This is a belated blog post about a belated Christmas dinner that we had at the beginning of the year. A belated Christmas/New Year's dinner I guess you could call it.
You may recall in my recap of 2011, that Ryan had dusted off his saxophone for a couple of special occasions (A combined 50th birthday/25th wedding anniversary and a wedding of a close family friend/ex band member). Well, this involved many months of Saturday afternoon practices at the home of the Pascual family, who are good friends with Ryan's family through their involvement in the Filipino band back in the day. We'd occasionally stay for dinner afterwards and I also started baking them some treats as well as helping Tita (means aunty in Filipino though she's not really his aunty) Jeanne with her little baking projects here and there. During this time we bonded with them and shared our love for food and cooking.
Jokingly Tita Jeanne and their youngest daughter Jessica suggested that we do a bit of a cook off 3 course dinner where Tita Jeanne cooks the entrée, Ryan the main, and I the dessert (dessert kind of got handed to me automatically because I do desserts and sweets so well and I guess it is my forte and Ryan seems to be the better cook than me under pressure). After the wedding I kept in touch with Tita Jeanne through facebook (to discuss the details of the graduation cake I was making for their eldest daughter Celine) and she bought up the dinner idea again because she really liked it so we put the ball in motion and set a date.
So the 7th of January sneaked upon us and it was only a few days before that Ryan and I got around to finalising our menu items. We arrived at the Pascual residence to find the tables had all been set up nice and fancy and that they even printed up proper menus too. No wonder Ryan was being interrogated on the phone the night before about what his dish was going to be. He hadn't even really thought about what the final finished product was going to be, just that it was going to be roast pork and included apples. Reading 'apple sauce' on the menu came as a bit of a surprise but we managed to work with it.
Chef Ryan at work. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I LOVE watching him cook :)
Pastry Chef Angie at work :)
Assembling my dessert which I had already baked and prepped at home.
The thee Chefs, bit blurry but this is what happens when you hand your camera to someone else on manual settings.
Tita Jeanne hard at work prepping for her entrée.
Ryan's roast pork loin ready to rest.
Some bread and olive oil and balsamic vinegar to nibble on while we wait for the food to cook.
All hands on deck to help out with dinner, lot's to do!
It's time to serve up the entree. I don't have a photo but the small counter was chock full of plates, we had 12 diners in total so it was a big task to plate up each course with all hands on deck helping.
First course is served: Prawn Mango Fettucine.
We've had mango with savoury food once or twice before but not with pasta so Ryan and I were a little apprehensive about this dish but were pleasantly suprised at how well it worked. Great job Tita Jean :). Apparantly it's become one of her specialty dishes. We may have underestimated how filling the serving size was and our tummies are already filling up but we must soldier on.
Once we're done with entrée it's time to clear the tables and prepare the second course.
Roasted carrots, being a little anxious these may have been pulled out of the oven a little prematurely as they still had more bite to them than I preferred. Ryan was focused on the pork so the carrots landed on my to do list. I had the oven up a little too high (to make up for loss of cooking time in the beginning) and the apples I chucked on top of the carrots burst and dripped all over the carrots. This was a happy accident though as they carrots soaked up the flavours from the apple and took on a whole different flavour profile. The girls loved them!
The baked apples. I also suggested that we keep a few to add to Ryan's gravy for the pork since the menu does say 'apple sauce'. Ryan made a gravy from the pan juices and I diced up a couple of apples which were added to the sauce in the last few minutes to cook. Ryan wanted them to retain a bit of bite so we took the sauce off the heat and let the apples slowly cook with the residue heat.
Being the big sucker for mash I thought it was a safe pairing for the pork and was easy to make in bulk. Ryan also added a bit of truffle oil to the mash to make it a little bit more decadent.
Second course is served: Roast Pork Loin with roasted carrots, baked apple, truffle mash and 'apple sauce'.
Being his first time, Ryan managed to nail the pork roast. The skin was crispy and the meat was well cooked, slightly pink and juicy. He did however pan fry some slices a bit further for the parents because they like their pork very well done. Pork and apple, can't go wrong with that combination. He has also managed to convert two non pork eaters too. The girls have had Filipino style pork before and weren't very fond of it so chose not to eat pork from that bad experience so Ryan cooked up a couple of chicken breasts. Watching Ryan cook the pork and the smells that were coming from the kitchen may have got them curious to try it and once they tasted it they agreed that they would try and eat pork again - as long as it's cooked in the 'Western' way though.
Third course is served: Coconut, Lime and Mango Vacherin.
We're all very full but there will always be room for dessert. My dessert is a coconut meringue layered with a marscarpone and whipped cream mixture flavoured with lime juice and zest and slices of fresh mango. I am glad I didn't choose a rich heavy dessert. It was a perfect end to the meal and was quite light and refreshing so everyone was able to finish off their portion and some even went back for seconds! ;) The great thing about this recipe is that it looks deceivingly fancy but is so easy to make!
Innards shot of my Vacherin. The girls were very happy to know I decided to leave the leftover dessert behind. I also heard that they loved this dessert so much that they went and made their own the next day (after demolishing the leftovers I'm assuming). The recipe is actually off the Taste website which can be found here.
Ryan and I received some belated Christmas gifts from the family which came as a suprise.
Ryan and I received matching oven gloves and apron sets.
The dinner was such a success that everyone thought that it should become a regular thing throughout the year and that we should do it at least bi-monthly so that we can catch up with each other more often. It was agreed that we would rotate hosts and cooks so that the load is shared around and no one has to cook or host twice in a row - and everyone gets a chance to cook too. We left that night with March 17th marked in our diaries, and that's not far away at all now!
Thank you again to the Pascual family, Tita Jeanne and Tito Rommel for hosting dinner and letting Ryan and I come and make a mess of your kitchen. And thanks to Celine and Jessica for helping us out with the cooking and cleaning up.
I look forward to the next dinner where all I have to do is show up and eat ;)