I’ve been putting off posting the party recipes because I’ve been dreading writing them up. The reality is I don’t actually know what all went into the food, or more specifically, how much of it went in. I rarely use recipes except as beginning shopping lists or to confirm cooking techniques. Once I actually begin cooking, the neat steps and measured ingredients go completely out the window as I make adjustments based on available ingredients, commitment to exactness, and inspiration. I literally cook ‘to taste’ – seasoning as I see fit, and usually including something that makes no sense, until it does.
For instance, I used the steamed bao recipe in Dim Sum, a lovely little book R gave me after I returned from China. I made the dough exactly (baking is harder to experiment with on the fly, and I had never made anything like bao before), but decided against both sweet filling recipes provided (partially because I had no desire to track down red beans or lotus root). But banana could make a nice base, and would work well with brown sugar, as called for in the recipes. However, on a whim, I picked up red bananas. Red bananas (at least these ones) are mellower and sweeter than ‘regular’ bananas. They are lovely, but don’t have a pronounced flavor, which meant the filling could easily be lost against the bao dough. So I added champagne vinegar (don’t ask me why, because I really don’t know, and I can only guess that the amount was a tablespoon or so, but I also added more sugar). This gave the filling a bit of tang that enhanced the banana and made the whole concoction brighter. That was nearly the end of the experimenting until I remembered we had cocoa powder. After shaking up the powder (after removing the lid, and thus dusting the stove, counter and myself in cocoa powder), I gently sifted in some amount that may or may not be near a teaspoon; just enough to make a creamy banana-ey, chocolatey, tangy mess. R approved the flavors, and I commenced with prepping the bao. We served them with the Trader Joe’s sweet chili sauce (because who can resist chocolate and chili together?) and considering they were the first thing we ran out of, I’d say they were a hit. Making the bao themselves less sweet with the addition of vinegar also allowed the chili sauce to complement them all the more. A success all around, but not entirely replicable, and it doesn’t exactly seem fair to post a ‘recipe’ that I can’t give real directions to.
So, with all that said, here is the run down:
- Red banana and cocoa steamed bao
- Pistachio and rose water biscotti with English Rose glaze
- Minty pea and feta wonton cups
- More cheese than anyone knew what to do with, hummus, crackers, snap pea crudites