Monday, December 10, 2007

There's Nothing Like a Sunday Family Dinner

Last month, at our Girlfriends Only retreat, one of the Girlfriends threw out the idea for a monthly family dinner. We’d rotate homes and get the kids together to play while the mamas and papas socialize. For those of you who don’t have small children, I’m using the term socialize very loosely. Potlucks can be quite chaotic and stressful. What we’d really be doing is chasing the kids around, trying not to spill our cocktails. Nevertheless, the idea of Second Sunday was born.

Yesterday was our first monthly Second Sunday Family Potluck. We had 5 families in attendance and one Dan Marino (not of the Miami Dolphins fame, but no less fun and charming). Our hostess was Girlfriend L, who has the perfect home for entertaining. Besides being tastefully decorated, it has a TV room where we set up the Wii for the kids and papas. Virtual bowing, tennis, baseball and boxing. At one point, I walked into the room and heard a papa cheer, “Hit him in the stomach!”

[Here’s where I throw out some free advertising: the Wii is a requirement for any gathering where there are kids to entertain, regardless of whether they are aged 4 or 40. As Girlfriend L remarked, “I hardly noticed the kids were here at all!” Thank you, Nintendo.]

The theme this time was Mexican food. Can you guess what I brought? Carnitas, of course. I also brought homemade crema, roasted tomato and chipotle salsa and sugar cookies, which we let the kids decorate.

As if a sugar cookie didn't have enough sugar. It seemed like a great idea until the kids were bouncing off the walls. Click here for the easiest sugar cookie recipe in the world. I mean, even I didn't screw them up.

Normally when I make carnitas during the week, I throw it into my crock pot before work so when I get home, all I have to do is brown it in a skillet. Since I had plenty of time, I did it in the oven, just like this oven-roasted picnic pork shoulder. This time I used a 4.5 pound Boston butt rubbed with 1 head of mashed garlic, fresh thyme, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. When it was done, I just wrapped it in foil and a couple of layers of kitchen towels to let it rest, and it was still warm over an hour later when we arrived at the potluck. To serve, we shredded it into a pre-warmed serving bowl and garnished with cilantro and onions. It was sooooo good.

Tender pork with crunchy brown bits...yummmmm

Girlfriend M brought a delicious chicken chili verde.

If you don’t know what crema is, it’s the Mexican equivalent to crème fraiche or sour cream. Unlike crème fraiche, it’s not really stiff but since it's made with heavy cream, it's still deliciously rich. Obviously it is great on a taco or any other Mexican dish, but I like to use it atop a slice of sweet berry pie to cut some of the sugar. You can buy crema in any well-stocked grocery store, but it’s easy enough to make at home.

Mexican Crema
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup buttermilk, depending on the level of sourness you like
  • fresh lime juice, to taste depending on the level of sourness (but you probably won’t need more than 1 lime)
  • salt, to taste
In a medium to large bowl, stir together the cream and buttermilk. Drape it with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and leave it on the counter overnight. In the morning, it should be thick. Add lime juice and salt to taste. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container until ready to use. It’s probably good for 3 or 4 days.

Before overnight "incubation" at room temperature.

As Sonny would say: it's magic!

Making homemade salsa is also very easy. I like using fire-roasted tomatoes, and will do it myself when I have access to sweet summertime tomatoes. During the winter, I just use a canned brand like Muir Glenn. Hunt’s makes them now too. Both are fine, and your choice might depend more on organic vs. non-organic (guess which is non-organic?).

Fire-roasted tomato and chipotle salsa
  • 1 14oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained (reserve juices)
  • ¼ large sweet or purple onion, confetti diced
  • half bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ½ to 1 chipotle in adobo sauce*, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 to ¼ tsp sugar to cut sourness of tomatoes (completely optional)
I like to process my tomatoes a little so they aren’t so chunky, but this is up to you. Add the other ingredients and mix well. If you want the salsa to be more juicy, add back some of the reserved juice.

*I hate the thought of wasting a can of chipotles just to use one or two of them. What I do is freeze them. Lay them out on a cookie sheet or plate and stick them into the freezer overnight. This will keep them separate so you can take one or two whenever you need it. When frozen, throw them into a Ziploc freezer bag.

We ended with the cookies the kids decorated and Dan Marino's dulce de leche made from goat's milk. It was so good with wedges of tart Granny Smith apples. (He also made a delicious tomatilla salsa, which I must get the recipe for. Do you hear me Dan Marino?)


Manggy said...

I WANT A WII!!! (sorry, you are still talking to a 25-year-old man.)

Everything looks so good, dp!

dp said...

Thanks, Manggy!

I must admit, the Wii is the first video game system I'm remotely interested in. The games are kinda fun.