Tag Archives: pancetta

Family Catering

Croque-en-Bouches with Mixed Berry and Crème de Cassis Sundae

A couple months ago, my mom told me that she had offered to cater a party for my grandma as a birthday gift and that I was invited to be her catering partner. The catering “service” would include brainstorming, preparing, plating, and serving a five-course, gourmet menu to eight hungry and self-claimed foodie guests. I was 100% on board.

So as soon as I got back home from my end-of-the-spring-semester activities, my mom and I started to prepare for the event. We worked on developing a few dish ideas by looking through all of our recipes from books, Word documents, online bookmarked pages, and collaged cutouts from magazines. We discussed and debated, and about a zillion ideas later, finally put them together into a cohesive and appetizing menu. A shopping list was written and a few days before D-day we began the incredibly long (and tiring) process that was the cooking.

However much time and energy it might have taken, the final result was well worth the effort that it took to develop the menu and then make it a reality—with a few exceptions of course. The gazpacho and avocado mousse with two Parmesan crisps was a much-enjoyed appetizer, but the tomato and avocado lollipops served alongside it, for example, were more of a failed experiment in molecular gastronomy than anything else. Visually, they were perfect, but their rubbery texture and imbalance between the flavorless avocado and acidic tomato was definitely a turnoff. At least we had the delicious and popular pancetta-wrapped fig skewers (stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey) and grilled eggplant dip served with rosemary flat bread to wash it down. Not to mention the paired rosé, whites, and port that my dad served throughout the meal.

Eggplant and Pepper Dip

Food successes and failures aside, the best part about this catering event was, oddly enough, everything but the taste of the food. I loved watching people decipher the menus we’d printed out when we brought out the mini croque-en-bouches and mixed berry sundaes, or listen to the “oohs” and “ahs” and diplomatic “very interestings” in reaction to tasty or not-so-great dishes. It was a time- and energy-consuming endeavor, and I am so glad that everything turned out well (or almost). But more so than that, it was amazing to experience the meal coming together and to then present and share it with my grandma and her closest friends and relatives.


Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin


Photo Credit: Pippa Biddle

Pippa returns for the ultimate comfort food: potatoes and cheese.  Yum!  She dresses them up with pork chops and apple cider.  Warning: do not read on an empty stomach–growling may occur.

As I write this the smell of melted cheese and salty pork is flowing out of my oven. It is super distracting. These personal gratins are yummy and totally adorable. If you are having a dinner party make 2 per person and serve with pork chops and apple cider. Personally, I keep them all to myself and reheat them one at a time in the microwave for a quick lunch.

The key to a good gratin is to take the time to slice the potatoes evenly. If the slices vary too much some will dissolved from being over cooked while others will barely even soften. Other then that it is really just about layering. The best thing about a gratin is that it is easy to pull off in a hurry. While it does need time in the oven you can throw it together, pop it in, set a timer, and move on to something else.

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