I threw a guys-only party on Saturday night (our wives were all working a women's retreat) and made some Southern dishes. Too many Southern dishes actually. I tried to give some variety so that everyone could find something they liked and succeeded there, but failed in producing truly memorable food, save for one stellar recipe.
The Menu (with cookbook links)
- Cayenne Toasts (Terry Thompson's Cajun Creole Cooking)
- Crab Cups (Terry Thompson's Cajun Creole Cooking)
- Sticky-sweet Braised Pork Shanks (Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen)
- Aloha's BBQ Shrimp (Louisiana Seafood Bible - Shrimp)
- Creole Stewed Okra and Tomatoes (Terry Thompson's Cajun Creole Cooking)
- Creamy Cheese Grits (Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen)
- Julian Peach-Apple Crumb Pie
- The befores both came out as winners, but they're both easy to do and they got the most attention as I had not yet felt the pressure of time while making them. The Crab Cups were a take-off on Oyster Cups and were quite good.
- The pork shanks hinge on the molasses sauce which you make after the shanks are done, using some liquid from the pot and generous portions of molasses and Madeira. I forgot to make the sauce until I was putting the blasted things on the table. Needless to say, it was hurried and marginal.
- The shrimp were nothing short of awesome.
- One of the last things cooked, the okra and tomatoes got my usual cooking time shortcuts. I do this almost every time - I underestimate the time to prep things and the last dish or two gets shortchanged. In this case, I shaved many minutes off their stewing time and didn't taste them to see if they needed additional seasonings. The result was decent, but not stellar. I also served them with too much liquid from the pot, making the plates a wet mess.
- The cheese grits were just OK. It's more of a base for everything else. They came out exactly as specified as they're pretty tough to screw up, but seriously, there are so many things you can do to pep up cheese grits and because I ran out of time, I didn't do any of them. They were the equivalent of mashed potatoes with butter. Good for a family meal, but hardly a signature dish for a party.
- The pie was bought at a store, so I didn't have a chance to bungle it.
I was trying to make a varied menu so everyone could find something they really liked. I made the effort to pair a sweet and rich dish (pork shanks) with a spicy one (shrimp) and that worked, but the rest of it was a 6-7 on a 1-10 scale. I'm looking for 8-10s on everything. I'm not going to get there shortchanging each item on time. From now on, we're going to do simpler menus prepared with care.