Monday, March 8, 2010

A celebration.

Growing up, Caroline and I spent pretty much every afternoon together. We rode our bikes all over our little town, clambering down hidden paths and through marshland to get to the tiny coves and tidal pools ringing the shoreline. We took my dog, Buster (cutest dog ever) for long walks and introduced him to shellfish and seaweed at the beach. We ate whole packages of Chips Ahoy at her house, and baked endless batches of Tollhouse cookies at mine. We made gingerbread houses every Christmas, and Caroline was one of the few people who kept in touch with me when I went off to boarding school in 9th grade.

So when our friend Ellie suggested that the two of us throw Caroline a shower (and volunteered her parents' lovely home as a venue), how could I disagree? We started off by talking about some of Caroline's favorite things: birds (she's had at least one bird as a pet at all times since we were little), the color blue and candy. Lots and lots of candy.

My incredibly talented friend Miya created some gorgeous invitations for us, and we were off and running. Next came menu planning (ladies who lunch with a Southern twist, plus a ton of candy), decorations (Can you say tissue paper arts and crafts?) and games.

I headed out to Connecticut on Friday morning to spend the day cooking and crafting with Ellie and her incredibly gracious mom (known to one and all as Mrs. Maletta). We chopped and baked and boiled and mixed for hours; the menu we'd chosen was simple, but preparing food for 25 when you're used to cooking for - at most - six is a completely different proposition.

By Friday evening we settled in to make decorations for the dining area. Inspired by the profusion of pom-poms and poofs I'd seen on event planning and wedding blogs, I'd decided to make a bunch of them in different sizes and hang them over our tables. We also hung a wall of streamers near the front door, the better to make a little spot for photo ops.

And, of course, we had candy. Jelly beans, Reese's Pieces Easter eggs (Twice the peanut buttery goodness!) and M&Ms. A little chocolate, a little gummy, a little peanut butter: most of the major candy food groups covered.

We started with two hors d'ouevres: my trusty homemade gravlax, and my Aunt Cathi's ridiculously delicious endive leaves with goat cheese, walnuts, oranges, chives and a bit of balsamic. They are even easier than the gravlax, and will definitely be a recurring feature in my repetoire. In fact, they were so popular with the assembled ladies that I only managed to snap a photo of the last one on offer.

Next, we moved into the dining room and onto lunch. We feasted on a green salad with cucumbers and artichoke hearts, green beans with butter and herbs, curried chicken salad, beet salad with oranges and Thomas Keller's buttermilk biscuits. I chose the menu items based on a couple of criteria: things Caroline loves, things that are easy to serve in a buffet and things that will be hearty enough for a vegetarian or someone who gave up meat for Lent.

A little present opening (during which the bride-to-be was presented by yours truly with Peeps) and a Schramsberg toast later, and things were winding down. We sent everyone home with orange sugar cookies shaped like birds and sent the bride and groom home with a trunkful of goodies. And Mrs. Maletta? She liked the pom-poms so much that we left those with her.

Endive with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Oranges
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 heads Belgian endive
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 blood or Cara Cara orange, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch segments
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 tbs. chives, finely chopped
A few tablespoons very good balsamic vinegar (It needs to be thick and sweet!)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Separate the leaves from the endive head and place them on a platter. Crumble a bit of goat cheese into each leaf, then add one orange piece to each. Add the walnuts, diving them evenly amongst the leaves. Top with the chives.

Sprinkle each endive with a few drops of the vinegar, and top with a bit of salt and pepper.

Serve, and watch your guests swoon.

Serves 6 as an hors d'ouevre.

Curried Chicken Salad
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup Major Grey's chutney
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 large stalks celery, cut into a quarter-inch dice
2 thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice the chicken into large bite-size pieces.

In the meantime, make the dressing. Combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth. (You can also do this with an immersion blender - or a normal blender as well!)

Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten well. Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours (or overnight) to allow the flavors to blend. Add the cashews and serve at room temperature.

Serves 6-8.


heather said...

such a fun recap! i love the decorative poofs - how did you make them?


Robin Wendell Glover said...

Yum! Can I get a faux divorce so I can have a shower like this when I re-marry the same guy?

Jen said...

What a lovely way to celebrate a friend! :)

Caroline said...

Queenie really outdid herself for this one. As the very lucky guest of honor, I have never felt more special, and all of the guests commented on how delicious and gorgeous everything was. Meg is not only a hostess/party planner-extraordinaire, she's also an amazing friend - what can I say, I know how to pick 'em and pick 'em early!! :) It was a day to remember... and it set the bar for the wedding pretty high! :) THANK YOU AGAIN, MEG!!!!

Mom said...

The shower really was spectacular in every way. Megan, Anne and Ellie created a perfect party from the elegant home, gala decorations, delicious hors d'oeurves and salads to the memorable Anne-crafted cake and cookies. It was a delight to see Caroline's friends ranging from baby carriage days through college assembled for this happy occasion.

miya said...

i love it! it looks so true to your inspiration board. heather, you can find a tutorial on martha stewart's website. xoxo!

Meg Blocker said...

Oh my goodness! You're all too kind!

@heather: miya is right - you can get a tutorial from martha stewart. here's a link: happy crafting!

@robin: a vow renewal seems less messy, yes? ;-)

@jen: thanks! we thought so, too.

@Caroline: pshaw! you're making me blush!

@Mom: it was such fun, wasn't it?

@miya: aw, thanks! you're the entertaining goddess, so your approval means the world!

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