Sunday, October 3, 2010
My Luxury (and Highly Caffeinated) Dinner Party - Project Food Blog Challenge #3
Bribery is a hostess's best friend.
That would be the first sentence in my handy dandy copy of Dinner Parties For Dummies (and Medical Students). A trusty little tome that I received immediately upon matriculation back in September of 2009; the good old days, as I like to call them, when studying was truly a superfluous activity and all you really had to know was that empathizing with your patient is a good thing. Really, that concept actually eludes most people (and by people, I mean future surgeons. Sorry to any surgeons out there, but, I mean, come on. You know the stereotypes.).
I never really appreciated that statement until I informed my three best friends that we were going to be having a dinner party on Saturday night. And was met with totally blank stares. Deadpan faces. Apathy with a side of masking (lack of facial expression), if you want the technical terms.
As it turns out, studying the cranial nerves day in and day out in preparation for an exam on Monday can actually turn people into zombies. And it is pretty difficult to get zombies excited about a dinner party.
Which is why I had to resort to using the aforementioned handbook in the first place. And also why I spent Friday afternoon brainstorming ways I could convince my friends that attending a dinner party would actually aid in their studying rather than induce the food coma that they all exhibited mortal fear of.
And that was when it hit me.
What if I could combine dinner with a caffeine fix so intense that it would keep us all wired for hours afterward? A meal so stimulating that it would actually optimize studying abilities rather than detract from them?
And so it was with this rationale in hand. That I cajoled. Bribed. Coerced. Adam, Sophie, and Anu into taking a much-needed study break in order to sit around a table with me on Saturday night and indulge in a delicious three course meal. A meal that, as promised, had coffee infused into every bite.
We talked. We laughed. And, most importantly, we ate.
Boy, did we eat.
Molasses coffee marinated pork chops. Orzo, arugula and butternut squash salad in a maple-balsamic coffee vinaigrette. Caramel frappuccino cupcakes.
For four sleep-deprived and caffeine-addicted medical students, it was as if we had stumbled into the promised land where fountains of coffee laced with tantalizingly delicious food sprang eternal.
The best part of it being that for the first time in about a week. We spent a few hours not thinking or talking about neuroanatomy at all. Whatsoever.
No one mentioned the corticospinal tract. Not even once.
And so when I say that this was a "luxury" dinner. Especially considering that we spend almost every meal eating in front of a computer, desperately trying to stuff as much information into our heads as possible. Barely even tasting what's in front of us. Trust me. I mean it.
And so I just want to take the time now to thank Foodbuzz and Project Food Blog for giving us a reason to take this night off and really enjoy each other's company. And to all of you. For propelling me this far into the competition. I wish you all could have been there. Although, through all of your support and love that consume my thoughts on a daily basis. In a way. You were.
As part of this entry I'm supposed to provide tips on how to host a successful dinner party. The whole bribery suggestion aside, I absolutely think the key to this is to invite only those whose company you truly enjoy. Life is short. Time is money. And with the right people, it won't matter if everything is perfect or if your tablecloth is ironed to a tee or that you don't actually have enough matching dinner plates to serve four.
All that will matter is that you are together. Laughing. Eating. Reveling.
Voting for this challenge will open tomorrow, Monday October 4th, at 9AM. If you like what you see here at Eats Well With Others, please consider stopping by and voting for me. You get 100 votes and I would really appreciate it if Eats Well With Others was one of them!
Molasses Coffee Marinated Pork Chops
Serves 4, adapted from Alton Brown
1 cup cool strong coffee
6 oz molasses, by weight
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-8 oz) pork chops, boneless
1. Mix together all of the ingredients (except for the pork chops) in a large bowl. Add the pork chops into the bowl and marinate in the fridge overnight (or for at least 2 hours).
2. When ready to cook, preheat a grill pan to medium-high.
3. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and set aside. Transfer the marinade to a small saucepan over high heat. Boil for 12-14 minutes or until reduced to half a cup. Stir often. remove the thyme after the glaze has reduced.
4. In the meantime, grill the pork chops 3-4 minutes per side or until they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Allow to rest for a few minutes before pouring on the glaze and serving.
In case you didn't know, we only have 12 weeks until Christmas. And you know what that means...it's time to bring back the 12 Week of Winter Squash! While most bloggers out there are filling their houses with the smell freshly baked cookies, here in the Eats Well With Others kitchen we are going to instead be serving a new winter squash recipe every week. For twelve weeks. And to kick it off we have:
Orzo, Arugula, and Butternut Squash Salad in a Maple-Balsamic Coffee Vinaigrette
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side. An Eats Well With Others original.
1 small (1.5 lb) buttenut squash
4 oz arugula
1 lb orzo
1 tsp coffee, very finely ground
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the butternut squash into 1-inch dice, removing all of the seeds and pulp. Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 40 minutes or until fork-tender.
2. Set a pot of salted water to boil. While it boils, mix together the vinaigrette by combining, in a bowl, the coffee through balsamic vinegar.
3. When the water is boiled, pour orzo in and cook until al dente. Strain. Mix the arugula into the still-hot orzo. Mix in the butternut squash chunks. Finally, pour in the vinaigrette and stir to combine. Serve.