tell you about each.  D roasted some unsalted Cashews with some Paprika, Brown Sugar and chopped Fresh Rosemary for a cocktail snack.

For a starter or a rather large Amuse Bouche, we made some BBQ Flatbreads/Crostini with the dough we made yesterday for the BBQ Pizza.  So what is the difference?  The name and the toppings of course :^)  The first one was a Mushroom Ragout that is pre cooked and then placed on the crust as per the instructions on my BBQ Pizza post.  The second was a Flatbread/Crostini with 1/4 c of Local Blue Cheese crumbled sparingly all over then just before serving, top with fresh Baby Arugula, which we grow on our balcony.  It grows like weeds!  I love Blue Cheese but the Mushroom was was unbelievable and probably the more popular.

Mushroom Ragout BBQ Flatbreads/Crostini
(Serves 4-6 as appetiser)

1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 T finely chopped Shallots
2 t chopped fresh Thyme, divided
2/3 c Shiitake or Oyster Mushrooms, julienned
1 Portobella Mushroom, sliced
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
1 T Sherry/Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 c Masala/Sherry Wine
1/2 t Cornstarch
1 T Crème fraiche

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Add half the thyme and all of the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Let the Mushrooms cook over medium-high heat, do not over stir so they will brown. ~5 minutes.

Add the Vinegar and reduce until the pan is dry. Combine the Cornstarch in the Masala until dissolved and add to the pan. Cook until reduced and there is almost no liquid left in the pan.

Remove from heat and stir in Crème fraiche. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Use as the topping on the BBQ'd flatbread on the BBQ and garnish with the other half of the Thyme.

We served them and the Cashews with an Artazuri Rose 2009

For our Soup, D made a lovely chilled Watermelon based Gazpacho.  It had all the key ingredients similar to a Tomato Gazpacho, including Tomatoes but the bulk of the base, is 2 lbs of Chopped, Seeded Watermelon.  Instead of blending all the ingredients you only blend the Watermelon and the Cucumbers, Celery, Onion, Pepper, and Tomato go in finely chopped.  D topped the lovely Fuscia bowl off with a meaning full dollop of Creme Fraiche and a sprig of Mint.  Creme Fraiche does not really come fat free.  It is 40% milk fat and tastes like 120%.  I do not care for the creme on the soup but the others did.  I would say it is optional. 

We served the soupe with a Basa Rueda Blanco 2008

Our main was a lovely Paella de Mariscos.  When I realised I was out of Spanish Casparilla rice and only had Basmati or Arborio, I opted to use the Arborio.  The thing about Arborio is that it does not plump without coaxing and time.  That is why it is primarily used in Risotto.  The Casparilla or Medium Grain white need only be added to the pan with the broth after sauteeing the aromatics.  The Arborio needs stirring and time.  It was okay.  I cooked it 3/4 of the way along while I chatted with K and V then I added back the Sauteed Vegetables, and Seafood.  I covered it for 5-10 minutes because your home stove is rarely big enough nor hot enough for a 4-6 person Paella Pan. 

You're looking at 300-400 g of Arborio rice for 4 people with 2 lbs of a variety of Seafood to have a decent Seafood to Rice ratio.  I have reduced the amount of rice over the years.  It is about 1 1/2c.  I used, Squid, Manila Clams, fresh, and Jumbo Tiger Prawn.  Essential to Paella and not open to compromise is the use of Saffron.  You need to use for the characteristic aroma and bright yellow hue it infuses into the broth and rice.  When in season, I make a mean Spot Prawn Paella too!

I like to serve it on the table and serve the first helping and allow guests to serve themselve seconds or to take the bits of seafood they want.  Serve with Lemon Aoli.  You could make your own mayonaisse but why?

Lemo Aoli (Easy)

2/3-1 c low fat May
2 cloves Garlic, finely minced or using a Garlic Press
1/2 Lemon, juiced and zested
Whisk the ingredients thoroughly and set aside, covered in the refridgerator for at least an hour.
We finished the Basa with the Paella then opened a Red, Artazuri Garnacha
For dessert, I baked a Blueberry and Chocolate Crumble.  That was the first thing I made as soon as I walked in the door.  It is quite a simple dessert to assemble.  D had offered to make a pie but we had used all the AP for the pizza dough and weren't convinced Wholewheat flour would work in a pie crust.  I will post the crumble in full on it's own at a later date.  K and V brought some Yummo ice cream to have with it. 

We served dessert with a M. Chapoutier Banyuls sweet wine:

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