Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hide Anything Embarassing... My Parents are Coming for Dinner

It was already 6:15 by the time we got home from work and I had to make make dinner, uncork wine and clean myself up. This meant delegating cleaning and primping the house to Ali, convincing him to turn off football and entrusting him with incredibly important tasks like throwing the throw blanket over the sofa arm just right and making sure that incriminating wrappers were not left on night stands. It's Monday and I've finally decided to invite my parents over to see our new apartment after spending 3 months getting it to a place that I'm proud to show off. I'm not freaking out, per se... I love cooking and entertaining. But with my parents' visit to the first apartment I've shared with a boy(!), I felt a whole sense of homemakerness I haven't experienced yet. I almost donned an apron and heels, almost.

I talk a lot in these posts about the strangeness of the quarter life crisis, second coming of age, teetering on the edge of feeling like an adult. I have a bowl of decorative balls on my coffee table. Why? Because its fucking classy, that's why. I'd prefer to have game night with my coupled friends while we drink $15 bottles wine and listen to records. Why? Because I don't want to have to shave my legs and wait in line with a bunch of drunk 22 year olds so I can pay $8 cover and have drinks spilled on me. Shots of Cuervo have lost their allure.

My parents are the ultimate role models of adulthood for me. To them, they were coming to hang out with their kiddo and congratulate me on the new digs. To me, they were standing at my door step to take stock of how me and the man friend are making it. So you better believe I had matching towels in the bathroom and flowers on the table. I almost murdered Ali when he asked if we had actual napkins instead of paper towels. There's always something... anyway. I knew I didn't want to prepare anything too involved so I could pay attention to my family. I adapted a recipe I found for a Spanish orange chicken. The initial recipe called for orange zest, Spanish chorizo, potatoes and onions. Since I had a load of clementines on hand I made a swap and added some seasonal vegetables. It was tasty - bright from the citrus zest and roasting everything together in the oven made for a cohesive, family-style dish that just felt warm and filling on a cold Fall night.

We also started with a tuna tartare tower scooped with tarro chips that was inspired by a recent trip to Hawaii. I was on a business trip in Honolulu, conducting focus groups for a client. As a planner/strategist I moderate focus groups during our research and discovery phase. This trip was my first double header - doing back to back two-hour focus groups in one evening. After 4 hours of talking, no food and lots of intense conversation, I was exhausted and in need of a drink more than anything. We hit up the hotel bar at The Modern Hotel and snacked on a tuna tartare layered with avocado and served with beet chips. It was all I needed to go with a goblet of wine and a great night cap with my favorite boss lady. So it inspired me to make my own version when I got home. My parents are Midwest born. When we first moved to Seattle and my parents discovered the seafood-focused food culture, we stumbled our way through overcooking salmon and figuring out how to steam mussels. But the idea of raw fish seemed like an invitation for salmonella. We used to go to restaurants and order tuna steaks well-done. Somewhere a chef was crying or spitting in our food. Either way, I still can't get my mom to trust sushi completely but both parents have taken a surprising turn in trusting raw seafood mostly because they've seen how unbelievably delicious it is. We have an amazing asian market in Seattle called Uwajimaya - where you can get sushi-grade fish that is not only trustworthy but soooo goooood.

The night was a success. My parents loved the apartment and the food, but I think the more important thing is that Ali and I love it. And we love sharing it with our friends and family as we've blended out style and belongings and made it all come together as a home.


Tuna Tartare Tower with Mango, Cucumber Salsa:

3-4 oz. Sushi Grade Maguro Tuna, diced
2 tsp. Mirin
1 Avocado, diced
Medium Pyrex Bowl (or the like) 4-5 inches in diameter OR a round ring mold if you own one.
Tarro Chips

For Salsa:
1 Tbs Roma Tomato, diced
1 Tbs Englich Cucumber, diced
1 Tbs Mango, diced
Squeeze of Lime Juice

 Dice Tuna and Avocado into small cubes, place in separate bowls. Add a pinch of salt to avocado and stir in. Add 2 tsp. Mirin to Tuna and mix. Now here's where I get a little creative in retrofitting objects into kitchen utensils I don't have. I don't have a round mold for cooking. As much as I'd love to own every kitchen device and tool that I can gather from Williams & Sonoma, I don't. But to form the Tartare into a round tower I decided to test out a small Pyrex bowl and it worked perfectly.

Stack the Tuna in the bottom of the bowl and lightly pack down with a spoon. Next add the Avocado and pack down again. The layers should fill bowl as close to the top of the bowl as possible. Flip your serving plate upside down and place over the bowl in the desired position. Grab both bowl and plate and flip! Gently remove the bowl and revel in your masterpiece.

Mince Tomato, Cucumber and Mango into fine cubes (even smaller than Tartare!). Squeeze a quarter of lime over the chopped ingredients and mix together. Top the Tartare tower with 2 Tbs. of salsa mixture.

Pile Tarro Chips next to Tartare and serve to your party guests!

Serves: 4-6


Roasted Spanish Clementine Chicken:

3 large Chicken Breasts, bone-in and skin on
4 Chicken Thighs, bone-in and skin on 
3 Links Spanish Chorizo, chopped
10 Clementines, zested
1 Lemon, zested
1 Red Onion, large chop
1/2 Delicata Squash, quartered and chopped
1/2 lb Red Potatoes, halved
1/2 lb Brussels Sprouts, halved
Cloves from 1 head of Garlic, peeled
2 Tbs Dried Oregano
Salt & Pepper

1 C Chicken Stock
Juice from Clementines and 1/2 Lemon
1 Tbs Garlic, Minced
1 Tbs Butter
Salt & Pepper

Place oven racks on upper 1/3 and bottom of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Zest all of your citrus and set remaining fruit aside. Chop all of your vegetables and Chorizo and layer into two sheet pans. Add whole cloves of Garlic across baking sheets. Coat with Olive Oil and sprinkle with Salt and Pepper.

Take your Chicken Breasts and cut in half. Coat with Olive Oil and sprinkle with Salt and Pepper. Take your zest mixture and run underneath skin of each chicken piece and sprinkle on top. Spread chicken pieces evenly across banking sheets on top of vegetables, skin-side up. Sprinkle Oregano across vegetables and chicken.

Place one baking sheet on top rack and one on bottom rack. Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes switch baking sheets onto opposite racks and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

With 10 minutes to go heat Chicken Stock and citrus juice in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add Garlic and Salt and Pepper. Let sauce reduce to half and add 1 Tbs of Butter to finish. Makes the sauce glossy and unctuous.

Remove pans from oven and set Chicken aside for juices to redistribute. Layer vegetables onto a large serving platter and top with chicken pieces. Spoon sauce over dish so that it is coated but sauce is not pooling on the plate.

Serves: 4-6