Deena's party

I already mentioned Deena used her Jedi mind tricks on me to force me into catering her party and to think I wanted to do it. Clever, that.

The party was for twenty-five or so business people of the Golden Triangle area. That's the area in central Denver abutting the capitol, and encompassing the civic center, central library and art museum where we live, and reaching down to Cherry Creek. As part of the bargain, I was invited to the party but I didn't care to attend, due to what you might call a personality flaw -- I simply wasn't interested, but now that I think about it in retrospect, it could have been fun.

Here's Deena's email following the party. She knows me as Bo:


Bo dear - you food was such a huge hit!!! All but one of the people asked.....DOES HE CATER????? I said no, I was instructed not to encourage such things...:) For real tho....EVERYONE LOVED IT!

You made me very popular last night....(not that i care about being popular) but it was nice for a minute.

Much Love and Many Blessings - you are an angel....


D. McDonald,C.A.M
Business/Operations Manager


She's referring to my instruction to discourage any referrals. When Deena suggested there might possibly be some inquiries, I told her to tell them flatly I'm too expensive. Lorraine and Acacia and Deena thought that was hilarious but I ws perfectly serious. This stuff is fun every once in a while to help someone out in a pinch or as a gift, but as a job, not so much.

sourdough bread


Lorraine making cucumber sandwiches

puff pastry with cheese and bacon

Target time, 5:00.

To my lasting shame, my timing was off. Throughout the day I felt comfortable with the hour but, honestly, those finishing touches all took longer than I calculated. Deena showed up with Lorraine at 4: 30, I think, and I was behind. They went straight to work peeling shrimp (easy peel, I mistook for fully peeled), Lorraine promptly began smearing sourdough pieces already cut with cream cheese already mixed with diced chives. Lorraine confessed to not being a cook, for reals, she said she never cooks. She was splendid, and proved very adept. We had things rolling out the door and up to the party room at 5:05 through 5:30. Not bad, actually. Acacia also showed up to ferry trays up to the party room.

The good thing about all that last minute assemblage is the sandwiches were absolutely fresh and the baked items were straight out of the oven. None of this preparing in advance and holding for hours bullshit.

The problem with being rushed, however, is guests were arriving early and I didn't have time for thoughtful photos. I did manage to snap off a few, even reverting to automatic setting when stepping out of the fluorescents which never makes me feel good because I didn't have time to mess with working it all out.

Lorraine hung around and cleaned up my kitchen, bless her. We were completely cleaned up by 6:00, and believe me, it was chaos.

1) Cucumber sandwiches on sourdough, which pretty much defies the premise of cucumber sandwiches, but that's what Deena wanted so that's what we did. Having already defied the premise, I took the liberty to further confound it by adding shrimp halves. The sandwiches were smeared with cream cheese with finely diced chives, overlain with three paper-thin cucumber slices, and topped with shrimp half, decorated with a faint wisp of dill sprig. I did not taste one, but the girls said they were great.

2) Ramaki made the usual way. Fresh water chestnuts instead of canned. Nicks of Bell and Evans chicken livers, the icky portions discarded, rolled in brown sugar and wrapped in thinly sliced smoked bacon. My calculation on this, bacon to water chestnut to liver to toothpicks was remarkably close. Every now and then you win one.

3) Feuilletage. The puff pastry described by Lucy in Lyon. Used the Cuisinart for this and I must say I do not care for this method, although it was extraordinary for grating the cheese, the machine tends to over processes what should be a rougher more careless dough, and the feel of what's happening with the butter going into the flour is forfeited, plus you have to observe in the machine how the water is incorporated at the end while the irregular butter chunks continue to process into an entirely homogenous combination. That is not good. When you do it by hand you can go straight for the big chunks and work your way down until you're satisfied. I added too much butter and too much water. Here's what I learned: When you clarify butter you subtract up to 20% of its weight by removing the water. That must be taken into account when you're estimating fat to flour by weight. I did not account for that, thus the Feuillete bled excess butter when baked. Also the chilled spirals baked better than the ones warmed by the kitchen. Too much water was corrected while rolling and folding the dough by dusting each layer heavily and continuing as normal. These spirals turned out amazingly delicate and rich. You really wouldn't ever want to eat more than, say, ten. No, just kidding. One was enough for me.

4) Olive penguins as seen on the internet. Assembled in advance. Black olives from Whole Food's olive bar. The olives have seeds which I left in because taking them out messed them up too badly. I also got jarred olives that are already pitted but there's no comparison in taste. This was a tough call. Whole Foods had two types of small black olives but they're both wrinkly.

In my defense on the timing, the thing that threw me off was trimming and slicing and thinly cutting the sourdough. That took much longer than I imagined. Artisan sourdough is a weird bread for this purpose. Its open and irregular crumb challenges thin slicing. Due to internal folds and other irregularities plus their original shape of a boule, some slices produced only one small shape, square, triangle, or circle. But Man, does this bread taste good. These are pissy little open-face sandwiches. The waste from removing the crusts and cutting the shapes is discouraging. It took five boules for less than one hundred sandwiches, possibly only about seventy-five. It was breaking my heart to see so much bread being wasted. My wonderful carefully cultivated, fermented, bread! So much of the flavor of sourdough is concentrated in the crust and here the crust is removed entirely, so whatever flavor present must be conveyed by the crumb. Le boo, le hoo. Plus all the ends from the slices too small for a shape, and shapes with imperfections that preclude their use, all this resulted in two huge bowls of bread trimmings. It would have been easier and much faster to simply discard all that, but I could not. Since I had the Cuisinart already out, I put it to use rendering all that into breadcrumbs. These fresh breadcrumbs, now frozen, have a thousand uses. OK, maybe one use -- breadcrumbs.

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