21 August 2007

Just a couple of months ago, I had to drop all my work responsibilities to attend a two and a half month long (but I say short) course. Since I started work but less than 8 weeks before that, I did not have very much to handover. In fact, the person I was supposed to replace had not even left!

Through the course, I met 60 other new faces I struggled to remember, chinese names I fumbled over, and personalities which kept me constantly amused. By circumstance, providence or confluence of passion, I gravitated towards an endearing handful who gained my respect and love by the end of the course.

Ever since it ended, we have not had much time to meet up again but I was determined to keep in touch with them. And so, I resorted to my usual tactic, and called for a potluck (surprise, surprise). Although I was a little worried that they would end up bringing chips or Mac's nuggets, thankfully I managed to charm (read:coerce) most of them into hands-on work.

SS had been reluctant right from the beginning, giving me countless warnings of food poisoning should she bring anything home-cooked. And so she opted for something that would require little cooking, volunteering to bring a salad. For some reason, I had images of leafy greens, or more specifically peppery rocket and frisee, tossed in a light vinaigrette, floating around in my head.

So you can imagine my delightful surprise when she upped that and instead brought empty shells of avocado skins, with a container full of soft and creamy chopped avocado, perfectly fresh peeled prawns, mixed with chopped mango and little sacs of grapefruit. To serve, she simply scooped generous portions of her personal concoction of avocado 'salsa' into the avocado shells, and placed a few folds of smoked salmon with dill on the side.

It was simple, but she let the ingredients speak for themselves. And speak they did, or more like sing. No drizzle of anything, no touch of what-nots, just pure flavours and a combination of textures. It was lovely, and absolutely touching. Her dish, like her, had both form and content.

To cater to the guys in the group, I made sure someone brought meat. YC initially suggested preparing his 'Lazy Man's Chicken', but while I fully appreciated that he did not cop out by buying roast chicken from a nearby hawker centre for the potluck, I was concerned that the chinese-style cooking would not meld with the rest of the dishes. And although I would like to believe that I managed to exercise my irresistable charm to change his mind, we all know that guys are a little more thick-headed and would need something less like a nudge and more like a shove.

In fact, I had to provide him with another recipe, buy the other ingredients, and instruct him to 'just buy chicken and come over early'. The end result was Chicken with Black-Pepper Maple Sauce that was served in a teapot for self-service. It may not have been termed Lazy Man's Chicken, but I thought it was surely lazy enough. And although there were a few kinks here and there, things worked out with a little improvisation (I henceforth love butter and emulsification) and the sauce was delicious - smooth, sweet and savoury. I helped to prepare some roasted baby potatoes to go with the chicken, but unfortunately roasted them too far in advance. Instead of biting into crisp, brown skins perfumed by sage, we ended up with potatoes a little too tough for anyone's liking.

I still remember one of my first few encounters with D. He was one of the first few who I discovered also shared my joy in entertaining, and eagerness to learn more about food. Always humble and sincere, he even shared his choice of recipe with me and his friend before proceeding with it. The recipe came from Epicurious.com, with a rating of 4 forks no less, and I could not wait to taste it!

He requested for heavy 'supervision', but actually needed little. And at the end of the night, with some help from the rest, the capellini was really worth every ounce of effort in it. Most of the effort went into measuring and chopping though, and is definitely not tedious. It is however, not something you could prepare on a whim though, unless perhaps you have a secret stash of vodka that you keep replenished, a packet of cream you keep for days you crave for hot chocolate (not the wimpy kind of course), and a herb garden with an everlasting supply of dill.

While some would have preferred thicker pastas like linguine or spaghetti, I enjoyed the dainty strands of angelhair. Something about its fragility, making it a challenge to prepare, and all the more precious.

For dessert, PL had planned to whip up his signature dish- cheesecake. He is a Korean Food Junkie, but in his path towards greater wisdom in the USA, he also mastered cheesecake. Of course, what impresses me most is the fact that he once made his own Kim Chi before, and that shall be a story for another day.

But the photo above gives away the fact that this story ends with him being unable to find time to prepare the said cheesecake, opting to bring ice cream instead. The redeeming factor is that he brought most of us our first taste of Daily Scoop ice cream (can't blame us since they are really situated in ulu-ulu-land). Lychee Martini and Durian-Durian were rich with little chunky surprises of lychee and durian respectively.

And of course, I would not organise a potluck without contributing anything myself. I spent a fair amount of time thinking of what else I could contribute to complement the rest of the dishes, and finally decided upon clams. It was light, fun to eat and very importantly as well, able to be prepared on demand easily. A slight touch of luxury was from saffron, of which only a pinch sufficed for an entire 2kg worth of clams.

I discovered however, that washing clams takes alot more than a few rinses under the water. Soaking in salt water is supposed to help, and I'll be keeping that in mind next time I prepare these again. How could I not, after watching my parents slurp up all the clams and saffron-tomato broth that I served them for supper?

My last guest, P, brought a bottle of red wine. But she also brought along her vivacious laughter and stories that kept everyone else entertained through the night. When the night came to a close, I was knackered but in a good way. Is there any better way to re-establish relationships than over food? I think not!


daphne said...

I have never thought about it but avocado and prawns... that will be a wonderful combination.

btw, i really like the pictures! Drool worthy. =)

Anonymous said...

Hello Daphne (I still get a kick from this somehow), thanks! It was a great combination! I personally do not like Avocado, but presented this way, I had no problems. =)

smartidiot said...

Boh Jio!!!

min~* said...

hey, i just wanted to let you know. about the previous post on Gudeg Yogya, they actually use unripe jackfruit. :) and you can serve it as a lunch meal or in a smaller portion as a side with cubes of lontong rice thrown in. :)

Anonymous said...

Shilie> My home can only take a few at a time! =)

Min> Thanks for the info! I did use underripe jackfruit, just perhaps too underripe? I can imagine it being delicious with lontong rice cubes though.