21 March, 2010

Fondue, Sourdough, and all sorts of goodies!

This week has been wonderful. I've had V home with me for most of it, and it has been a nice "mini staycation" for both of us.
Here in Ireland, St. Patricks day is a national holiday, so everyone pretty much has it off. V's union also took the day after St. Pat's off, so he was home Wednesday and Thursday, worked Friday, and was home for the usual Saturday and today, Sunday.
I recently got a new (to me) cookbook and there are some AWESOME fondue recipes in it. It has had me itching to have a fondue party ever since! Especially when my books came from America, and with them a Fondue book. A dear friend of mine actually opened my eyes to the world of Fondue after taking me out to The Melting Pot for my 24th birthday.
I hate to say it, but V and i have two distinct sets of friends (together, not separately). Our Polish friends, and our Non-Polish friends. I would love to invite all of them together but A.) i dont have enough room or enough food for 9 people at the same time, and B.) We only have one translator among us and i worry about us segregating ourselves into "language" groups. V with our Polish speaking friends, and me with our English speaking friends... sigh.
SO... the only solution is to have two fondue parties! Right?!
I was hoping to have them close together, but... no. I spent 5 hours in the kitchen yesterday preparing all the food for us and our guests (we had our Polish friends over first), not to mention the hours finding the right recipes for the meat that we already have in our freezer as well as vegetables, etc.
Unfortunately, because i was so busy and pressed for time,  i didn't take photos of ANY of the food. But i shall now tell you all about it. Is that mean? lol

V has a propane two burner camp stove that served as his regular cooking stove in his previous place. I couldn't believe that a rented unit didn't come with a stove, but considering that the downstairs was about 200 sq. ft, i suppose i can see how a stove/oven wouldn't fit. We placed the camp stove in the center of our table for community dipping, and it was absolutely perfect! The only thing i would change if i could, was that the gas was a bit too hot (even on low) for a couple of the sauces.

First Course:
Gouda, Gin, and Beer Fondue served with blanched vegetables and pieces of baguette. This was fun! I actually take joy in introducing people to new recipes, especially if they're closed-minded about food. V takes a lot of (playful) razzing from his Polish friends whenever he serves or talks about food that isn't cooked the way his Polish friends are used to it... of course he and they are from different parts of Poland, but at any rate, i can see how it would be frustrating for him. Because of this, i was somewhat pessimistic about the way things were going to go and if our guests would be pleased with the dinner, since they've never had fondue. I knew it was a lot of work, and didn't want to go at it for naught.
I blanched the vegetables, and rinsed them in cold water (to stop the cooking process) ahead of time, and cut up bite-size pieces of baguette. Everyone sat around the table and as they sat, we turned on a burner of the camp stove and got started! I started putting the ingredients in as the recipe called for, and they seemed very interested, and even joked about it being a Hibachi style dinner. After the cheese fondue was ready V explained what to do (in Polish, as most of the conversations are as such, being the majority) and i showed them how to "stab and dip" the vegetables and bread, place them on your plate, and eat them with a fork. The gin made for a great taste (which was surprising to me), and all in all, though initially apprehensive, everyone was pleased with how it all tasted and the fun in dipping your food. Next time, i've considered adding a bit of chili powder for a little "kick".

Main Course:
Ahead of time, I made small cheesy meatballs (meatballs with a cube of cheddar at the center), and tossed bits of chicken with oil, chili powder, and paprika. Also i prepared several sauces including  Curry and Mango Chutney Sauce; Tomato, Basil, and Onion Puree; Applesauce and Dijon Sauce (i made my own applesauce for this one!); and Hot and Sweet Mustard Sauce. I wish i had some Kielbasa to serve with it all, as well- but Ireland in all it's glory closes up shops at about 4-5:00 (or earlier) on Saturdays and i didn't think about it until too late.
At the table, i mixed up some vegetable broth, and once it was boiling demonstrated how to cook the meat. Stab and boil for 2-3 minutes, eat.
The meatballs were a big hit, but not so much the chicken. LOL! I'm not sure about the chicken either. * I should probably take this moment to explain that i have ended my Lenten meat fast prematurely because of my concern for my protein needs as well as just not being a very good Vegetarian. I still plan on making many of our meals Vegetarian, but instead of being completely Vegetarian, i have decided to eat meat only very sparingly. Also, i am taking into consideration the Thyroid issues that run in my bloodlines, as well as autoimmune disease which can be accelerated by too much soy. * 
Next time, i'll be sure to have some Kielbasa, as it would have gone wonderfully with the Applebutter Dijon as well as the Hot and Sweet Mustard Sauces.
My favorite with the meatballs was the Tomato, Basil, and Onion Puree as well as the Curry Sauces. MMM!

Dessert:
Ahead of time while some of the sauces were simmering for dinner, i made a Sour Cream Pound Cake from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, cooled it, and cut it into bite-sized squares for the White Chocolate Raspberry dipping sauce!
That's right. White Chocolate Raspberry. It. Was. AMAZING.
If you want any of the recipes for the above mentioned foods, let me know, but i'm typing out how to make the White Chocolate Raspberry sauce here.

Ingredients:
1lb White Chocolate, in small bits. (for those of you to whom this is available, White Chocolate Chips would be great! We dont have them here, so i had to chop up a few candy bars)
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1-2 C frozen (or fresh) raspberries.

In a small pot, on low heat, warm the heavy cream. While it warms, place the raspberries in another small pot on medium heat. Once the cream is warm, put the white chocolate into the pot and let it soften, about 3 minutes. While the chocolate is softening, mash the raspberries in the pot. Once they're all mushy and liquidous, strain all the seeds out leaving a yummy raspberry sauce in a bowl.
At this point, stir your chocolate until all the lumps are out. This is when i brought it to the table and set it on the camp stove (on low... which was too much and ended up burning it a little... but it was a good flavor because i caught it just in time!). Pour the raspberry sauce all swirly into the chocolate sauce, and swirl it with a knife to make it look all marbeled. Beautiful!
I retained some raspberries for dipping, sliced up a few bananas, and served the pound cake all to go with the chocolate sauce.

This sauce was all the rage. ESPECIALLY with the bananas, which i didn't expect. We all nearly licked the pot clean.
Later, after everyone had gone, V told me how much of a hit everything was, and how impressed they were with the Fondue. Today, i am still riding the high of our successful dinner party and am so happy that my hours in the kitchen beforehand were completely appreciated. :-D

Next weekend, we have been invited over to their house for some traditional Polish food cooked on a fire with Dutch Ovens! I was so excited that i broke out my 10" Dutch Oven and offered to make some of my mom's Dutch Oven Sourdough bread.
I think they were apprehensive at first, but V explained that on our recent trip to Seattle, i had expressed my love for Sourdough, and had to buy a bit at a bakery to see if he enjoyed it. V immediately identified it as traditional Polish bread to my delight, so it would be a good addition to a traditional Polish meal.
I explained that i learned how to make it in Alaska where it is a big deal... and Alaska used to be Russia... which has a bit of an influence on Polish food...

SO today i broke out mom's old recipes (some were dated 1989, haha) and made some Sourdough Starter today. I forgot how much the starter EXPANDS! After a couple hours, it had outgrown its original container, and i had to move it into a bowl. We've been keeping the cottage warm, so hopefully in a few days we'll have some nicely fermented sourdough sponge :) I can't wait! ( V took a photo of our sourdough in its first container as it had overflowed, which i will have to liberate from his camera soon) Until then, adieu!

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