Saturday, June 7, 2008

dinner for eleven

Dan and I got married in January. The best part of the wedding, other than getting married and dancing with my Dad to Bernadette by The Four Tops, was how it brought a large group of our friends together. People who had only met once or twice, or had never met at all, bonded that weekend and started hanging out back in New York. Like, a lot. And sometimes without us.

This particular group of friends is funny, loud, generous--and, a major plus--they also like to cook. Well, most of them. Some just bring beer, and that's fine too. David and Audrey, two very ambitious cooks and hosts, made dinner for 11 of us Friday night and it was quite a spread.

Sliced mango with salt, sugar, and chile powder
Cheese with dried figs and crackers
Waffle cookies filled with caramel (I really, really need to find out the name of these things. I ate at least two dozen of them.) **I have been informed that they are called Stroopwafels. Thank you, guys.**

Beef rendang
Brown rice
Red cabbage slaw

Homemade strawberry sorbet with mint

There were so many delicious things to write about here, but the rendang alone is worth a post. The dish, typically served in Malaysia and Singapore, is made of beef slowly cooked in coconut milk and a fiery blend of spices. It's exotic and familiar all at once, like a beef stew with Asian flavors.

It was completely delicious, but kind of a risky thing to serve to a crowd. It is very, very spicy, takes a long time to cook, and is most likely unfamiliar to everyone. But I urge you to try it (or at least order it in a restaurant), because it's the kind of dish that is really the centerpiece of a meal. David and Audrey served it simply with brown rice and a red cabbage slaw. We crowded around their dinner table, passed the dishes family-style, and tucked in--drinking and laughing and sweating. Really sweating.

Beef Rendang
David said he quadrupled the recipe and added some lime zest. He also substituted half lite and half regular coconut milk. A link to the original (kind of inexact) recipe by Tracey Parrish is here.
(Serves about 4 people)

1 to 2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into 1-inch chunks
Extra garlic, sambal olek, soy sauce and oil (I assume "extra" means 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, and other items applied liberally to the meat)

4 to 6 cloves garlic
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, skinned
1 medium onion
2 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder
3 to 4 Tbsp. sambal olek (Indonesian chili sauce, do not use sweet Thai sauce)
salt to taste or soy sauce

1 cup of coconut milk or paste
1 to 2 tsp. tamarind paste
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 to 3 mashed kemiri/candle nuts
oil for frying

Rub the beef with the extra mashed garlic, Sambal Olek, soy sauce and oil. Let marinate for a couple of hours in the fridge. Make a paste (in a blender or food processor) of everything in the second group of ingredients. If it is too thick to blend add some oil. Modify the spices according to taste, however you must use a lot of the chili paste as this is the central ingredient for the sauce.

Heat oil in pan until it is very hot. Add the beef and sear until brown all over (about 4-5 mins). Add the spice paste, mix and cook on high heat for another few minutes. Add the final group of ingredients (except candle nuts). Bring to boil then simmer for about 2 hours. Stir regularly (every 20 mins. or so) as the sauce tends to be thick and dry. With half and hour to go, check sauce thickness. The sauce should be thick when finished. Add candle nuts to thicken and then leave the lid off to reduce the liquid levels and make the sauce a thick, pasty consistency (stir more frequently to stop sticking).

Asian Slaw
The original recipe, from Alton Brown via the Food Network website, calls for peanut butter, which Audrey and David omitted. The slaw was tasty without it, but I think it could be also be good with chopped toasted peanuts.
(Serves 4-6)

1 3-inch piece ginger, grated fine
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 lime, juiced
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup peanut butter (optional)
1 head Napa cabbage, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, julienne fine
1 yellow bell pepper, julienne fine
2 serrano chiles, minced fine
1 large carrot, grated fine with a peeler
3 green onions, cut on the bias, all of white part and half of the green
2 Tbsp. chiffonade cilantro
2 Tbsp. chiffonade mint
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a small bowl, or food processor combine ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, oil, and peanut butter. In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients and then toss with dressing.


Dana B said...

Is it possible that the waffle cookies were Stroopwafels? My sister brought them back from Holland about 12 years ago and I still think of them maybe once a week.

Vanessa said...

Hi yes I was gonna say stroopwapfels! They have them in a little tub next to the cash register at the little grocery store near my work, and I always get one at lunch.

Yay! I'm very excited about the beef rendang recipe.

Anonymous said...

yes! I think that's what they were. Audrey said they got them at Trader Joes. If only I didn't hate the TJ's experience so much.

Daniel said...

Tiny Eggo waffles: not just a part of a tiny balanced breakfast anymore!

Audrey said...

you're too kind. i wish we had good pictures of the seating arrangements - i'm most proud of the fact that we sat 13 people for dinner in a studio apartment.

Also - note on the Candle Nuts - that are called for in the rendang recipe - they're mildly toxic! prior to being cooked. don't munch raw.

Audrey said...

these are the cookies - daelmans caramel bites

Lisa said...

thanks, Audrey!


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