Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cibus Corner: Week Night Dinner Party

After a month-long hiatus, Cibus Corner is back. This time, Chef Babs reveals the secrets to a successful week night dinner party.

Chef Babs, age 4

I used to watch Emeril and Mario on The Food Network and try to emulate their intricate recipes. But that was when I was in graduate school and college and had a lot more free time on my hands. Now, when faced with a complicated recipe, I think: “I guess I’ll order a pizza.” With the demands of working full-time, family, and other obligations, few of us have time to cook gourmet meals nightly. Sometimes, recipes that require a lot of ingredients or take an hour or more to cook seem undoable in our fast paced, schedule driven lives. This, of course, is what made shows like 30 Minute Meals, and Everyday Italian so popular. People require recipes that are good, quick and simple, otherwise, they resort to take out.

Recently, my favorite couple was in town. Although they were only in town during the week, I was still determined to make a good meal. It is our tradition that we always celebrate getting together by throwing a dinner party. I must say, it turned out fantastic, and, it did not take much preparation. This dinner party was a huge hit, and all of the dishes were delicious and simple to make.

Pork Loin with Mr. Yoshida’s Sauce

A family favorite for grilling is Mr Yoshida’s sauce. It used to be available at Sam’s, but is now available online HERE. While I do not normally purchase food online, this marinade is the exception. It really is that good. I have also heard that Jack Daniel’s purchased the brand and it now sells in grocery stores under the label “Jack Daniel’s BBQ Sauce", but they appear to have tampered with the recipe and it's just not the same. Moreover, when you order online, you can get 63 oz. for under $15 -- and trust me, you'll be using this a lot, so it's best to buy in bulk.

3 lb. Pork Tenderloin (1/2 lb. per person)
2 cups Mr. Yoshida’s sauce
1/2 stick butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste

First, prick the pork tenderloin all over with a fork. This allows for the marinade to sink into the pork. Next, place the tenderloin in a zip lock bag and pour in the Mr Yoshida’s sauce and the melted butter. Place in the refrigerator until ready to grill. You can even do this in the morning before work and leave it to marinate all day. Allow to marinate at least 1-2 hours. After it has marinated, place the tenderloin on the grill, and cook until done. Cooking time will depend on the hotness of the grill and the size of the tenderloin. For a 3 pound tenderloin, cook at least 20-25 minutes. Place the remaining sauce in a saucepan on the stove top. Boil for 10 minutes and serve as a reduction sauce for the cooked pork tenderloin.

Chocolate Marsala Cake


scant 1/3 cup unsalted butter

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken up
4 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup self-rising cake flour, sifted 3 times
3 tbsp Marsala wine

Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave and set aside to cool. Beat eggs and sugar together until thick and tripled in volume. Gently fold the sifted flour into the egg mixture. Fold butter and chocolate very carefully into the cake mixture. Pour into 8-inch springform pan [Note: We just used a regular 8-inch pan and had no trouble getting it out.], greased and floured [Note: We used cocoa powder, which ensures no white mess on your lovely cake!]. Cook for 35 minutes. Cool on the rack for 5 minutes and then pour Marsala over the cake. Let cool completely before releasing from the pan.


4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 tbsp Marsala
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. heavy cream

Melt the chocolate, Marsala and cream in a saucepan over gentle heat. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth and thick (but not solid). Pour over cake and serve.

This cake was easy, required few ingredients and was a hit with the people at the party (even my boyfriend P.W., who isn’t even that crazy about chocolate). It's also not a fussy cake and I assembled it while chatting with my guests. Again, it is a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess. The cake is similar to a torte, and the chocolate ganache provides the finishing touch. Due to the richness of this cake, it would also be great to serve at a shower or around the holidays. It appears simple and elegant, and everyone will be surprised at how little time it took you to make. As I've noted before though, I highly recommend the book as so many of the recipes in it are absolutely fantastic. It is also a great gift!

To say the Marsala chocolate cake was a hit would be a gross understatement. We were left fighting for the last bite and scraping the ganache off the plate.

Whiskey Sours

We finished the evening off with whiskey sours, courtesy of Ina Garten. Whiskey sours are an excellent cocktail to serve at dinner parties because men and women both tend to like them. Men like that you serve them whiskey, and women are pleased that they are still sweet. Ina Garten's recipe for whiskey sours is the best one I have found. She made them on her show entitled “Jeffrey’s Treat,” because they are her husband’s favorite drink. Go HERE for the recipe. I am also a huge fan of amaretto sours, but the whiskey sours definitely appeal to a broader audience, so I tend to save the amaretto sours for girls’ nights.


Christy said...

Where do you get self-rising cake flour? I've never heard of that. And who/what is Cibus? And Chef Babs? You by a different name, I'm thinking? I'm not clued in... This sounds like it was a smashing success. I'm ordering that sauce and printing out this menu and making it soon. I'll report back after we enjoy it!

Christy said...

Oops - I just saw the categories - Cibus = Food, Yes?

Averill said...

Christy: "Chef Babs" is actually my sister Jane who is a much better chef than I am. :)

As for self-rising cake flour, I can't always find it myself but when I do, it's right next to the normal flour in the baking aisle. Nigella's recipes always seem to use it, so my guess is that it's a lot more popular in the UK than here!

Maple said...

Is anyone else creeped out by Ina Garten when she says "Jeffrey"?

Also, I saw the weirdest episode the other day where Jeffrey bought a tent to set up in their yard. Ina made a bunch of nostalgic food, then they ended by both getting into the tent at night. The innuendo was too much for me to handle. Gross!

Brenna said...

Ooh, the cake looks amazing! Can't wait to try making it. I love Nigella.

PS. I saw the episode Maple's referring to, and I second her discomfort with the Ina/Jeffrey relationship. Especially because the last time I watched it, my husband commented, "So Ina knows she married a gay guy, right?" They just make me laugh now.

Averill said...

Rumor I heard was that Jeffrey is quite the philanderer [with other women, I should add], but Ina is too smitten to ditch him. But this is possibly nothing more than unsubstantiated gossip.

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