The Challenge: Day Twenty-Four

In the throes of temporary insanity – no doubt caused by excessive physical exertion and exposure to sunlight over the weekend – I decided it would be a fine idea to cook for people on Monday night after we returned from Savannah. At first, it was supposed to just be a couple of friends of the family. That expanded to include our landlords from the old place, my uncle’s cousin, my sister and her boyfriend, my other sister and her boyfriend, and I talked another friend into coming as well. The boyfriends didn’t show, but we still had ten people here for dinner.

As a refresher, the menu.

Citrus tilapia with a quartet of salsas
Lemon steamed broccoli
Roma tomatoes stuffed with zucchini, criminis, and gruyere
Creme brulee with fresh fruit

The bread did not make the party, as I simply ran out of time between having to run out to the farmer’s market and then run out to Publix. But that wound up being ok.

The farmer’s market was the first stop, as I needed quite a number of things: tomatoes, zucchini, jalapenos, red and green bell peppers, mangoes, pineapple, limes, lemons, and peaches. All told, the haul from the farmer’s market was about fifteen bucks – because we bought an entire box of mangoes for six bucks! I needed more ramekins for the creme brulee, since I’d never needed to make brulee for a dozen people before, and it simply would not do to have someone go without. So I took myself out, picked those up, and then stopped at Publix for the rest of what I needed: tilapia (picked up 11 filets), red onions, romaine, carrots, eggs, cream, milk, broccoli, cheese, and a couple of other things that I’m no doubt forgetting. The bill there was $51. Our total bill for all the food for ten was $61.

The tilapia. The red stuff is sweet (not smoked) paprika.

Two of the four salsas. This is, on the left and right respectively, pineapple and mango.

The other two. On the left and right respectively, we have peach and orange.

The makings for salad.

The tomatoes, stuffed, and just out from under the broiler.

Everyone ate – some going back for seconds – and we had a few filets left over that went home (along with some of each of the salsas) with a couple of the guests, since no one around here will eat leftover fish.

And then it was time to make some coffee (capuccino for some) and break out the brulees. I had directed my mom to make the custards while I was working on the salsas earlier: a vanilla bean brulee, with the scraped vanilla bean cooking with the custard ingredients, then fished out before the custard was ladled into ramekins for baking. They’d been chilling out for awhile, and made their entrance after dinner. Here, the sugar sprinkled atop each one is being caramelized with a hand torch by yours truly. My sister Gabrielle took the remaining photos that appear here.

Aubrey, acting as my sous chef, sprinkled powdered sugar on each ramekin after I stopped playing with fire.

We then topped each brulee with a sliced and fanned strawberry, a few blueberries, and a sprig of mint.

Gabrielle told me to pose with one, so I did.

She then managed a very arty self-portrait.

We then passed them out, and people seemed to be enjoying them.

As well as the capuccino.

Just chilling. Aren’t they cute? They just had an anniversary last week, 25 or 26 years together.

All in all, another very successful dinner engagement. My only wish – and this is something I’ll be looking for as I hunt for a house – is that we had a larger dining space to put a bunch of people.

As I noted above, the total cost for this meal was $61, which brings our per-diner amount to just $6.10. We would have dropped down a bit further had the other people who should have been there shown up. The most expensive ingredients were the cheese (Gruyere), and the eggs and cream needed for the brulee. Still, not a bad total for a meal with a salad, a main and two sides, and a dessert.