This Dinner Party of Doom was my biggest challenge yet.
Sure, it still took a day off of work to chop and prep, and still took the same amount of planning, guest list tweeking, shopping, and again included the trademark coloring books and games to keep my guests entertained as I worked in the kitchen. But this party also showcased a realm of cooking I have only fairly recently began to explore – Vegan cuisine. Unlike the teachings of my great grandmother’s cookbooks from the 1940′s, this party was 100% devoid of any sort of animal product. I planned and cooked an entire meal – two appetizers, one entree, and a dessert for roughly 20 people – without my usual staples of butter, heavy cream, chicken and beef stocks, cheese, or even honey. This was no small task, and with the kind and generous advice of my vegan friend and fellow chef Mike and his lovely wife Liz I spent a good 3 months sampling, testing, researching, and very carefully constructing my menu for this event.
The preparation went from Thursday night after work all the way until about 5:00pm Saturday evening, an hour before my guests were to arrive. Mike and Liz, along with their quite amazing, polite, and sweet children Andy and Lilly, actually drove up an hour early just to help me assemble and prep. Liz took to slicing the plum tomatoes and assembling the basil, tomato, and red pepper ketchup onto the black bean sliders. Mike helped me bake the corn chips for the mole’ and toasted the cornbread for the bruschetta. They were such a big help throughout the night, and I think I would have walked out of Christie’s house at the end of it all with a few gray hairs had they not been there.
More of my guests arrived, quite a few even bearing lovely gifts of wine, flowers, and cards with money in them. I was very touched by these gestures, as I never really expect a thing from anyone other than showing up and having a good time, and I’m so grateful to have such wonderful friends. My “groupies”, Batty and Dennis, made me an offer that pretty much guaranteed their spot in my future DoD’s (well, really, all they would have to do is ask to be invited to the next one. It’s not like they’d have to fill out a form to be approved by a committee or something. I’m always happy to have their company ).
There was dancing to motown and 80′s synth pop from my iPod, games of pool played in the billiards room as well as Apples to Apples and Spades in the living room, lots of coloring, and the wine F-L-O-W-E-D (as it tends to at the DoD’s), and many people got very drunk and very, VERY merry. As much as I would have loved to socialize with all of my friends for a very long time, I had a stove of food keeping me busy, where Mike was right at my side frying up the loads of marinated tempeh for braising and making sure I was okay and sane.
Even though my brown sugar cinnamon sauce didn’t thicken how I would have liked, it still went perfectly with the baked sweet potato falafel and cinnamon maple walnut ice “cream” I made for dessert. And even though my corn chips didn’t bake evenly and half of them ended up stocking to the baking pans, I still had enough decent ones for the mole, which everyone seemed to love.
At the end of the night, I had the hard work of Dennis, Lauren, and Esther OWNING the cleanup duties, for which I don’t even have words to tell them how grateful I was.
Thank you again to Mike and Liz for the beautiful red daisies, wine, and for being my extra pairs of hands, to Amanda for the awesome Devil Dog card (<3!), to Batty and Dennis for the wine, beautiful flowers, and a most awesome and appreciated offer, and to every one of my guests for contributing to the wonderful, fun night this was.
Oh, and before I forget -
Cornbread Bruschetta topped with a tomatillo salsa
Black Bean Sliders on a basil, onion, and garlic bun topped with a roasted red pepper ketchup, basil, and tomato
Tempeh Mole’ with red, green, and yellow peppers served over a bed of coconut brown basmati tossed with fresh cilantro and garnished with two large baked corn chips and shopped green onions
Cinnamon Maple Walnut Ice “Cream” topped with sweet potato falafel and drizzled with a brown sugar cinnamon glaze.