Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Risk: An Afternoon of Culinary Domination

OK, I am about to bring you in on a Wicked Cranberry secret. When cooking for people who are not my boyfriend or my immediate family, I am a hot mess. Unless I have made a recipe at least twice (and know where the potential pitfalls are) I won't prepare it for anyone outside my supportive circle. But this day was about Risk, and I knew I had to be bold if I wanted to conquer not only my nervous nellyism, but the hearts, minds and tummies of my opponents. Game on.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 cup (light) mayonnaise
1 cup (light) sour cream
2 cups Asiago cheese, grated
1 14-oz. jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
5-6 oz. fresh baby Spinach, sautéed and chopped (or use frozen)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium loaf of sourdough
1 baguette, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the first six ingredients in a medium bowl. Hollow out the loaf of sourdough to create a bowl. Reserve the top and insides of the bread bowl. Pour dip into bread bowl, replacing top and bake for 1 hour. Serve with baguette slices and chunks from the inside of the bowl.

I used regular mayo and sour cream, as I was serving it to a bunch of dudes, but Asiago is a strong enough flavor that you could easily sub out light mayo and sour cream and it wouldn't detract from the overall taste.

"Game on," quickly became, "Better safe than sorry." Between you, me and the lamppost, I did, in fact, purchase the ingredients for an auxiliary appetizer, Rachel Ray's Chorizo and Mushroom Queso. (In my defense, I had some extra jalapenos, red onion and cilantro, which would have dressed it up some). However, now I have a lovely bunch of Chorizo sausages for dinner some night this week, because this Artichoke dip was a huge hit. Soon enough, the boys were going at the bread bowl itself, using the hunks of bowl to scrape up any errant bits of dip. Bwha-ha-ha-ha!

After a few hours of gaming, just as my guests were lulled into a beer induced buzz, my boyfriend and I hit them with a one-two, buffalo chicken bites and pasta salad combo. Having soaked cubes of chicken breast in buttermilk and Crystal sauce overnight, my boyfriend dredged them in flour and deep fried them for about 8 minutes a batch, then doused them in butter and Crystal hot sauce. Yum. (These bites are a Fry Fest original recipe, (care of our Master Guest Chef SO) from our annual deep-frying theme party).

Sadly, the pasta salad (here), which included mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and olives tasted bland to me. I even substituted some of the oil in which the sun-dried tomatoes were packed for a portion of the olive oil, but to no avail. Although I wasn't wild about it, it was a good, cool match for the hot and spicy buffalo bites. P.S. The boys seemed to enjoy it.

Finally, the pièce de résistance! Peach and Blackberry Shortcakes with Blackberry Cream. All who remained, the few, the brave, the hungry, were taken down by this dessert. I bided my time, rising early the day before to beat the berry lines at the Court House Farmers' Market. I braved the overly moist shortcake batter (too much buttermilk, ack!) which stuck to everything, abandoned my cookie cutters as useless, formed little shortcake patties in my hands and peeled, pitted and sliced 2 pounds of peaches. And it was totally worth it. Not only was this dessert fantastic, I have a little filling and blackberry puree left over. Ice cream toppings anyone?


SAS said...

I am the same way when cooking for a crowd- I stick with what I know!

miaT said...

I was catching up on your posts and now I'm hungry hungry hungry! And motivated like I haven't been in weeks to prepare a feast...now if only German grocery stores were open Sundays... :(

love to you & guten Appetit!