Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting ready for a girls dinner party

Every Christmas, for the past 12 years, 7 of my girlfriends and I organize a fancy dinner to celebrate our friendship. All of us love to cook, so right from the beginning we had to split the task of cooking, making sure everyone had something to prepare. As we’re 8 girls in the group, we split the dinner as so: appetizers, starter, main course (2 people prepare this!), sides, salad, bread & cheese and finally desert. With all this food, you can imagine us at the end of dinner: rolling our way back home!!

We’ve always made a great effort at our dinner parties to cook something special and out of the ordinary. But as the years have gone by, our dinners have almost become a fierce competition on who’s going to make the best dish and how gastronomical our creations are going to be. Us girls are like that!

This year, we’ve decided to slightly change the formula and we’re doing a Tapas night! This is great as we get to make a few different dishes, in smaller portions, which means we can really go all out!

Still, a debate has been dwelling upon us: what really is a tapas? Is it a small plate shared by all or is it a bite? I’ve done a little bit of research and the truth is, both are right! If you go to Barcelona, you can get little plates of say, fried calamari or stuffed mushrooms, which can be shared between 4 people. But if you go in San Sebastian, in the North West of Spain, you get small bite size samples of all sorts of things on a piece of bread...  Usually with loads of mayo!

Anyways, we’ve decided that all is aloud! Why not? The surprise will be more interesting, we’ll have more diversity and depending on what ideas the girls find, we’ll surely be impressed and well fed!

As for me, I have to prepare 3 plates: 1 cold, 1 hot and 1 desert. Here are my choices for this surely amazing night:
-Crispy Asian bite with salmon sashimi and a Nobu inspired sauce
-Caribbean cod acras with a spicy mayonnaise
-Lemon and vanilla panna cotta with a wildberries and rose water coulis

Makes about 75 acras

350 g of salt cod
Water for soaking
3 cups milk
6 green onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Grated zest and juices of 2 limes
2 tablespoon of powder coriander
2 tablespoons of whole coriander, crushed
½ cup of fresh coriander, finely chopped
2 jalapenos finely chopped (optional)
1 ¼ cups of white flour
¼ cup of cornstarch
1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
4 egg whites
Salt and pepper
Canola oil for frying

Caribbean Sauce
½ cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of hot Caribbean sauce
2 tablespoons of fresh coriander, finely chopped

Rinse the cod under cold running water. In a large bowl, cover the cod with cold water for desalination. Refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water three times. Drain.

In a small saucepan, poach the cod in 2 cups of simmering milk for about 20 minutes. Drain and flake with your fingers into small pieces. Set aside.

In a large bowl, blend the cod, onions, garlic, zest and lime juice, 3 corianders and jalapeno.

In another bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients to the fish mixture. Blend well. Add the remaining milk, stirring continuously. Using a spatula, fold in the egg whites. Season with salt and pepper.

For each fritter, spoon about 1 tablespoon of fish batter right into the oil. Fry about eight at a time, until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes. Drain on the paper towel.

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl. Add some hot sauce to taste.

It is also possible to make the acras and the sauce the day before. Simply warm the acras for a few minutes in the oven (350˚F) just before serving. Add the coriander to the sauce just before serving.


About 10 frozen won-ton sheets
Oil for frying
200 g of fresh sashimi salmon
Black sesame seeds
Baby Asian greens for decoration (or anything delicate and green!)

3 tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise
½ tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon soya sauce

Defrost the won tons and cut the in 4. Cut your salmon in small bite size squares (about ½ cm thick and a nice 1 ½ cm wide).

In a large saucepan, heat the oil (375˚F). Delicately but quickly add the won tons to the oil. You can put up to 10 at a time. Heat until golden (about 45 seconds).  Remove and put on a paper towel covered plate.

In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients. Adjust taste if desired. 

Note: You can make the fried won-tons a few hours before serving time. As for the mayo, you can prepare it a day in advance and keep it covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.


In a nice flat serving plate, lay the fried won tons. With a small spoon, put a little bit of the mayo on each won ton. On top of it, add a slice of salmon. Sprinkle with the black sesame seeds. Finally, add a little bit of green on top of each bite. Serve and enjoy!

Lemon and Vanilla Panna Cotta
Wildberries and Rose Water Coulis
Makes 6 portions or 12 mini servings

Panna Cotta
1 tablespoon (1 small pouch) of neutral gelatin
1 ½ cups of 15% cream
1 ½ cups of plain yogurt
½ cup of sugar
1 vanilla bean
5 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of lemon zest

3 cups of small frozen fruits
3 tablespoons of well-packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons of crème de cassis
1 tablespoon of rose water (if desired)

For the Panna Cotta
Pour the lemon juice into a small bowl; sprinkle the gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.

Mix the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from the vanilla bean; add the bean. Bring to a simmer. Add the gelatin mixture and stir over low heat just until the gelatin has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let it cool for a good 15 minutes and remove the vanilla bean.

Whisk in the yogurt and lemon peel. Divide among ramekins. Cover and chill until set, at least 6 hours or overnight.

For the coulis

Puree in a blender the small fruits and all reserved juices, brown sugar, crème de cassis and rose water, if desired. Strain mixture into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids in strainer.

Note: you can make both the panna cotta and the coulis 1 day ahead as long as you keep everything covered and chilled.
You can be creative with your plating. For the purpose of tapas night, I served my panna cotta in miniature format!

Tomorrow I’ll show you what the girls made for our dinner!! 

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