In which we Feastly

So Adam and I joined Feastly (http://eatfeastly.com/) and hosted our first dinner on Saturday.  The idea behind Feastly is for people to get together over dinner at each other’s homes. Some members sign up as cooks (like Adam and I) if they want to host – there are amateurs, professional cooks, and every thing in between. Other members sign up as ‘feasters’. Cooks host dinners, parties, brunches, cooking lessons, or whatever they choose to – they set the menu, the house rules, the number of seats available, price per head, etc. Some use the site to drum up business or as another source of income, others try to just cover the cost of the meal, and, again, everything in between.

Adam is so busy these days at work that all he really wants to do after work is eat dinner and recharge, so we made a deal: this is completely my thing – I take care of the planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up, advertising, write up on Feastly; Adam knows the date and time and does his hosting/interacting with new people thing. Which let me tell you, makes dinner parties a success – he’s got a gift for getting conversation going and keeping it going. Trust me, I’ve tried dinner parties on my own, I need Adam and his hosting thing – it must be his southern charm.

What can I say, I like the team we make. Good thing too, since I married him 🙂

So what did we actually, you know, cook?

Well, having pulled together a menu, I spent about 10 minutes staring at the screen trying to come up with something to fill in my nemesis on forms.

The title.

Let’s just say I’m not confident about my naming abilities. Among other things, this is how a male child of ours will end up with the initials REBL. Took me months to notice Adam had snuck that past me. And he had to be the one to point it out. Bloody [expletive], this northern Jewish white girl is not too comfortable with her male child by a gentleman from the state that kicked off the Civil War having initials spelling out ‘rebel’. Bloody promises…

ANYRATE – I named our Feastly ‘Steak and Chocolate’

(I am looking forward to when Adam has the brain-space to do naming work, again.)

The menu:
Steak à la Alton Brown’s method
Tagine of Butternut Squash, Shallots, Cranberries, and Almonds
Stir-fried Broccoli
Homemade Challah
and
Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quick run down on the ones I’m not talking much about:
the tagine – I need a new tagine. The one we got for our wedding (because that came up while I was on a Moroccan kick) is this beautiful, hand painted, lovely, small, 1 or 2 cup tagine – basically big enough for a side dish for 2 people. I was serving 4. Also, I have eventually figured out that this is one of the tagines intended to be a pretty serving dish, rather than a cooking dish that you pull off the stove and place on the table as, ta-da!, now it’s a serving dish. So, yeah, I’ve managed to do bad things to this one, namely a crack in the ceramic in the bottom portion that goes all the way through, as evidenced by the drippy, drips along the crack after cooking. This, Le Creuset Moroccan Tagine, is the one I’m lusting after, these days.
Stir-fried broccoli – mostly like steamed broccoli in a wok. Cut the broccoli into florets, heat oil in a wok, stir-fry as much minced garlic as you like, add the broccoli, sprinkle with a teeny-tiny bit of sugar, pour in some water, cover the wok and cook until bright green and tender.

I’ll get to the dishes I do want to talk about more in a second, but I’m gonna plug Feastly for a second. Click here if you rather skip the plug.

So Feastly – yeah, my reaction that evening (after our guests left) was ‘I totally want to start planning the next one’. I got to meet two new people who were interested in food and interesting dinner companions, while having a good meal with good conversation. The Feastly team was awesome – quick to contact us in response to our original application to be cooks, fun to talk to, honest in where the site is, who they are, what info they have and what they hadn’t thought about until we asked, and really good about advertising my dinner in their email and on twitter. The tools to set up a ‘feast’ on the site were clean and easy to use, as well as giving me as much control as I wanted plus, prompted me to add in info about a couple things I hadn’t thought of, like if I wanted shoes on or off in our house and dress code (either way and casual. this time. 🙂 ). The tool to manage the feasts I’m hosting is good and allows you to re-use menus if you want. They also let feasters tell you they’re ‘craving’ a particular past menu, so you know what was popular. It’s like a ‘like’ button, but for food. Also, it’s now the Tuesday after the Feastly and we’ve been paid – 3 days (2 business) after the event. Check them out if you’d like to eat out some nights, but rather not deal with a full-fledged restaurant experience. They’re mostly in the Washington DC area but open in the New York and San Francisco areas and looking to expand. I’d love to host some of y’all over for dinner.
Plug over.

Normally, when I cook, especially multiple recipes at one, attempting to time them to come out together, an end result is a mountain of dishes in the sink. This time not so much. My secret? The challah and the cookies were mostly made the day before. As the two real ‘baking’ recipes (and thus my main source of dishes), I could then wash the dishes the day before.

Challah (at least the recipe from the Joy of Cooking I use) just has a step ‘allow to rise in the refrigerator, covered, for 4-12 hours until doubled in size’. Yeah, that’s gonna happen overnight. It’s been years since I made a challah though, so the next day, I had to watch a Youtube video on how to braid 4-strand challah. ::shrugs:: I found one, it produced a pretty loaf.

Feastly Challah

Adam and I have been buying our flour from the bulk section of Glut (it’s a food co-op in Mt. Rainer, MD) where they have everything I can think of – except all-purpose flour. Well, they do, it’s bags of Red Mill all-purpose emptied into a bulk bin; not doing that. So we’ve been using whole wheat pastry flour at a one-to-one substitution for white flour all-purpose – the extra grinding to produce pastry flour seems to balance out the extra bindiness (that’s totally a scientific term there) of whole wheat and the 1-to-1 substitution is working for us. I also don’t sprinkle the loaf with poppy or sesame seeds like Joy calls for – other wise, follow the straight up recipe from Joy of Cooking and you too shall have challah. Yummy, yummy, eggy challah.

Steak à la Alton Brown
Alton Brown is a cookbook author who should work perfectly for me – science based, good explanation of why he does what he does, and so on.  I think I just hit him at the wrong point in my learning career. If he’d been one of the first authors I’d read, I’m sure my whole method of cooking would be different – totally would have learned to substitute ingredients much earlier. Maybe even have reached a point where I feel confident enough about what I’m doing to start experimenting sooner. But as it is, I didn’t. And I have no idea how to copy his recipes out succinctly.
Be that as it may, for this dinner, I got two NY strip steaks (about 1.25 lb) from Harvey’s Meats in Union Market the morning(ish) of. Countered them around 5pm to bring them closer to room temp, lightly misted with the oil we keep in a spray bottle (per Alton’s suggestion), rubbed it over the meat to distribute, salted and peppered each side, and heated our cast iron griddle pan on high heat. Luckily Adam remembered to turn on the vent in our microwave at this point. So looking forward to somewhere (anywhere) we can have an actual hood. Put the meat in the pan, waited three minutes, stuck my fingers in my ears as I flip the steaks and Adam takes the batteries out of the smoke alarms and opens some windows. Wait three minutes (produces rare to medium-rare steak; cook to your tastes), pull off heat, put on resting rack (i.e. a dinner plate with enough chop sticks laid across it to hold up the meat) and plop a bowl over the plate. Slice on the diagonal upon arrival of guests and serve.

And now for the recipe you’ve been waiting for:
Deep-dish Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, I may have mentioned in ‘Things you should know about Laura’ that I’m allergic to chocolate. Adam, on the other hand, loves chocolate and totally doesn’t get it as often as he’d like since he thinks it’s just silly to have it available when I can’t eat it. … Yeah I’m not sure about that logic either. He might just be telling himself that in order to keep from having it every dayFrom my perspective, chocolate is a staple of baking and something most people absolutely love. So, unless I can bake the chocolaty goodness, I am not a good baker. … Yeah, I’m not too sure about that logic either. Too? In addition? So, if we have an ‘event’ (good dinner party, someone’s birthday, other celebrations…) I like to bust out the baked desserts because randomly keeping them in the house is a recipe for bad things (mostly eating all of them within two days).  And I like to use try out the chocolate desserts at these events since I can get more feedback that way – not being able to taste test them myself.

Ramekins came out of oven.
Ramekins go on table.

1 minute later, ramekins are empty.

I think everyone liked them. 😀

Recipe count: 44 left to try
Section count: Desserts – 11 left
originating source: TheKitchn

yields 3 ramekins/servings

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup/2oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup/4 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/6 cup/2.5 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (medium or small is fine)
  • scant 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. If the chocolate chips are large (à la Ghirardelli 60% coco dark chocolate chips), chop into smaller pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy but not whipped. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy (and pale), about 2 minutes. Or less if you turn the stand mixer up. Add the vanilla extract and egg; beat for about a minute.
  3. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, mix the chips into the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between 3 ramekins; use a spatula or the back of a spoon to push batter to the edges of the ramekins and smooth down evenly. Place ramekins on a baking sheet (for ease of taking in and out of the oven) and bake for 18 minutes, or until gold-brown on the edges and still a little golden and soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving with or without a scoop of ice cream.

Variation: (and what I did) Cover the ramekins of unbaked cookie dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead; cook for 20 minutes.
Originating recipe claims you can freeze these bad boys for up to 3 months and bake without thawing (although will need more time in the oven) – I haven’t tried it, but thought I’d let y’all know. Drop me a line in the comments if you try it – let me know how it went.

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One thought on “In which we Feastly

  1. Pingback: In which there is Pumpkin Pie – Just for Thanksgiving | The Kitchen Chemist & the Cook

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