*Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where 2000 Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on Foodbuzz.com for one year.
Luxurious Dinner Fable
Once upon a table there lived a gnarly ogre and a friendly, pretty witch. Someone cast a spell which compelled them to throw a luxurious party. We had four guests including the prince, princess and their distinguished pixie guests. The party was luxurious, full of fable-ulous stories and some legendary food.
Kids are excellent dinner guests gauges. They are unapologetically picky eaters, have unrefined eating habits and lose interest in sitting for more than 10 minutes.... basically if you can impress kids you can impress anyone! If your dinner party is boring or uninteresting, kids will be the first to let you know. Here is a kid-friendly menu that will absolutely impress your most distinguished guests of any age.
TIPS// Make as many things ahead of time as possible/make a music playlist/ create conversation prompts/ print out individual menu cards so everyone has an idea of what's coming, but keep some surprises to keep them interested/ the hosts should designate a table person and a kitchen person to help draw the responsibility line/ after each course get a different guest to help you clear the table and that person can help plate the next course and serve it, it's a great chance for the cook to visit with each guest/ with four story based courses, we had each guest read off one of the stories for each course
A farmer discovered that his free-range chicken had laid a golden egg. Thinking the chicken must be full of gold, he killed the chicken and looked inside. He was kind of disappointed to discover that it was just a chicken, until he used the entire chicken to make golden chicken nuggets and everything was golden again.
These are the best chicken nuggets you've ever had and the best part is that you know exactly what is and isn't inside them. You can feel good eating them anytime. Get luxurious with some edible gold leaf for garnish.TIP//
Freeze the breaded nuggets for frying up any time.
1 whole free range chicken
2 celery sticks
sprig of rosemary, thyme and parsley (or any other herbs you might have)
3 packages of gelatin
2 cups flour
salt and pepper
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 Litre of canola or corn oil for frying
1/2 cup honey
1 cup mustard
1 tsp ground turmeric
edible gold leaf (optional)
To make the honey mustard mix honey with mustard and turmeric. You knew it was that easy...
Place the chicken and all the other ingredients in a large pot. Cover the chicken with enough cold water to cover plus 1 inch more.
Crank up the heat to full... but be careful! The second you see steam coming off the top, drop the temperature down to a gentle simmer. Poach the chicken for 2 hours. When you remove the chicken, if the juices are running pink, keep poaching for another 30 minutes until the juices run clear. Remove the chicken from the liquid and leave it to cool for 30 minutes. Meanwhile you can strain the cooking liquid and bring it to a rapid boil to reduce it and concentrate the flavours.
When the chicken has cooled place it in a large bowl. Remove the skin and discard. Get two other bowls handy: one for bones and cartilage and the other for meat. Start picking apart the chicken and placing all the nice big pieces of juicy chicken meat in one bowl and all the tough, gooey, veiney, boney, cartilageous bits in the other bowl. Chuck all the nasty bits.
Get a small pot on the stove over high heat with 3 cups of the chicken stock. Add the gelatin and whisk until the gelatin dissolves.
(1) Finely chop all the chicken meat and place it in a bowl. (We tried using a food processor once, but it works much better if the chicken is chunky-chunked, instead of a smooth consistency). Add fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano) to your liking. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add 3 cups of stock to the chicken and mix to distribute. Pour in the gelatin evenly all over and mix it all together with your hands making sure everything is thoroughly incorporated.
Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out even golf ball sized lumps of meat and place them on a plate or baking sheet. Once they are all scooped out roll them between your palms so they are nice and round. Pop them into the freezer to firm up slightly while you set up your breading station.
(2)** chef trick: for even shaped balls get a square of plastic wrap and plunk the chicken in the middle. Draw the 4 corners together to form a bag and twist them all tight until it forms a nice tight plastic bubble ball of chicken. Chill it in the plastic wrap for 2 hours before breading.
(4) Set up your breading station with three dishes: one for flour, one for beaten eggs and one for bread crumbs.
Get a clean baking sheet at the end so you have somewhere to put all your bread chicken nuggets.
Choose a dedicated 'dry hand' and a 'wet hand'. With the dry hand pick up the nugget and place it in the flour, rolling it around until it is evenly coated. Then plop it into the beaten eggs. Do one more coat of flour, and one more egg dunk before finishing in the panko bread crumbs. Then lift it onto the final baking sheet.
(6) Continue until all the nuggets are breaded. You can either fry them immediately and eat them or you can freeze them on the baking sheet and once they are frozen transfer them into ziploc bags for use at a later time.
To fry the nuggets, put the oil in a large pot and using a thermometer, bring the oil up to 375˚F. If you don't have a thermometer you are bound to burn or boil a few while you adjust the temperature to provide perfect crispy golden frying.
Fry the nuggets a few at a time to avoid over crowding and having the temperature drop too much when the cold nuggets go in.
Remove the golden nuggets with a slotted spoon and place them on a wire rack or a paper towel lined plate. Salt them immediately.
To serve, brush the serving plate with honey mustard and place a golden nugget down. Put a few little flakes of edible gold leaf and a little chunk of honey comb on for garnish.
Everyone was starving. So when a stranger showed up and started making soup from a supposedly ‘magic’ rock, the hungry townsfolk wanted a little of that action. Everyone was able to toss a little something into their soup to make it better and collectively they made a pretty darn tasty soup.
This recipe goes one step further than the legend by making everyone's soup customizable with a variety of finely chopped ingredient choices. Works great with kids, but also you can have fun with adults by offering things like hardboiled quail eggs, little raviolis or fresh sliced truffles. Who doesn't like options?
TIPS// Cut everything very small so the little pieces disperse beautifully throughout the soup/ Keep your bowls warm by running them in the dishwasher and leaving them in there until you serve/ Make fresh stock or use some of the cooking liquid from the poached chicken in the golden egg recipe/ You can use any ingredient your imagination can muster. Just dice it nice and fine and if you can't cut it super fine at least cut it small enough to fit on a spoon/ if you are using meats like chicken or Italian Sausage make sure they are pre cooked before you serve them to your guests/ Take the serving one step further by pouring the stock from a pitcher into each person's bowl or find small individual teapots and fill with stock for self service.
4 Litres of light flavoured chicken or vegetable stock
for garnishes choose between 6-8 pre-cooked ingredients
1/2 cup finely diced carrots
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced chives
1/2 cup finely diced ham
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms, sauteed in butter
1/2 cup finely diced, fennel
Dice all your ingredients well ahead of time. If you do it the day before just make sure you don't use things that will oxidize and discolour like some squashes and or apples. Keep everything in airtight containers all together in the fridge.
By cutting the veggies very small you won't have to cook them ahead of time. Simply putting them in the hot broth will be enough to warm them through and the veggies will still keep their crunch.
Serve the ingredients in small, elegant bowls or teacups with little dainty spoons. They are fun to pass around.
You can either serve the broth at the table from a large soup terrine or pour the hot broth from a pitcher or from individual pitchers or teapots.
trio of little piggies
There once was a large, slightly edgy and very demanding wolf chef who had a penchant for ethically raised pork. He went to a big box grocery store and all they had was pork from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. So he huffed and he puffed and demanded free-range heritage pork.
He then went to a conventional butcher only to discover the butcher didn’t know where the pork came from causing the wolf chef to huff and puff once again.
Finally he found another butcher who worked directly with a farmer to produce happy, well-raised pigs. So he shelled out the extra money to support them without any huffing or puffing.
Each of these pig courses can be made larger and served on their own.
TIPS// Make the ketchup well ahead of time, it keeps in the fridge for ages and it's easy to adjust the flavours to the way you like it / pork burger patties, pork kebabs and pork pies can be cooked ahead of time and reheated in the oven
pork Hambourgers with straw fries and homemade ketchup
1/2 pound of ground pork, divided into 12 burger patties
salt and pepper
canola oil for frying
ketchup for garnish
This is like a Hambourg hambourger in the way that it is just the patty, but you could easily make little sliders by putting them on mini buns.
Peel and pre-cut your potatoes into tiny strips and put them in a container with cold water and a good pinch of salt, this can be done a couple days ahead of time. When you are ready to fry make sure you drain off the liquid really really well or the oil will boil over and make a dangerous hot oil mess.
Get a pot of canola or vegetable oil over medium high heat and bring the oil up to 350˚F. Make sure the fries are really super dry before you fry them. Fry in small batches until golden brown and crispy. Remove the fries with a spider (slotted spoon, with lots of tiny holes). Place on a paper towel lined plate and season immediately with salt.
Meanwhile make the burgers. Hambourgers are super simple. Season your meat and divide into golf ball sized chunks. Flatten them out and fry them off in a really hot cast iron pan.
Serve a little ketchup on the plate with the burger on top and cover with a nice pile of straw fries. Drizzle on a little more ketchup.
pork kebabs with baked bean dip
1/2 pound of ground pork
baked bean dip
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cloves
1 can of white navy beans
1/2 cup barbecue sauce of choice
To make the baked bean dip. Drain the beans and place them in a food processor with the barbecue sauce. Blend until very smooth. Add hot water a little at a time until it reaches the consistency of creamy bean dip. Season with salt and pepper and any other spices if you like.
Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
Season the ground pork with salt and pepper. Divide the pork into 12 meatballs.
Shape the meatballs into slightly longer oblong balls like rugby balls. Insert a skewer lengthwise and squeeze the meat so it adheres to the stick. Line the kebabs up in a baking dish. You can keep them in the fridge raw or you can pre cook them well ahead of time and re heat them for serving.
pork pies with apple jelly bricks and apple butter
1 pound ground pork
salt + pepper
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of allspice
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
hot water crust
250 g all purpose flour
pinch of salt
100 g unsalted butter
90 ml water
1 cup apple juice
1 packet of gelatin
apple butter (optional, but highly recommended)
To make the meat bricks combine the ground pork with salt, and spices in a bowl. Mix with your hand until the spices are well distributed.
Place the ground meat mixture into a small straight sided loaf pan or baking dish. The idea is to make it evenly squared and about 1 inch thick. If you don’t have a dish the right size simply do your best to shape it up nice and square on a flat sheet. Place the meat in the freezer for 1 hour to get firm.
Meanwhile make the hot water crust by placing flour and salt in a medium sized bowl. Make a well in the center and put in the egg, scattering some flour from the edges to cover the egg.
Get the water and butter in a small pot an bring to a boil. As soon as the butter is completely melted remove it from the stove bring it to the flour bowl. Using a dinner knife to mix pour the hot water and butter into the flour bowl while mixing. Once the mixture is smooth… even though it’s really quite soft. Place it on a piece of plastic wrap and wrap it up nice and tight. Put it in the fridge for 1 hour to chill out. Now you can make the apple jelly bricks.
Pour 1/2 cup of apple juice into a bowl. Sprinkle on the gelatin powder. Place the remaining half of the apple juice in a small pot and bring to a boil. When the juice is boiling, pour it in with the gelatin and juice. Whisk until the gelatin has dissolved. Pour the liquid into a square container and place in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours, but better over night.
Now take the chilled meat out of the freezer and since it is slightly frozen it should be easy to cut into 8-10 brick shapes.
Roll out the pastry dough using plenty of flour until it is 1/8 of an inch thick.
Space the bricks of frozen meat out so they have enough pastry to wrap them up. (See diagram above) Cut out a cross shape and brush the edges with water or a beaten egg. Fold in the sides (match up the letters on the diagram) and pinch the edges tightly closed. Cut a hole or three in the top of the brick and line them back up on a sheet. Freeze until solid. Put them back into the freezer to freeze before baking.
When the jelly is solid, turn it out onto a cutting board and with a long sharp knife cut it into little rectangles.
To bake, preheat the oven to 425˚F. Place the pies on a parchment lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350˚F and continue baking for 20-25 minutes, depending entirely on the size you ended up with. Test for doneness by inserting a metal skewer into the center of the pie for 10 seconds, pull it out and press the metal that was in the center against your bottom lip. If you jerk it back immediately, it's ready. If it is cool or tolerably warm, it’s not ready.
Serve the warm pies with a smear of apple butter on the plate and some randomly placed jiggly little apple jelly bricks.
gingerbread men hot tub
After running all day from people who are trying to bite you head off, it’s nice to just relax in a soothing hot tub… especially if that hot tub is full of soothing ginger hot chocolate and whipped cream.
To simplify dessert you can also just serve the hot chocolate on it's own. Ginger is great for helping to digest a heavy meaty meal. People go crazy when they drink this ginger hot chocolate... watch your guest's eyes when they take the first sip. Crazy eyes!
TIPS// You can set every thing up well ahead of time; get the milk steeped and infused with vanilla/Place the chocolate and ginger in a spouted container for easy pouring/ Finely chop the ginger for the whipped cream and have it ready to go when you whip the cream at the last moment/ after you serve the hot chocolate you can pour coffee right into the same cups and make a kind of mocha/ serve the hot chocolate in coffee cups or little individual fondue pots/ bring the whip cream to the table for any whipped cream fiends.
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup fancy molasses
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
pinch cinnamon, allspice, salt
½ tsp baking powder
In your standup mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the molasses.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
Add the dry stuff to the mucky mix in thirds, stirring to incorporate thoroughly. At the third addition, you may have to use your hands to combine the stiff dough. Form the pile into a smooth dough ball and divide into 2 even balls. Wrap the balls and blap em in the fridge for an hour to firm up.
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Place one ball in the center of a large piece of parchment paper or silpat. Dust the top with flour and use your rolling pin to roll out from the center until you have a flat whack of dough about 1/3 inch thick. Place the parchment with the dough on a baking sheet and cut out your little gingerbread people. Remove the scraps and ball them up and blap back in the fridge for more cookies later.
Bake that batch while you roll out the next ball. Combine all the scraps to make more gingerbread men. Obviously the dough is already dark and gorgeous, so when you bake them the colour change will be subtle. Bake each round for 10-13 minutes until they get goldener-browner, but not burnt and hard to the touch. Remove, slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and let them cool. They will become crispy as they cool.
ginger hot chocolate
(aka; whacky crazy coocoo cocoa)
1 cup milk
½ cup cream whipping cream
1/4 cup white sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
8-10 oz dark chocolate
2 tsp freshly grated ginger or 1 tsp powdered ginger
2 cups whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
3 Tbsps candied ginger, very finely chopped
Whip cream 2 hours in advance. In a chilled bowl, using a balloon whisk, whip cream semi-firm. Add the icing sugar and whisk until slightly firmer, but still quite soft. Fold in the candied ginger.
Bring the milk, cream, vanilla pod and sugar to a simmer over medium high heat.
Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat and let the vanilla infuse for 10 minutes. This can be done very early and left on the back burner for a quick reheat when it's dessert time.
Pour hot milk over grated chocolate and fresh ginger in a spouted container and stir until it melts.
Serve hot chocolate in a small espresso or capuccino cup with a messy dollop of whipped cream on top and some cocoa powder dusted on top.
Random party tips
• come up with a theme whether it is Fables, Scottish Harvest or Kevin Bacon. Having a theme gives guests an idea of what to expect as well as an automatic conversation orbit.
• Keep a broom, spare clean clothes and bandaids handy, accidents are likely to happen.
• On the days you are doing most of the prep, drop the temperature of your fridge a couple of degrees because you will be going in and out of the fridge constantly and warming it up.
• Instead of trying to do the dishes during the dinner party, set up a rubbermaid container and a garbage so you can quickly unload the scraps into the garbage and stack the plates for washing later. You can also put all your dirty dishes in a tucked away place.
• Get more disposable plastic containers than you think you will ever need and use them to put all your food in so you can organise your fridge.
• Organise your fridge by course. Keep all your salad stuff together, all the soup stuff together, etc, etc.
• Same for dishes, organise them by course. Use a handy cupboard as a dedicated dishes cupboard for the night. Put the dessert plates in the back and the appetizer plates in the front.
• Here is the biggest tip: Give yourself permission to do all the cleaning up the next day so you can enjoy the evening.