Monday, February 20, 2012

Luckily, there was one right in front of the house

One of these days, when the first guest arrives, I will be clean, dressed, and coifed.  The kitchen counters will be spotless.  The house will smell marvelous, but there will be no sign that any pots, pans, utensils, or food was actually used in the creation of that intoxicating aroma.

Yesterday was not one of those days*.

I honestly thought I had a shot at it.  The night before, I'd made the stratas**, along with the dressings for the fruit salad and the mixed greens.  I had the sourdough biscuit makings done. I'd squeezed the oranges for the mimosas, pulled out all the serving dishes, arranged the flowers and delegated coffee and drinks to other guests.  I wrote down a short list for the morning, washed up, and went to bed.

T minus two hours, and I was in the kitchen, cranking away and singing along with "Little Red Corvette" at the top of my lungs.  Crossing things off my list and feeling great.

T minus 30 minutes, and I'm getting a tiny bit concerned.  I pop the potatoes in the oven, eye the growing stack of dirty dishes worriedly, and start three frying pans for all the bacon***.  Fittingly, "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley is up next in my queue.  On the plus side, the house smells incredible.  On the downside, it is also quite smoky.  My son is belatedly doing the chore I assigned him yesterday.  I step out to put tablecloths outside, and come back to an unrecognizable rap song and my son and all five guinea pigs yelling at the top of their respective lungs as he cleans their cages.  The bacon is sizzling away, spraying grease all over the stove.

T minus 10 minutes.  I'm about halfway through my stack of bacon, the timer is beeping on the oven, and I realize I forgot to make the maple egg wash for the biscuits.  I'm debating whether it is more important for me or dishes to get a quick rinse when the phone buzzes.  Oh boy. Someone was early. The dog, helpfully. steps on my foot and begins to bark loudly.

I send a kid to answer the door, put on my most gracious "hostess in old sweatpants" smile, and make the best of it.  Get the stratas out of the oven, and get the biscuits in.  Put the guests to work shuttling things outside.  Hand over my tongs to a helper and dress the salads.  Sprinkle sugar on the berries and give hugs to the now-steady stream of new arrivals, shooing them out with the promise of coffee.  

A breeze is blowing, dissipating the haze in the kitchen, and I hear the happy hum of conversation through the open windows.  I scoop potatoes into a large bowl and place the last of the warm biscuits onto the platter.  They look fantastic.  Everything does****.  I wipe my brow and breathe a sigh of relief.  It's all under control.

Then a muffled crash, hurried footsteps, and a voice from the hallway.



"We're gonna need a hose."

I'm gonna need one of these.

"And a lot of soap!"

Make it two.

Blood Orange and Cara Cara Mimosas
The color of this juice is glorious, and the taste is intensely sweet, tangy, and vibrant. Taking the time to freshly squeeze the juice is so worth it when it comes to cocktails. Blood oranges should be available most places these days, and I found Cara Cara oranges at Trader Joe's.  Cara Cara's have a beautiful, nearly pink center, and wonderfully sweet juice.
Several blood oranges
An equal number of Cara Cara oranges
Orange-basil, or regular, simple syrup, optional*****
Sparkling wine

Cut oranges in half, squeeze out the juice, then strain to remove pulp.   For each cup of juice, add 1 Tbs. of simple syrup.  If not using immediately, juice can be refrigerated for a day or so.  To serve, fill champagne glass 1/2 full with juice.  Top off with sparkling wine.

I didn't make a printable of this, because honestly, it's a cinch.  Enjoy!

* Once, and only once, in the history of me entertaining, has this actually happened.  It was like a miracle, but it was mostly because there were caterers.
** Potato, leek, spinach and mushroom, for the vegetarians, all of the above plus bacon and pancetta, for the rest of us.
*** Bacon of the month club bounty:  garlic-pepper, honey bbq, and hickory smoked.  Thanks, Diane!
**** Except me.  But fortunately, my friends are also fairly familiar with my habits, so were unsurprised when I ducked out, showered and changed quickly, and reappeared partway through the meal looking a little more human.
***** Simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, boiled together for 3 minutes.  To make orange-basil syrup, add the zest of an orange and some freshly chopped basil to the syrup when you take it off the heat.  Allow to steep for at least an hour.  Strain and store for up to a week.

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