They say the family that eats together stays together. Well I think the same goes for friends. Especially friends who love to eat and love to cook. On Saturday night my friends and I had one of those blow out, all out, multiple course, lasts for hours, laughing so hard you might throw up your stuffed mushrooms, more bottles of wine then there are people, meals to end all meals. My friend Michelle hosted it at her giant apartment on Park since hers is the only one that can fit all ten of us and our insatiable appetites. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we played a rousing game of “Apples to Apples,” and we had a serious dance party. But since this blog isn’t called “how many bottles of Cupcake wine can Liz drink in one sitting?” Or “what outrageous story does Christine have for us now?” I will be telling you (mostly) about the food. And oh…my…god…the food. First of all, we are a group of serious eaters. Just like the title says, we’ll judge you for ordering a salad. Not only are we eaters, but we have some serious cooks in this group and even a budding professional pastry chef (whose pastry kit facilitated the invention of my new favorite game “take shots of Nutella flavored chocolate mousse out of a piping bag”)
But let’s start with the first course and my contribution to the party…Antipasto Dip. It was a delicious take on Hoagie Dip (a mayo based combination of diced ham, turkey, and cheddar, which when spread on a sliced hoagie roll tastes just like…you guessed it…a hoagie.) Wow, I can’t believe how many times I just used the word hoagie in one sentence. I really got brainwashed living outside of Philly for four years…Anyway, my little twist took the Hoagie Dip to a whole new level. Saturday morning before heading out to my friend Jen’s “Amazing Birthday Race” (a birthday themed scavenger hunt through NYC that my team totally dominated and took first place in) I went to D’Agostino’s for my supplies. I basically bought all the things I would put on an antipasto platter. Prosciutto, Salami, Capicola, Sopressata, Mortadella, Provolone, olives, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, and sun dried tomatoes. My shopping cart looked like I had robbed the set of Goodfellas. I grabbed some mayo which would serve as the base of the dip, a loaf of Italian bread, and a bread bowl (because it is my personal belief that dip tastes better in a bread bowl.) When I got it all home I laid out my antipasto and stared in awe at all of my gleaming meats and cheeses for a good five minutes. Then I got to work. The directions for this recipe are short and sweet. Chop and combine. I waited to add the mayo until the evening so it would be super fresh tasting. Even though soups and sauces taste better when the flavors have had time to meld, mayonnaise based dips are best made right before serving (and should subsequently be tossed if they sit out for more than two hours.) After the race, I finshed my dip with 2 cups of mayo, carved the bread bowl and packed up the dish for the trek up to 96th street with my other East-Siders.
We were the last ones to arrive and when we walked in we were greeted with delicious smells, big hugs and even bigger glasses of wine. My antipasto dip was joined by some other pre-dinner treats. Cherry tomato bruschetta, zucchini and yellow squash goat cheese pizza, cheese and crackers, and a champagne toast. I’ve decided that the only thing better than Katie York’s macaroni salad is Katie York’s bruschetta. Cherry tomatoes will be my new go-to tomato when making this dish. They explode with flavor in your mouth and their slight sweetness is the perfect balance to the salty mozzarella. The pizza was unbelievable, the zucchini and squash were sliced so thin you could practically see through them. And my dip was a huge hit, a definite crowd-pleaser. Everyone (especially Brielle who might be my blog’s biggest fan) was very excited for it to be featured in my next post. It’s probably the easiest recipe I’ve ever made up, so definitely add this one to the appetizer roster at your next cocktail party.
We then moved on to the first dinner course. Tagliatelle pasta with eggplant and tomatoes. It was simple, rustic, and hearty. I had to stop myself from eating a third bowl because I knew there was so much more to come. This feast was structured like a real Italian meal, multiple courses paced perfectly to maximize the amount of food you can consume in one sitting. So after the pasta we took a little break for some wine drinking and girl bonding. The second course continued with goat cheese and sweet potato stuffed chicken, spinach and chicken stuffed mushrooms, and Caprese salad. Goat cheese stuffed chicken is one of my favorite chicken dishes to make. But I had never thought to combine it with sweet potatoes. Michelle got the idea from a dish she’d had in a restaurant and she executed it perfectly. The stuffed mushrooms were delectable too. At first glance they looked like your run of the mill stuffed mushrooms but when you bite in you go on a roller coaster ride of flavor. Christine revealed the secret ingredient to be fennel and that little seed packs quite a flavor punch.
For dessert we had vanilla buttercream cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries, and chocolate Nutella stuffed cupcakes with chocolate gnache icing. I think we all need to make t-shirts that say “Natalie going to pastry school is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
The food was outrageously good, but I have to say the best part of this meal was the company. It’s rare that were all in the same room (even this time we were short a Laura) since we’re spread across the eastern seaboard in New York, Connecticut, Long Island, Philadelphia and D.C. And finally being together is what made this night so special. There’s nothing I love more than gathering for a meal with the people I love. It’s been instilled in me since I was a kid and there’s no match for the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you sit down and share your stories, your food, and your evening with friends and family. I remember when I was a little kid I would ride my bike around the neighborhood on Sundays and whenever I would see a driveway packed with cars, I would think about the big family dinner taking place inside. I’d get a tinge of jealousy and wish that my extended family (who are spread out across New York, Chicago, and L.A.) was having our own big Sunday dinner. Since it was a rarity that was usually reserved for holidays and sacraments I learned to treasure the time we spent together and appreciate the magic that happens when all the people you care about are in the same room.
I find that I now have a similar feeling when my friends get together. That’s what made the night a little bittersweet, because even though we’re all only an Amtrak ride away from each other, we used to do this all the time, getting together for a meal wasn’t rare at all. Two years ago before society abruptly thrust us out of college and into the real world, we got to spend what seemed like every waking second together. And most of the time…we were eating. Nat would make Sunday Sauce every weekend, when it was warm out Michelle and I would grill in the backyard of Penn Street. Christine would squeeze us all around the table and feed us her latest Giada recipe. Sometimes we would go to the on-campus dining hall, have our younger sorority sisters swipe us in on their meal plans, load up our trays, get a big table in the back, sneak in some wine (I can admit it now…what are they going to do take away my diploma?) and have a big dinner party without having to cook or clean up! It was pure genius. I miss that now, I think it’s what I miss most about college. Not the mid-day naps, or the formals, or the way Villanova smells on a fall day. I miss the simple luxury of eating with my friends. So when I get the chance to, when we all end up in the same city, on the same day, in the same apartment, even if it’s just for just a few hours, I savor every minute of it.
It was the perfect weekend, packed with good friends, good food, and hilarious memories. A big highlight of the weekend was our little Pam running the New York City marathon in 3 hours and 8 minutes, she was the 108th female to finish! Then she followed this performance by drinking a “Texas sized” beer with lunch, she’s my hero.
Coming up this week, on WECN (hmm not so sure how much I like that abbreviation) Butternut squash pasta with a brown butter sauce, a surprise post (aka I don’t know what I want to cook tomorrow night), and then this weekend…the blog post to end all blog posts…TURDUCKEN.
Enjoy the recipe!
¼ lb (each) Prosciutto, Salami, Capicola, Sopressata, Mortadella – diced
½ lb Provolone -diced
¼ lb (each) olives, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, and sun dried tomatoes – diced
2 cups mayonnaise
1 sour dough bread bow
1 large Italian loaf
Combine diced ingredients in a large bowl, stir in mayonnaise, transfer to a hollowed out bread bowl and served with sliced Italian bread. In the words of the Barefoot Contessa… “how easy it that?”