Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fun Playing the One-Armed Chef

I've posted before about my exploits as a would-be Chef, feeding up to 175 people at a time at various Regional Gatherings and other parties - here is last December at Cincinnati, and here is last Sept-Oct in Elyria. We'd been planning this Fall's Cleveland RG for months - then my August accident happened, putting a "tear" in my plans.

Fortunately, my dear friend Virginia immediately volunteered to be my "right arm," together with her husband Phil (himself nursing a terrible hip). My dear husband Bob agreed to supplement my still-working left arm - and awaaayy we went!

Virginia supplied three wonderful soups, which I did not get to photograph, and which we served with Friday's dinner. Bob made two soups, which we served with Saturday lunch.

BLT soup, recipe from Paula Deen:

Lettuce Cooks Down

Onion & Bacon Already Cooked Down

Garden Heirloom Tomatoes Await the Pot

Yum! But wait - there's more!

Heavy Cream is added just prior to service

I admit, I didn't think it would work (cooked lettuce!) - but it was delicious!

Another item we pre-prepped was Chocolate Covered Bacon with Almonds. We learned this one courtesy of Iron Chef Michael Symon and his new show, Dinner Impossible. Even though my right arm was still in a sling, I was able to help with this dish by chopping the almonds in the food processor, them sprinkling them on the bacon with my left hand!

Milk Chocolate is Gently Melted

Almonds are Chopped

Bacon is Crisped in the Oven

Another Yum!

As Served

Speaking of service, we ran a little late getting Friday's dinner out. So, all I could get was a lone shot of the service line, before the hordes descended:

Right to left, we had Salad Bar, Whole Wheat Cous-Cous, Peas & Garden Mint Salad, Hummus with Pita Chips, Garden Stuffed Tomatoes (made by Bob and looking kinda like the image that follows), Chinese BBQ Pork Buns from Cleveland's Koko Bakery, and Virginia's 3 Soups (Pumpkin Cheddar, Creamy Chicken, and Garden Miscellany).

Test Batch Sample of Stuffed Garden Tomatoes

I also neglected to get a shot across the room at the 18 Qt Roaster filled with Potato Pirogies made by the grandmas of St. Josephat's Church in Parma, accompanied by sauerkraut, red cabbage, and sauteed onions donated by Mary Ann, who didn't even attend the gathering!

We kept the snacks coming after dinner, including a freezer full of ice cream treats and a hotdog cooking machine. I collapsed into bed after 2am - I did NOT photograph breakfast, which Virginia was kind enough to prepare with the help of Al and his 15 loaves of quick breads.

Saturday's lunch included the BLT soup shown above, and this irresistable tomato soup featuring more of Bob's heirlooms:

Garden Azoychka (Yellow) Tomato Soup

We also served a "make your own sandwich" bar and some salads.

This delightful Ham Mousse was donated by Robert - who was in his 30th year attending Cleveland Regional Gatherings. He had supplied an identical platter for Friday dinner.

Again, the food line started with a salad bar.

Here, in addition to some spicy peppers from our garden, and Robert's mousse, you can see a delightfully sweet and sour bean salad, which helped to answer the question - what to do with a #6 can of green beans? I would like to credit EGullet's own CaliPoutine for sharing her recipe with me - I regret I didn't get a close up photo of the finished product, but it was really delicious, as well as cheap and easy.

Thankfully, Saturday dinner was catered by the hotel (though I honestly thought our food was better!). That meant that after dinner, all we needed to do was set up more snacks to hold the masses into the evening and on! That and get the homebrew rootbeer floats going - a Cleveland RG tradition I am proud to be responsible for!

Salad bar converts into bain marie to keep cheese, dip and crudites cold.

Of course, there is also dessert! Colleen D. made these 4 lovely and tasty cakes for us, and Mary Ann made the brownies. The cookies came courtesy of Virginia and Barbara from the Akron group!

And yes - there is more Chocolate Covered Bacon at the rear left.

Last but not least - a lot of people ask me - "What do you do at a Mensa Gathering"? Well, in addition to playing with our food, sometimes, we get a little silly. Saturday afternoon, a lady who had been a great help with prep on Friday returned on Saturday, and dropped off a bag of vegetables from her farm, and another bag with gorgeous gourds. One gourd, in particular seemed to fascinate people. Unable to resist any longer, my husband decided to play with his non-food food - and created the following:

Silly, isn't it? And hard to believe it was over so fast.

Well, the pain and swelling in my feet late Sunday confirmed that it was indeed over. And Monday was Rosh Hashonah already! Eeke! What to do? Playing with holiday food, of course! Stay tuned!

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