Playing caterer

A good friend of mine decided to host a brunch for her parents combined 60th birthday, inviting all their friends and family into her home to celebrate. Many months ago she asked me to help her with the food. Of course I said yes. My chance to not only help a friend out, but do so doing something I like to do, cook and entertain.

We did a bit of advanced planning with her mother to set the menu, choose what she wanted and what they felt their friends would enjoy. In the end we decided on quiches, spinach and cheese as well as simple cheese quiches, caesar salad with homemade dressing, layered dip, bagels with cream cheese and lox, and some pre-frozen finger foods that were favorites of her father and put on the menu at his request, pigs in a blanket and vegetable egg rolls. I also added puff pastry with asparagus as another finger food.

This was to be a casual brunch, but would involve over 40 people, so we chose to simplify desserts and drinks by offering fresh cut fruit to dip in a chocolate fondue fountain, my lemon bundt cake, both to eat as is and also presented to people could dip it into the chocolate as well. Guests would be given a mimosa to drink upon arriving, with a single raspberry floating in the mixture of champagne and orange juice. We would also provided a fruity punch, coffee and teas.

The centerpiece of all of this would be a chocolate cake, with chocolate icing, the requested dessert of my friends father. I knew just the recipe I wanted to make for this.

As the "cook" of the two of us, I took on the responsibility of making those items that would be made from scratch: the quiches, and both cakes. My friend is very trusting of me - she asked me to make those items but did not specify recipes, allowed me to do my own shopping for the ingredients, and would wait and see what I provided when I showed up on party day. We checked in with each other frequently on our progress, so while she did a massive house cleaning, I went shopping and then set out to mess up my kitchen. (And both our husbands were charged with the task of keeping our children out of our way!)

First up on my to do list were the quiches. Keeping them both vegetarian was a deliberate choice. Three of each kind, I was to make spinach and cheese quiches. I started out with the spinach, using premade deep-dish pie shells for six pies. (We wanted them to look pretty as well as taste good, and I can't do that with pie dough. Yet.) Frozen, chopped spinach was thawed, drained, and then sauted up with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of nutmeg. Once divided into the pastry shells, the spinach was generously covered with a hard swiss cheese then topped with a mixture of eggs, milk and cream. A light sprinkling of old cheddar was the finishing touch.

For the cheese only quiches, I decided on a combination of 4 cheeses, old cheddard, a sharp white cheddar, mozzarella and again that hard swiss cheese (whose proper name I cannot remember how to spell, so I'm not going to.) This time I added a sprinkling of nutmeg into the egg/milk/cream mixture.

Below you can see a picture of my spinach quiches cooling, along with my next item up for baking, the lemon bundt cake.

The lemon cake was to be served along with the chocolate fondue, so I chose not to put on the lemon glaze that is called for in the recipe. This is the same cake I made here.

In presenting this cake, I decided to provide the guests with a choice, leaving a few slices of the cake on the platter for those who wanted just a bit of cake without the chocolate fondue. It must have been a good choice as I refilled that section of the plate twice.

The cake itself was a nice compliment to the chocolate fondue, not too lemony and just bright enough to still be flavorful against the dip.

The next item I chose to make was asparagus and puff pastry. My friend and I had seen this in a magazine earlier in the summer and both thought it looked wonderful. But neither of us could remember which of my many magazines it came from, and I never found the recipe.

How hard could it be? It called for puff pastry layed out flat, topped with fresh asparagus, and sprinkled with cheese. It wasn't hard, but it wasn't very good either.

So I tried a different method. Puff pastry, layed out flat and then cut into strips, sprinkled with cheese, the rolled around individual spears of asparagus, baked until golden. A bit of a chore to make as the pastry warmed up and stuck to the parchment, and the cheese needing to be pressed down into each piece of pastry, but in the end, this is what I had wanted to achive from this combination of ingredients. It was light, crispy, with no one flavor dominating the little morsel. And it must have been good because it went fast, fast, FAST!

The "piece de resistance" of the party would be my chocolate cake, the special request of the guest of honor. After all, no birthday party is complete without some cake!

I had a recipe in mind for this, Died and Gone to Heaven chocolate cake, from the Looneyspoon's Eat, Shrink and Be Merry cookbook. Yes these ladies provide healthy and low fat recipes, but just this once they decided to give their readers a little treat, to be eaten on that rare, rare occassion, such as for your 60th birthday.

The recipe starts with 3 cups of sugar. Just for the cake, not including the icing. It goes on to add chopped unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder, making 3, 9-inch layers of cake. The icing itself involved more chopped chocolate, this time semi-sweet, whipping cream, more cocoa, butter and cream cheese. The end result was a chocolatey cake that was not overwhelmingly sweet, and a smooth icing that could easily be chilled into a fudge, but a fudge that would not make your teeth itch from the sugar rush.

I chose to decorate this cake for a grown up, sprinkling more shaved chocolate along the sides (and washing way too much chocolate off my hands along the way,) as well as a layer of curled white chocolate on top. And I learned that I need alot more practice at curling chocolate as I was unable to get very that didn't fall apart into slivers.

I was very pleased with how this cake came out, and how it looked in the end (slightly lopsidded is not only allowed, it is required to show that this is a homemade cake made with love.) I recieved many compliments from the cake, the guests of this party were very generous in their praise.

In the end the party was a success, with both guests of honor happy, and the hostess happy and relaxed (without too messy a kitchen or a house afterwards.)

I wish I had taken more pictures, especially of the ice ring I made for the punch (layers of ice, whole cranberries and sliced oranges, which worked beautifully at both keeping the punch cold and looking pretty), however I was a bit busy keeping food topped up, a hard task when 40 people decide they are all going to stand in front of the food to chat, leaving no room for anyone to get through!

Someone suggested, both before and during the party, that I should have made up some business cards for myself, promoting myself as a caterer. I never did end up doing that, though it is something I will have to give some more serious thought to in the future. For now I was just happy to help out a friend and to have the opportunity to show off some of my creativity and abilities to a crowd of hungry people.

Note: A few other people took pictures, at least of the cake, so if I end up with some later, I will post them as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think those asparagus appetizers are a wonderful idea!