resurrection of the infamous dinner party

Last August, mine and James’ good friend Chris Bair turned the big 3-0 without much celebration. I can’t even remember what all was happening at that time last year, besides the fact that we found out the gender of our baking baby. But this year, we were determined to make it up to Chris Bair with a dinner party to celebrate his 31st.

Years ago, while we were mid-twenties and everyone was single, or at least unmarried, our good friend Haroon threw dinner parties on a regular basis. I have fond memories of waking up the morning following a dinner party to a kitchen full of leftover cornish game hen carcasses.  Dinner parties started at 8pm, appetizers were served between 9 and 10pm, and it seems dinner was never ready until after midnight. But it was well worth the wait as Haroon concocted some amazingly tasty dishes.

Now that our schedule has changed due to James Michael, the timing of our dinner parties has, as well. For this party, appetizers were served until 8:30pm, and the entree started at 9pm. By 11pm, we were packing up all our cookware (because we brought half our kitchen), and by 11:30pm, we were home and James Michael was back asleep in his own crib.

Here’s a rundown of food, tag-teamed by the Hobson Duo.

I created a pastrami roll appetizer. Basically, it’s just pastrami, with a spread of pesto, rolled around a persian cucumber and topped with half of an heirloom tomato. Simple, and quite pretty with the yellow tomato.

My friend Sara graciously let us use her new, spacious townhome (with an amazing kitchen) in Vinings for the event. She provided some hummus and crackers to provide a less paleo appetizer option to my pastrami rolls 🙂

James Michael was only able to welcome a few guests who arrived on time early, as his bedtime is 7pm.

He played sous chef as daddy cooked.

 

JM got to hang out with the birthday boy before bed. Don’t worry, JM was removed from this precarious situation as soon as the picture was snapped!

James made the first hot course, a butternut squash-tomato soup that was very tasty and made me wish it was fall in late September instead of late August. It was served piping-hot and topped with shredded parmesean.

Because of logistics, we decided to divy up serving the Surf and Turf course, just so people could eat it while it’s hot. Surf came first with James literally getting his hands dirty prepping Paula Deen’s recipe of crab cakes.

 

During the service of the crab cakes, the party was surprised by the arrival of a pair of 5.5 week old twins! I was impressed that the mama look very well rested, and when she told me the twins were sleeping a 6 hour stretch at night, I was amazed. When I told her about James Michael’s little appetite, she proceeded to quickly knock on wood lest her girls change their sleeping patterns.

Birthday boy and babies’ daddy.
Ladies, if you’re in the market for a guy who is great with babies, let me know. Chris Bair is in the market. Marriage first, of course, then babies. Just saying, he’ll be a great daddy.

 

Something so sweet about big men holding little babies.
James is determined we’ll have a girl next. I told him that’s completely up to him, and has nothing to do with me 🙂

For the turf course, James whipped up two batches of shoulder tender medallions for the crowd, using his tried and true steak method. And when I say tried and true, this means that a couple years ago, James spent a month perfecting how to cook the perfect steak. This means he ate steak almost every day for 30 days. Luckily, it paid off because I’m now a believe that his steak method is better than that at restaurants.

Cooking in the castiron. Here, he is finishing the steaks in a garlic herb butter.

As the side dish to the Surf and Turf, I made one of my favorite recipes that includes Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, shallots and bacon. As luck would have it, these are the only pictures I have of my dish 🙂

Don’t forget: if it’s your party you can do what you want to.

Last up, birthday cake. I waited until after Bair took a bite and confirmed it was good to tell him it was gluten-free 🙂 As a huge chocolate lover, I will say that it was nice to make something other than chocolate for dessert. The summery strawberry flavor was well received.

Traditional chorus of Happy Birthday, presentation of cake and blowing out of candles.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Cake
[adapted from this recipe]

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz. strawberries
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s RedMill)
  • 1/4 tsp xantham gum
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1. Hull and slice strawberries and place in container. Toss with a 2 tsp sugar, cover and let them sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
2. Blend strawberries until they become a smooth puree and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour (I used gluten-free flour) two 9-inch round cake pans.
4. In small bowl, mix 3/4 cup strawberry puree, milk, eggs and vanilla with fork until well blended.
5. Sift flour and xantham gum together. Repeat.
6. In large mixing bowl, blend sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
7. Continue beating at slow speed and add butter. Mix until texture is similar to moist crumbs.
8. Add wet ingredients from small bowl and beat at medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. (If the batter is not pink enough for you, add a couple drops of red food coloring.)
9. Divide the batter evenly between pans and smooth tops.
10. Bake for roughly 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
11. Let cakes cool completely before icing. I don’t have a precise recipe for the icing. I started out making a double batch of icing just because I didn’t want to get cut short. So I blended two 8oz packages of cream cheese, 2 sticks of softened butter, large bag of confectioner’s sugar and 2 tbsp of vanilla. Then I added in a little (maybe 1/3 cup?) of leftover strawberry puree. Then, of course, I had to add in more sugar to get the right consistency. So just play with it, or search for a recipe from someone who knows what they’re doing 🙂

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