Update — The Dinner

5 05 2009

The 10k challenge dinner turned out well.  Really well.  A perfect team collaboration to create a wonderfully balanced, slightly indulgent, and all-around thoroughly enjoyable meal.  For my part, I made potato gnocchi with a traditional basil pesto and an Italian loaf.

I’m getting better at making gnocchi.  Six large potatoes made more than enough for 13 people…

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I baked the potatoes roughly an hour in a hot oven, peeled them while still hot, and riced them.  I added salt and roughly a cup and a half or more of flour to about two pounds of riced potatoes (really this was eyeballed and then by feel) and worked the dough until it would roll into long snakes without breaking apart.  Once I rolled out about 20 snakes, I cut each one into 3/4 of an inch (or so) pieces, rolled each one off of a fork (apparently this not only makes it look the way gnocchi is supposed to look, but ensures the gnocchi cook evenly) and laid all of the finished gnocchi onto baking sheets covered in parchment paper. 

Next, I prepared the pesto.  First, I toasted pine nuts in a dry skillet until just browned. 

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Next, I toasted several cloves of garlic in their skins for seven or eight minutes and set those aside to cool.  I threw the pine nuts, cooled (and peeled) garlic, salt, and gobs of basil (that I had bruised with a rolling pin) into the food processor and processed until nicely chopped. 

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Next, I added olive oil and processed until smooth.  I poured this mixture into a bowl and stirred in finely grated Parmesan…

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and voila! 

The finished product (only slightly blurry):

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For the bread, I must confess I used the bread maker to prepare the dough (such a time saver)…but I formed the dough into a big ball and set it out to rise on an oiled baking sheet, glazed it with salt water just prior to baking, and sliced into wedges for the meal.

Rounding out the rest of the meal…

Mary stopped by Mandola’s, a wonderful Italian deli/cafe in the Triangle opened by the beloved Mandola family a couple of years ago or so (if it takes Houston coming to Austin to bring good food, I say bring it), and picked up a delicious variety of foods to create an antipasti plate.  We had two different cheeses, a Parma ham, lemon marinated sardines, olives, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts…most nights something like this could be my entire dinner.  But tonight, it made for the perfect way to start.

Amanda made two different salads to go with the meal — one Caesar salad and one mixed greens with a variety of vegetables.  I think everyone ended up eating both salads with dinner.  Carrie (with her husband’s grilling assistance) did the steaks, all cooked a wonderful medium rare to rare drizzled with a bit of the leftover pesto thinned with a bit more oil.  Once we started eating, I completely forgot about shooting the food…but I did manage this shot of my plate before I completely devoured it.

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Lastly, dessert.  Carrie made an absolutely delicious variation on Pastel de Tres Leches — I think we termed it Tre Latti due to the fact that she added a touch of Amaretto to the cake batter.  It was SO good.  The cake was perfectly moist, milky without being soggy, the Amaretto taste was fantastic, and the thick whipped cream topping, not too sweet, yum…… 

I have no doubt the guys could have created a delicious meal for us had we won the 10k challenge, but after this dinner, I have to say I think things turned out the way they should have, and if we happen to lose again next year…well, I’m ready to start thinking of the menu.

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