Monthly Archives: May 2013

A down home Southern dinner

Last weekend we hosted a beautiful mix of friends old and new for a down home Southern dinner at Mi Casa-Su Casa.  It was a deeply satisfying menu to write and meal to cook, and I hope our diners felt the love that went into the food.

The table is set and ready for our guests!

The table is set and ready for our guests!

A simple table setting for a simple, home-style meal.

A simple table setting for a simple, home-style meal.

The Mexican meals that we’ve done have been a riot of fun and having a North Meets South dinner was a culinary adventure, but it felt so good to get back to our roots with a menu of proper Southern favourites inspired by family recipes.  A table full of adventurous eaters, strangers becoming friends, sharing the food of our far-away home… these are the reasons that we started Mi Casa-Su Casa and last Saturday night was a perfect example of what we hoped to create.

Frying the pork chops the way Andy's mother always have... this is a real comfort food for my Southern man!

Frying the pork chops the way Andy’s mother always has… this is a real comfort food for my Southern man!

The menu for the evening was:

Nibbles and drink on arrival:
Pimento cheese with crackers and spiked sweet tea

Starter:
Butter bean and ham hock soup

Main:
Judy’s fried pork chops, biscuits and gravy, mac and cheese, succotash

Dessert:
Buttermilk waffles with honey-baked pears and vanilla ice cream

A plate of happiness!

A plate of happiness!

And what a lovely crowd of diners we had!  It was a perfect mix of people that we already knew and new friends just waiting to be made.  Honestly, one of my big concerns when we started this venture was “What about the weirdos??”  Sydney is a big city and has her fair share of creeps, dodgy characters and people that you just wouldn’t want eating off your forks.  I was convinced that we’d get a few sketchy people coming along for a free meal.  This is the main reason that I undertake these dinners as part of a team and never by myself… and usually have my very tall husband there for “just in case.”

Happily, this has never happened.  Our guests have been, in every single instance, delightful.  We’ve had uniformly kind, funny and outgoing diners who only make me love cooking, and love my adopted city of Sydney, all the more.

Mac and cheese!

Mac and cheese!

We’ve got one more dinner scheduled right now. A good old fashioned American BBQ in honour of the 4th of July.  It’ll be held on 5 July at 7pm and right now we have 4 seats available.  The meal will mostly be cooked by my guest chef for the night as I’ll be days away from delivering my own little Bun-in-the-Oven.  It’s going to be great fun and I hope you’ll join us.

And now, for those of you playing along at home, here’s the recipe for the honey-baked pears that we served with buttermilk waffles on Saturday night.  These pears were inspired by my neighbours growing up, the Porter’s.  The Porter’s were a very old couple who lived on the corner near our house.  They had a pear tree or two in their yard and would regularly delivery brown paper grocery bags full of the hard, sweet fruit to us.  I think they would have approved of this treatment of their homegrown fruit.

Honey-baked pears
serves 10

6 pears, peeled and cut into 8 pieces each
1 1/4 cups honey
4 tbs water
3 tsp cinnamon
8 tbs butter

Preheat your oven to 350F or 200C.  Place the pears in a single layer in a baking dish.

Put the honey, the water and the cinnamon in a large bowl and stir well to combine.  You really need to get any lumps of cinnamon to break down, otherwise they’ll stick to the pears and overwhelm the flavour of the fruit.

Pour the honey mixture over the pears evenly.  Dot the butter around the pears.  Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven for 30-45 minutes, removing the pears to baste them with the honey and juices every ten minutes.

Once the pears are completely soft remove them from the oven.  You can serve these warm or at room temperature.

 

 

Chihuahuas, enchiladas and moustaches

So, I may have jumped the gun a bit on our Cinco de Mayo festivities this year and hosted a Cinco de Mayo themed Mi Casa-Su Casa dinner in late April.  I just couldn’t wait!

The first time we lived in Sydney (from 2005-2009) we hosted a big Cinco de Mayo fiesta for our friends every year.  In a city that was, at the time, painfully devoid of any decent Mexican food it was a challenge to put together delicious Mexican food for a big crowd.

Caramelised onion and spinach quesadillas for our guests as they arrive

Caramelised onion and spinach quesadillas for our guests as they arrive

Now, Sydney is awash in Mexican food.  Not all of it is GOOD Mexican food.  In fact, most of it is still pretty crappy.  But the sudden increase in interest in Mexican food means that I can now easily find great Mexican ingredients to cook with at home.  Lately, when anyone asks me where to get good Mexican food in Sydney my first response has been “At my house.”

So, when planning our latest Mi Casa-Su Casa dinner, a Mexican-themed fiesta in honour of the upcoming Cinco de Mayo holiday, I was able to go bananas with some serious Mexican ingredients for our guests.  Planning this menu was a BLAST.  My friend Katie and I brought a few Mexican cookbooks down to the beach for the afternoon and began dreaming up a menu of deliciousness… not too shabby, right?

Roasted tomato and chipotle soup with homemade queso fresco

Roasted tomato and chipotle soup with homemade queso fresco

The menu for the evening was:

Nibbles and drink on arrival: Caramelised onion and spinach quesadillas with Salty Chihuahuas (tequila with grapefruit and lime juice and a salted rim… but I forgot to salt the rims so our guests just had Chihuahuas!)

Starter: Roasted tomato and chipotle soup with homemade queso fresco

Main course: Grilled chicken enchiladas in a yellow mole sauce (black bean enchiladas for our vegetarian guests) with pico de gallo, a grilled corn salad and cumin crema.

Dessert: Chocolate and chili cakes with cinnamon whipped cream

A table full of Mexican food for our fiesta!

A table full of Mexican food for our fiesta!

Such a great group of guests!

Such a great group of guests!

There’s something about Mexican food that makes any dinner feel like a celebration.  Maybe it’s all the bright flavours, the limes and the jalapenos.  Maybe it’s the fact that fresh Mexican food is so colourful and gorgeous to look at, the bowls of chunky salsas gleaming like jewels, only more delicious.  When it’s done properly, and not covered in dense layers of greasy cheese, Mexican food is perfect party food.

Full bellies and mariachi moustaches... perfect way to finish our fiesta!

Full bellies and mariachi moustaches… perfect way to finish our fiesta!

And we had a pretty perfect party for our last Mi Casa-Su Casa dinner!  An incredibly fun and funny tableful of guests who talked and laughed through three courses.  To top off the good food and great guests, we had one crafty diner who made mariachi moustaches for everyone so we’d properly look the part.  If there’s anything I love more than Mexican food, it’s a bit of dress-up to go with my dinner.  It was a brilliant evening!

We’re hosting another Mi Casa-Su Casa dinner this weekend, and then we’re going to take a bit of a break for the month of June so we can prep for our little Bun in the Oven!  We’ll be back in July with a proper American-style 4th of July party (complete with a guest chef all the way from Gainesville, GA, USA!) to be held at 7pm on 5 July.  We’ve got 6 seats available for that dinner, so if you’re interested jump in quickly!