12.07.15 - Dinner for 14 in the Arctic Blast

Red Robin Ripoff Grilled Cheeses
Maple Mustard Sweet Potatoes
Confit Fennel and Leeks
Fish and Vege Pies
Crepes with Dulce de Leche  Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Oranges

Right now it’s August and almost gone back to being thirty fuckin degrees already in Brisbane. But a month ago I had a dinner party with my friends in the middle of an 'arctic front/blast/nado'. I wanted to cook good, warming food. I wanted people to get drunk on the sugary mulled wine that my housemate James makes. I wanted my brilliant photographer friend Sav to take photos of it all for my vanity (you can check out her other beautiful work here).

But I also wanted to start this weird little 'food blog' project in case other people wanna do something similar and are as sick as I am of 'lifestyle' 'inspiration' that makes you feel like shit if you don't have all the right-looking homewares and always get everything exactly right. 

Originally I wanted to cook on a blazing open fire, cause I just watched a Neflix show called Chefs Table and got obsessed with Francis Mallmann, an Argentinian chef who cooks whole sides of lamb on huge wood fires and freshly-caught fish in clay pits and says stuff like 'cooking with fire is like making love'. But then I realised that, not being a slightly-creepy millionaire genius 60 year old chef with a 20 year old wife, I should probably lay off the theatrics. The dulche de leche and oranges in the dessert (Recipe) are a kind of half-hearted reference to him, but I'll cook something in a pit one day and it'll be sick.

Straight up - I invited too many people. Too many people to rationally cook a three course meal for by myself. It was gonna be ten but then I realised I hadn't factored in me or my other housemate Bri, and then invited my workmates Ned and Indy cause look at their goddamn faces:

But the weekend before I'd cooked Japanese for ten people, standing over the stove churning out plate after plate of tempura - so I thought I could do anything. This time I was a little more sensible and made fish and vege pies (recipe) - you can make the filling early, line the trays and stick it all in the fridge till it's ready to throw in the oven. 

Me and James are also obsessed with fennel so I knew I wanted to make a side-dish out of that, so I made a frankenstein version of a Lucky Peach confit fennel recipe, that also had leeks cause they rule too (recipe)

The grilled cheese sandwiches were a real triumph - a version of a Red Robin dish that's probably one of the best things I've ever eaten, that kind of came close to the original (recipe)

And I bloody did it. Sure, I cut a few corners; by using store-bought pastry for the pies and forgetting to churn the ice cream quite enough, but no one complained.

 And I had help, from my friend Andi bringing labne and crackers so I didn't have to start cooking straight away, and could have a drink and a sit down, and Sam George-Allen getting the sandwiches out, and James and Sarah making sure everyone had plenty of wine (god bless), and Sarah (a legend who somehow almost completely evaded getting in these photos) and Froz  cleaning up as we went and Ned and Indy and Chloe assembling the desserts, and Harlan letting me bum cigs at the end of the night when I ran out. And no one pointing out how unevenly the mustard maple sweet potatoes (recipe) were cooked, because I forgot how useless our oven is. Saints, every one. 

So this is the first of hopefully more posts - long and short - about food and recipes and ways to have an even better time while cooking and eating. For your mates and mine,