The Dining Dish blog is Dara Bunjon's take on anything food, both national and in her hometown of Baltimore. Warning: this food blog can be harmful to your waistline.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unbridled Cooking

I enjoy cooking for small intimate dinner gatherings and this past Sunday wasn’t any different as I put together an eclectic menu for friends. I start small, a simple 3 course dinner and BAM, it has grown, out of control cooking. (recipes below) Keeping it simple doesn’t seem to be in my realm of reality, I ended up with 6 courses…yup, count them.

Pot Stickers with a Yuzu Dipping Sauce
Tom Yum Soup (inspired by my dinner at Redfish)
Grilled Caesar Salad
Lemon Basil Sorbetto
Honey Truffle Marinated Chicken, Steamed Asparagus with Apricot Marmalade and Oven Roasted Potatoes
Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing with Fresh Strawberries

Guess what, I didn’t take any pictures at dinner - not a one but I have put together a couple post pictures. I’m going to write this in course order though food prep was much different.

Dara’s Dinner for 4

1st Course

Pot Stickers: This was a last minute decision to have a munch in the den with drinks before we sat down to dinner. I pulled the Pot Stickers from the freezer, sautéed them and then steamed them per the package instructions.

Yuzu Dipping Sauce: I used a tablespoon of yuzu juice (lime juice is a good substitute), 2 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, 1 small garlic clove thinly sliced and 1 teaspoon of sugar to balance the acid of the yuzu juice. Mix and make adjustments to your taste buds.

2nd Course

Tom Yum Soup: I had homemade chicken broth(see below) and combined it with low sodium chicken broth (total 4 cups), diced shallots, sliced mushrooms, shredded carrots and the Instant Sour Shrimp Paste (tom yum) for the chili-sour flavor* (1 teaspoon). I peeled 8 shrimp and put the shells in a strainer that I put in the stock to cook a bit and add more flavor. I added the shrimp about 2 minutes before service so they wouldn’t be over cooked. I previously boiled off some egg noodles (I was out of rice noodles) which I added to the stock just after the shrimp.

* the instant sour shrimp paste is spicy and I suggest start with a regular teaspoon and let it blend well into the soup. Give it a taste and add a bit more until you reach the level of heat you want in the soup.

3rd Course

Grilled Caesar Salad: I had just gotten the new Food and Wine-June 08 and on page 160 they had Seared Romaine Spears with Caesar Dressing. I got Romaine hearts at the produce store on sale for 99 cents…yes, 99 cents. I cut the romaine heads in half lengthwise and brushed with Canola oil and grilled them until they had a slight char on both sides but were still crisp.

The dressing swapped out egg yolks with low fat mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, garlic cloves, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. I processed all the ingredients and slowly added Canola oil. I dressed the plate with the dressing and put the romaine spears on top, salt & pepper, shaved Parmesan-Reggiano cheese and chopped tomato.

4th Course

Lemon Basil Sorbetto: I wrote about this before, it is SOOO good and I had about 11 lemons leftover from a food styling job just the week before so I filled in to the 20 lemons needed. I zested all the lemons before I juiced them and froze them for future cooking endeavors. The recipe is from Executive Chef Bill Crouse at Sotto Sopra – RECIPE. This was my intermezzo.

5th Course

Honey Truffled Chicken: First I purchased two whole chickens and brought them home and broke them down into parts. I took the wing tips, the backs and gizzards and threw them in the pressure cooker with onions, carrots, celery, parsley stems and salt for a quick stock-used in the Tom Yum soup.

Marinade for the chicken:

4 ounces of honey
2 tablespoons chicken stock
2 tablespoons of truffle oil
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients for the chicken. Coat the chicken pieces well and marinate them overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the chicken about 45 minutes (test for doneness with an instant read thermometer.) As the oven preheats mix up the basting mixture. As the chicken cooks, baste it from time-to-time.

Basting mixture for the chicken:

3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chicken stock
2 teaspoons of truffle oil
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons of fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon of salt

Oven Roasted Potatoes: I chose to use the tiny red potatoes. Remember start your potatoes in cold water with lots of salt. (If what you are cooking grew below ground you start it in cold water and if it grew above ground you add it to boiling water). Once at a boil, I let them cook 5 minutes and drained. I tossed the potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, chopped parsley, garlic powder, and chopped shallots and put them on a cookie sheet in the oven with the chicken. Every time I basted the chicken, I gave the pan of potatoes a shake.

Asparagus: From the WomenHeart’s All Heart Family Cookbook, I used their recipe for steamed asparagus and slivered carrots topped with Apricot marmalade and grated ginger. This is a fabulous cookbook that doesn’t feel like a healthy cooking cookbook. There are many recipes I have fixed and many more I am going to make. It emphasizes heart healthy foods, 40 foods proven to promote heart health.

Ladies, don’t be fooled, heart disease kills more women than breast cancer. This is a cookbook that should be on your shelves – the food tastes great plus you learn how many choices you do have with heart healthy foods.


6th Course

Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing: This is an ongoing quest of mine to find a really moist, dense yellow cake. Where as this cake was delicious, denser and moist, it wasn’t what I’m seeking ~ so I still search for my holy grail of cakes. PLEASE, if you have a yellow cake recipe that is really dense and moist send it to me (

I tried the cake recipe from Restaurant Eve which was in the Washington Post-I did not make their icing. I searched the internet for a chocolate fudge icing recipe and was ready to make one that called for condensed milk. I knew I had a can in the cupboard only to find out it had a date on it from 1996. Needless to say, I chose another recipe – Caroline’s Chocolate Fudge Frosting that came out great (I added a pinch of salt to it and only used ½ cup of milk. I think salt brings out the chocolate flavor)

Heathens that we were, we polished off ½ the cake between 4 people. I probably should put a warning on this menu “Do Not Try This At Home~ It Can be Harmful to a Full Night’s Sleep and One’s Waistline.” I’m still eating cake and sorbetto; I sent the leftover chicken, asparagus and potatoes home with my guests.

Are you an unbridled cook? We can start a club and go insane cooking for each other...but what a way to go.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I bet you could hardly move after all that food! Very ambitious!

John said...

First off, with all that wondrous food, you are evil :) Sounds like my equally evil, waistline-harming Thanksgiving past.

Second, I have got to do one of those at some point. Maybe a Baltimore foodie blogger potluck or something.

Anonymous said...

LOL! These things do have a a way of growing nearly out of control like this, don't they! But everything you made looks wonderful!


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