More cooking experiments aka Bday party

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The weekend’s challenge: how to create a buffet for 25 guests in a day or less (I had intended to do some pre-shopping but ended up leaving work far too late on the Friday evening). Bonuses (or lack thereof): lack of the H during the morning (due to mysterious shopping activities aka getting my present), and a small Parisian kitchen.

I knew ahead of time that the choking point was going to be the oven: I had to cook 2×2 savory cakes and 60 chả giò, and I only had the one oven. On the day before the party (and rather late at that), however, I realised that I’d forgotten a very important item to be cooked in the oven: the dessert! There followed some slightly frantic twitter and FB queries for possible recipes. I got tons of good ideas, but a lot of them required advance preparation and/or lots of time and/or unfamiliar kitchen techniques; in the end, the H and I settled for waffles, which had the advantage of being a familiar recipe. (but I took lots of notes and fully intend to cook the suggestions–discovered lots of pastries I didn’t even know existed!)

I went to do some shopping in the morning, and came back with a full shopping cart; then I settled for the first of the savoury cakes (it started out as a chicken-and-tarragon cake, but I couldn’t find any tarragon, and ended up with chicken-ginger-mint cake. This is why you should never leave me in control of any recipe; I almost put soybean paste in the second cake but the H put his foot down). Then the oven basically worked overtime until 8pm or so (it turned out I’d drastically under-estimated the time it took for chả giò to cook–each batch of 15 rolls needed about 20 minutes near the heating element of the oven, which in turn meant quite a bit of attention from me…

I also had a lot of manual work to do (chopping carrots and putting spread on canapés), but a group of guests very kindly agreed to come ahead of time and help with that–we made such good time that we were basically ready ahead of the 6pm starting date.

The only surprise of the evening turned out to be our waffles: the H took the waffle recipe from the Larousse des Desserts , a venerable encyclopedia of French desserts which turned out to have quite a lot of embarrassing typos–specifically, when he popped the dough into the waffle-maker, it basically evaporated as it was cooking (you can imagine this didn’t really create satisfactory waffles). There followed about 1 hour of war councils between various guests to determine the best strategy to fix the dough; by the end, I think they’d tried adding everything to the dough, including but not limited to orange blossom water, corn starch, and 1.5kg of flour… In the end, we determined that the reason it wasn’t working out was the lack of a leavening agent in the dough (rather a grievous error for a recipe): basically, we’d been trying to make waffles with pancake dough… So they threw in baking soda, waited for a bit, and finally could start making decent making waffles.
I settled for making the chocolate sauce: turns out tablets of Nestlé’s full-bodied cooking chocolate works out marvels :)

In the end though it all worked out quite well, and (I think) the party was a success (as usual, mainly thanks to the guests for the company and the help). But I swear that’s the last time I trust a recipe from the Larousse

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