Friday, October 19, 2012

The Fancy Schmancy Dinner Party (Club)

Table settings on the 'adults' table.

     Back in January/February I blogged about this dinner, where a few of us had a bit of a fun cook off, cooking one course each as part of a fancy dinner. Well, that dinner has started something that we have dubbed 'The Fancy Schmancy Dinner Party' where a group of us from 3 different families all come together for a fancy home cooked meal every two months or so.

     The Fancy Schmancy Dinner Party Club currently consists of 12 people, unfortunately we are not opening for membership anytime soon as it is already a lot of work to cook for (and clean up after) 12 people. If we did want to expand we will probably have to start charging membership to help fund this dinner club, or open our own restaurant. There was one dinner where 12 became 14 as some members had some overseas guests, but if the numbers do drop from 12 there will always be a happy outsider/bystander to take that person's place.

     The 'kids' (plus one 'adult') take turns to cook one course each on a rotating schedule of sorts, and the 'adults' take turns hosting the dinner at their house. For some reason the 'kids' won't let them cook at all. I think it's the fear of being fed Filipino home cooking which isn't quite Fancy Schmancy enough for this kind of party ;). And it's a chance to return the favour since the parents are always cooking for the kids. At the end of each dinner, we decide on the date and location of the next dinner and delegate a cook(s) for each course. You might think that it's still another two or so months away but it's serious business for us. Since that first dinner, we have successfully planned three more with the last one being a couple of months ago in August. Sadly the next Fancy Schmancy dinner will not be until early January 2013 due to the crazy busy months of November and December.

Entree: Stuffed chicken breast with stuffed mushroom, and little smoked salmon tartlette canapes. By Chef Joy.

     For the second dinner in April, Ryan and I were not on cooking duty, though we did lend a hand with plating up and cleaning up afterwards. Being the second Fancy Schmancy dinner for the year I think we were still in the 'teething' stage as we weren't all sure if it was still going ahead or not as there had been no communication at all since we last saw each other in February. The date was marked in my calendar but I had to actually prompt everyone a couple of weeks before just to confirm if it was still going ahead.
     I decided to leave my DSLR at home that night but looking back now it's a shame that I didn't take any proper photos of all the effort that went into the dinner (check out the first photo on this post, all those table settings were HAND MADE).
     There were some canapes of smoked salmon tartlettes served before dinner but as we were running a little behind schedule due to parents arriving late to dinner, they kind of got forgotten and were served with entree instead.

It's a little bit like My Kitchen Rules in the house.

Main: Roast Beef with Sauce Dianne, Roasted Root Vegetables and Asparagus. By Chef Celine.

Dessert: Apple and Caramel Cheesecake. By Chef Jessica. Recipe from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook.

     As it was St Patrick's day, I thought I would bake a few Irish inspired Baileys Chocolate macarons as a token for our hosts. They got served up alongside dessert because some people couldn't resist them, though those people already snuck in a few before dinner too ;). I think this was my favourite part of the dinner though I think I am a bit biased because of my massive sweet tooth. But I've gotta admit that it was a pretty awesome cheesecake ;).

The 'kids' table - totally retro table settings from Ryan's mum!

     The third dinner was in June and was hosted by Ryan's parents. It was our turn to cook again with me on the main and Ryan on dessert as he wanted to try his hand at something different since he hasn't made many desserts yet. I can't always be the dessert queen in the relationship now can I? Though he does have the upper hand when it comes to creme brulees and crepes. One of the other girls was in charge of entree.

The 'adults' table.

Silver tea and coffee set.

     Even the fancy silver ware gets taken out from under safe guard! Ryan informs me this set is older than he is - some antique stuff there. I think the parents secretly try and outdo each other each time with all the dinnerware. Though I think we secretly do the same when it comes to our cooking ;). The fancy dinner ware wasn't an expectation in the beginning but it's good to see our hosts go the full mile to make the dinner a little bit more special.

Menu for Fancy Schmancy Dinner Party #3.

Parmesan Paprika Twists.
     These Parmesan Paprika Twists were made from leftover and offcuts of puff pastry from making my main dish. Strips of puff pastry brushed with beaten egg and then sprinkled with grated parmesan and paprika and then baked until golden.

Crusty Wholemeal Bread to go with...

14 bowls of soup!

Entree: Pumpkin Soup served with Crusty Bread. By Chef Celine.

'L' is for Lamb.

Sweet Potato and Parsnip Gratin.

Main: Individual Pie (Chicken, Pea & Leek, or Lamb, Mushroom & Rosemary), served with Sweet Potato & Parsnip Gratin, and Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Bacon & Almond Crumble. By Chef Angie!

     For the main, I chose to use lamb as it was requested by some of the others at the last dinner party. As we already had 2 roasts in a row, and as tempting as a nice warm roast leg of lamb would have been perfect for a cold winter night, I wanted to do something a bit different. I knew that not everyone would eat lamb so had to think of an alternative for them but I didn't want to change my protein altogether for a one fits all dish.
     A few weeks before the dinner, all my thoughts and ideas, and a hankering for a flaky pie with a hot rich filling, resulted in this dish. With options for the lamb eaters and the non lamb eaters. I also thought I would use brussel sprouts for one of my sides as I had only recently tried them and quite liked them. No one apart from Ryan had tried Brussel sprouts before and they surely received a mixed reaction all around. Everyone did appreciate the opportunity to try something different though. The only thing I wasn't happy with was that my bacon and almond crumble wasn't much of a crumble as I over crowded the saucepan in a rush to get the brussel sprouts cooked so it went soggy. And my gratin could have been a bit thicker, I forgot to allow for shrinkage.

Ryan's Chocolate and Lime Gateau. One of two.

Now that's a blow torch!

     It's tricky serving up 14 desserts with multple components, especially when there is one that is temperature sensitive.

Dessert: Chocolate and Lime Gateau with Saffron Pashmak and Espresso Granita. By Chef Ryan.

     Ryan was actually inspired by Heston Blumenthal's Exploding Chocolate Gateau for his dessert choice. Though he added lime to the chocolate ganache to cut the richness and add another flavour element to the gateau. I suggested he serve it with some Saffron Pashmak which we bought from Essential Ingredient when I went to spend my birthday voucher there and he also made an espresso granita to go with it with hints of lime zest in it. Unfortunately the granita didn't set in time and was more of an espresso slushy.
     The most fun part about this dessert was that apart from Ryan and I, absolutely no one knew about the popping candy embedded in the biscuit base of the gateau. The first sound from the first spoonfuls around the table was the popping candy reacting in everyone's mouth. Then came the sound of giggles and squeels as everyone tried to figure out what was going on. And then we heard the loud cackle of laughter coming from the other room where all the parents were dining. At that point Ryan thought he should reveal to everyone what the secret ingredient was. It was great fun watching and listening to the reactions of everyone around us, everyone absolutely loved it. It was a great dessert, and I was so proud of Ryan that night :) Though, I am still the dessert queen :p

     After dessert, Ryan's mum passed around some dried figs which she picked up in Dubai on her trip to Israel. I love the figs from that part of the world, they are so delicious!

Espresso Granita (with Lime).

     The next day Ryan and I had some of the leftover granita which had finally frozen. It was amazingly refreshing and the coffee wasn't too strong at all and I loved the bursts of lime coming through. It tasted almost like Cola, did we just discover the secret recipe to Coke? ;)

The 'kids' table settings.

     Our fourth and last dinner for 2012 was back at the house that started it all. Ryan and I were supposed to be relieved of cooking duties but a couple of weeks before the dinner, our dessert chef had to pull out so that role was open for grabs. I thought 'why not?', and it was a chance for Ryan and I to collaborate and make a dessert that had multiple elements which meant it would be a little bit more special than something we would make if it was just one of us cooking. So I put my hand up for the job.

Individual place setting on the 'kids' table, and the dinner menu.

Entree: Pumpkin and Rocket Arancini with Roast Garlic Aoli. By Chef Jessica.

     It's quite a task to serve up each course, clear the tables, and then repeat all over again. It's usually all hands on deck to get it all out.

Main: Stuffed Chicken Breast, Served with Pumpkin Puree and Truffled Peas. By Chef Jeanne. A recipe from MasterChef/Matt Moran.

Dessert: Pandan Pannacotta with Vanilla Coconut Tapioca Pudding served with a Banana and Coconut Turon (Sweet Filipino Spring Roll). By Chef Ryan and Chef Angie.

     The inspiration for this dessert came from a recipe out of one of my dessert books 'The Dessert Architect'. Some changes were made to it though, I used a different pannacotta recipe which used gelatine powder instead of leaf (which I tweaked anyway), and it was meant to be garnished with some caramelised bananas and coconut tuilles which we decided last minute to change to banana fritters but that ended up being changed again to banana and coconut turons instead thanks to Ryan's creative thinking.
     We wanted to keep the contrast of the smooth and crisp textures but we also wanted to introduce a hot element to go with the cold of the pannacotta so thought freshly fried turons would be perfect. They also tied the whole Asian/Filipino theme together even more which really impressed the parents, and possibly ignited some nostalgia for them.

     It was a great finale to the year for The Fancy Schmancy Dinner Party Club. It still amazes me how without much effort we have managed to keep this event continuing for the entire year. It's been a great opportunity for the parents to catch up regularly rather than once or twice yearly and have a gossip session together and a great chance for us kids to also catch up and hangout together more regularly too. And what more could the parents ask for? They just have to rock up and be fed by their kids where it's usually the other way around for most of the families ;)

     At the end of the last dinner, the parents gave all the chefs a small donation so that we could invest in some sets of dinnerware for the dinner parties. It's a bit of a struggle to find 12 matching sets of anything when it comes time to hosting but I think the mismatching dinnerware and table settings adds a bit of character to each dinner table. We should probably ask for donations towards ingredients too as it can get expensive feeding twelve people, three courses each. I think all of the cooks do it out of a love and passion for cooking though, I know I definitely do. And all the tiredness and stress from cooking disappears when you put those plates on the table and everyone is enjoying themselves. It makes it all worthwhile. And it's not like we have to cook at every dinner so we get a break every so often and can come to dinner simply as a guest which is nice too.

     Looking forward to another year of eating fellow Fancy Schmancy Party Club members! Perhaps this will inspire you, my dear readers, to start something similar?


Richard Elliot said...

Looks fun Angie!

I've got a bonfire night dinner party coming up next month which I need to get organising!

gaby @ lateraleating said...

Great idea! Good to see that dinners have been "maturing" to a "fancier" state :)

Christine said...

What a great idea! I totally wanna be part of an awesome dinner club hehe

cquek said...

they look devilicious!

Not Quite Nigella said...

Wow you just really put in a sterling effort! :o That's so impressive! :D

Vivian - vxdollface said...

wow you guys go all out! love the idea of everyone cooking a dish :) looks like a lovely spread

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

Of course you can be the Dessert Queen of the relationship! LOL. Ryan did a fantastic job. Actually all the food looks wonderful.

Apple said...

Oh my god, that food looks amazing! and the table settings! The pannacotta at the end is drool worthly. Sounds like a great thing to do to get together!