Dinner Party inspired by Frida and Diego.

I used to be a fairly good host but life took over and I tend to take the easy way out these days. One pot, not too much time, not too much trouble. Maybe you will join me in questioning my sanity. What’s the point of working so hard if not to also enjoy breaking bread (or fresh corn tortillas) with dear friends, new friends and loved ones? Am I working six days a week in order to “enjoy” a Trader Joe’s frozen pizza and declare it “not bad, considering”? I want to see the people I like across my table and I want to feed them the food I love, grown as much as possible from my gardens here in Napa. I will have a dinner party at least monthly. I will re-join the human race!

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Inspired by the book Frida’s Fiestas (I hate the title but it’s a great book), I commenced with my new life as a host.

The original menu was this:
Snapper Soup 
Corn Pudding
 
Chiles in Cream
 
Stuffed Chayotes
 
Flag Rice
 
Chiles in Walnut Sauce
 
Lime Filled with Coconut

Prickly pears with anise 
Jamaica flower water
 
Rice water
 
Lime water

This was too ambitious with out a staff so my modified plan was this:
Snapper Soup 
Stuffed Chayotes
 
Flag Rice
 
Chiles Rellenos
 
Prickly pears with anise
 
Jamaica flower water

I like the drama of chiles in nogada but the reality is it’s too rich and
the payoff isn’t there for me. My plan was to do simple Chile rellenos
with cheese a tomato broth instead.

On the day of the party, I left work at about 2pm and went to the fishmonger here in Napa (Ospry)
and it was a joke. I asked for snapper and some heads. They don’t have
heads. Today? No. Ever. Ok….. How about bones? All he had was
monkfish. I felt it was going to be too different so I passed. I then
asked for fresh sardines, knowing he wouldn’t have them and wanting to
be a little mean. I looked around, confused, as if
I were in a butcher shop. I ended up boiling some cactus for a dish
that was never made and used the boiling water instead of tap water for
the soup. I imagine the viscosity added a little something but I don’t
know.

The recipe calls for 6 serranos. I used 3-4 and it was plenty hot.

The rest of the shopping I did at Vallergas, our great market here in Napa.
They had pretty good poblanos, chayotes and lots of key limes. I bought
a chicken as well.With the chicken, I decided to dump the chile
rellenos and make up a chicken dish. The meal was almost nothing like
the one in the book.

I just loved spending the rest of the afternoon cooking with no email, no TV, no radio and just me and the
food. I had to really think things out as I was pretty rusty beyond a
one-dish meal for myself or something like tacos for the kids. But it
was a gas.

Everything was going as planned. Joan arrived on time and everyone else was late so I sent her out to the beanfield to collect some bean flowers (Flor de frijol)
from the Black runner beans that were blossoming but not producing many
pods. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but a meal at
Rancho Gordo without some form of beans was unthinkable.

So here’s the meal:
Shots of tequila and mezcal and cold beers with a few little appetizers like
olives, radishes and some pumpkins seeds that I’d toasted on the comal
with a little oil and garlic clove.

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The bean flowers become gorditas with chorizo from Fatted Calf. The flowers have a nutty sprout taste and I am queer for them. This was last minute inspiration and I wish the photos did the dish justice.

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The snapper soup was easy enough. Snapper plus aromatics sauteed in lard. Oink and splash!

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For the main course, I ended up roasting the poblano chiles, then peeling
them, then blending them with about a cup of crema Mexicana and a cup
of the chicken’s poaching liquid. I then sauteed some onions and
garlic, added the sauce and then gently reheated the chicken pieces.
This was all done in a black ceramic chamba pot.

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The recipe for chayote squash sounded less than appealing to me but I
thought I’d give it a go. I don’t like raisins and olives together but
I am a fool. This was delicious and wasn’t anything like I imagined.

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So the meal was fun, the crowd was appreciative and I learned a lot of new
things. For dessert, from the book, I doused some sliced prickly pears
from my cactus with Sambuca Romano and chilled. Wow! Another surprise.
The two flavors become a third.

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Finally, Joan was nice enough to bring some cheeses to go with the pears that
have been falling off our tree for about a week. Just a perfect way to
end a good evening.

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I forgot to make the rice and the agua fresca. I quickly heated up some tortillas and no one was the wiser.

2 Comments on Dinner Party inspired by Frida and Diego.

  1. what an awesome menu and party you pulled off! That black bean pot is gorgeous and your photos qualify for Gourmet magazine. your family and friends are very lucky to have you cook for them with such love and devotion!

  2. Thanks again. The black pot is chamba from Nuestra Tierra.

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