This may come as a surprise to some of you (no one who knows me of course) but I am not much of an athlete. Just wasn’t my thing. Not really a runner, biker or swimmer. However, after preparing dinner for my sister’s birthday on Sunday I felt like I had completed a full scale culinary triathlon. It started out simply enough, ok I’ll bring the cake and then ok, an hors d'oeuvre too and heck, why not the main course as well. I am not sure what possessed me (maybe that I was behind on my cooking that week?) but I rose at the crack of dawn on Sunday determined to establish a personal best.
First up, the Toasted Coconut Cake. Now I have endured “Battle Coconut Cake” before (with another recipe) and I’m sorry to say the cake kicked my butt. It was dry, didn’t look very pretty and was definitely not worth the effort that went into it. BUT knowing how much my sister likes Coconut Cake I decided this would be the appropriate time to tackle yet another one. Making the cake itself is a three part process involving the cake, coconut filling and the “fluffy” white frosting (no pressure there!). So after rising at the crack of dawn on Sunday, (did I already mention that?), like the true triathlete that I am, I dove right in. I have to admit, I was just waiting for disaster to strike, especially since there is special equipment involved (i.e. KitchenAid mixer, candy thermometer, etc). But with each step I gained more and more confidence. That frosting is really just spectacular: glossy, white and, I am happy to report, fluffy!
For the second leg, it was the Shrimp with Cajun Remoulade Sauce. I had had this dish before at our very first “Savor the Moment” Dinner Club a few years ago. My past Co-chair for Cookbook, Lynne Gayle, and her boyfriend (now husband) Jeff made it. The shrimp were amazing and I was so looking forward to having it again and what better occasion! The shrimp were easy enough to make (be sure to marinate them at least 3 hours) and the remoulade was absolutely delicious. It is an interesting mixture of shallots, cilantro, capers and chopped, hard-boiled egg. I have to admit I was a little wary of the chopped egg but it really worked out perfectly. I also doubled the amount and was very glad I did – it was a BIG hit!
For the third and final leg of the race, I tackled the Mustard Pork Chops with Brie. If you are a fan of pork chops, heck even if you’re not, find an excuse to make these for your family and/or friends sometime VERY soon! It is such a unique recipe with the pork chops (we used bone-in), Dijon mustard, brie cheese, bread crumbs, parsley and garlic. I am telling you when we pulled them out of the oven; the bread crumbs lightly browned and the Brie oozing down the sides - the aroma was pure heaven! To top it off they tasted even better than they looked.
To hydrate properly for the race, it was a group effort with family members pitching in some of the wines. We began with Champagne, because it is, after all, a birthday (or a Sunday, whichever works for you!) We then proceeded to the Caymus Conundrum to pair with the Shrimp. Because this white wine was 9 years old we were all curious to see how it held up over such a long time. Most white wines are meant to be drunk at a young age but, much to our delight, it had a wonderful sweetness to it that really went perfectly with the spicy shrimp. For the Pork Chops we enjoyed a couple nice and very different Chardonnays. The first being the Tapestry Chardonnay from South Australia, specifically, the McLaren Vale region. It was a lighter style wine with notes of pear and citrus – no heavy oak at all and a lovely, light finish. Next was the Hob Nob Chardonnay from Southern France which was a richer, fuller bodied wine. It had a nice buttery quality to it with notes of apple and almonds which went great with the Pork Chops and Brie. Needless to say Team Miskew was sufficiently hydrated for the remainder of the evening.
Shrimp with Cajun Remoulade Sauce (pg. 80)
Mustard Pork Chops with Brie (pg. 165)
Toasted Coconut Cake (pg. 251)
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne Réserve Particulière, NV
2000 Caymus Conundrum, California
2006 Tapestry Chardonnay McLaren Vale
2006 Hob Nob Chardonnay
All in all Jennifer’s birthday dinner was a big success and I finished my first triathlon very respectably: time 8 hours, 6 minutes and 34 seconds. All the dishes were relatively easy to make given the appropriate prep time, even the cake which turned out to be very delicious and not dry at all (whew!) – and what a beautiful presentation with that gorgeous frosting! Don’t I get some kind of medal for that?