Emily and I welcomed our sixteen guests into our temporary home for the evening - the Ted and Amy Supper Club's gorgeous Fort Greene digs - and kicked things off with a cocktail hour featuring thyme-spiked gin lemonade and three little bites:
Crostini of chicken liver pate, bacon jam and diced green apple
Vinegar-spiked deviled eggs
Triscuits with cream cheese and Emily's homemade hot pepper jelly
Cocktail hour passed in a blur for us - we were cooking up the first course, greeting our guests and making sure everyone had a full glass and a bite to eat, all at the same time. It was awesome, though - I think Emily and I both had a moment when we were looking at all the folks gathered around, drinking and eating and chatting and laughing, and we thought - we're really doing this!
Soon enough, it was time for everyone to take their seats so we could serve the first course.
Photo credit: Kathy Blake, The Experimental Gourmand
When we'd designed the menu, we knew we wanted to do a shrimp and grits course, but we weren't sure exactly what kind of shrimp to serve. Something spicy? Creamy? Bacon and garlic-y? We were a little bit stumped. Then, as if by kismet, we both hit on the winning idea - New Orleans style BBQ shrimp! A little bit spicy and a whole lot of buttery, this shrimp was seriously amazing, especially together with creamy, cheesy grits cakes and spicy Cajun pickled okra.
Our second course was a last minute addition, on the advice of cupcake mogul Allison Robicelli. She suggested that we add a course that could be prepared in advance and be served to our hungry guests while they waited for our endless chicken-frying marathon to draw to a close. It was a brilliant idea - Emily and I came up with a brussel sprout slaw, tossed with pecans and a sharp, lemony vinaigrette and topped with shaved ricotta salata, and it wound up being the perfect middle course. A little bit of raw veggie, a little bit refreshing - and it bought us just enough time to finish up frying the chicken thighs!
Mmmm.... chicken thighs! After extensive testing, we settled on a regular ol' brine for the thighs with the Ad Hoc at Home recipe for the buttermilk dip and seasoned flour. Then we fried them up in some lard at 350 degrees, held them in a 200 degree oven and topped them with a generous squeeze of Mike's Hot Honey. A little sweet, a little heat and a whole lot of crunchy, meaty awesomeness. On the side? A fluffy buttermilk biscuit made from a Southern grandma's secret recipe and a mess of collard greens cooked down with lemon juice and my current obsession, Harrington's bacon.
We also served a second round of cocktails - an autumnal mixture of rye whiskey, apple cider and Emily's homemade ginger syrup. We'd originally intended to serve the cocktail in glasses rimmed with smoked sea salt, but somehow that idea got lost in the rush to get drinks into thirsty hands. Next time!
The piece de resistance? Banana pudding baked Alaska.
Oh, HELL YES. This stuff was so good, I could have eaten all of these. In one sitting. All by myself. We started with a cake made out of Nilla wafers, topped with more crushed Nilla wafers, then added a scoop of this crazy good banana ice cream from Bravetart and a big dollop of meringue. And then we added bananas. And then we torched it.
Photo credit: Kathy Blake, The Experimental Gourmand
Ohhhh, crispy creamy crunchy sweet and smooth and marshmallow-y meringue and everything good in the world contained in a little bowl of heaven. At the end of the night, I collapsed into an empty seat at the table, next to a good friend I hadn't seen in ages, and dug my spoon into this crazy banana-filled treat, and there we were, surrounded by folks with full bellies, flickering candles, empty bottles of gin and towering stacks of dishes. But we'd done it. We'd made it! This crazy idea we'd hatched one wine-soaked night in lower Manhattan had become a reality. And Emily and I couldn't be more proud.
Of course, we didn't do it alone. So many people deserve special thanks here, especially Kara of Ted and Amy, who rented us her kitchen and living room for the day and could not have been more patient, helpful or awesome. (And FYI, if you're looking for a space to hold a party, a cooking class or another similar sort of event, contact Kara through Ted and Amy Supper Club for more information on renting her gorgeous, well-stocked space for the day!)
We also couldn't have done it without our "sous chef" for the day, Eryn of Ugly Food Tastes Better, or my amazing boyfriend Ed, who not only helped me carry about 500 pounds of stuff over to Kara's but also ran back to our apartment at the very last minute to grab the extremely important Kitchenaid mixer bowl I'd left there. Allison Robicelli gave us an absolute ton of great ideas for making things extra professional, from the parsley garnish on the shrimp to keeping the collards warm without sacrificing a burner by using a slow cooker.
And finally, super duper extra special thanks to all of the folks who came to dinner with us! We loved having the opportunity to share our cooking with you. If you didn't make it this time, stay tuned for the next edition of the Whiskey & Salt Supper Club... coming (relatively) soon!
All photographs by Emily Hanhan unless otherwise noted.