Tag Archives: trifle

A Cornucopia of Comfort Food

3 Oct

dinner party menu items

Dinner party menu items

Voting is now open for Challenge #3.  If you’d like to attend my party, please RSVP here.

Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who voted for my Challenge #2 post in Project Food Blog!  I so appreciate the support, and I now invite you to come to a dinner party held in your honor–it’s all about comfort-with-a-twist.  Voting for Challenge #3 in Project Food Blog–Luxury Dinner Party–begins Monday, October 4.  I’ll have a link here as well as over on my Project Food Blog page.  Enjoy!

When you ask a great chef what he or she would like to eat at his/her last meal, you might expect some pretty rarefied responses.  Maybe one of those dishes that you find at very pretentious restaurants whose title takes up five lines of the menu?  Perhaps they’d go for the daring:  live octopus? Fugu?  Mayhap the disturbing:  balutCasu Marzu?  Heck, they’re dying anyway, right?

homemade caramel corn

Here it is!

Many of the actual responses might surprise you:  A perfectly roasted chicken.  A hamburger topped with a fried egg.  A hot dog.  A slice of lemon tart.  In the end, we all crave comfort.

Baked rigatoni

Hello, lovely baked rigatoni.

So, for this dinner party, I knew I wanted to go the comfort route.  Not because this was going to be anybody’s last meal, but because I love the people for whom I was cooking, and I wanted them to be familiar with all the dishes while adding just a bit of a twist to many of them.  I also knew that three of my guests would be under thirteen, and one hasn’t yet reached the “Must Be This Tall to Ride” mark at the fair.  I wanted my young guests to try everything, and I knew they’d be more  likely to try foods with names they’d at least heard.

Bread Pretzels

Thank God for pretzels.

My theme–comfort–was nailed down, but which comfort foods?  Being less-than-uptight when it comes to parties, I decided to throw a few darts into the Hinternet and see what I’d hit.  I hit the mother lode, Reasons-for-Celebrating Central:  an encyclopedic listing of every food observance known to man, from Soup Day to Nuts Week.

Caramel Apples

Gorgeous.

Of course, I checked out October-as-a-whole, the first week in October and the day of the party, October 1.  There was an exhaustive listing, and these were the ones I chose for the menu:

Month-long Observances

  • National Apple Month
  • National Caramel Month
  • National Chili Month
  • National Cookie Month
  • National Dessert Month
  • National Pasta Month
  • National Pickled Peppers Month
  • National Popcorn Poppin’ Month
  • National Pork Month
  • National Pretzel Month
  • Vegetarian Awareness Month

Week-long Observances

  • National Chili Week

October 1st Observances

  • World Vegetarian Day
  • Pudding Season Begins
  • Homemade Cookies
    Day

    Glazed citrus shortbread cookies

    Howdy, citrus shortbread

Here’s the final menu:Dinner Party Menu

And since nothing goes better with dinner than a movie, we also celebrated Richard Harris’s October-1st birthday by watching him portray Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But not inside.  Oh, no, we watched it on Thomas and Roberta’s big old outdoor movie screen!  Plus, we ate over at their place, too; we just carted all the dishes over when I was finished with my marathon cooking session.

Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore

We miss you, Richard Harris.

And there you have it.  A dinner party perfect for adults and kids alike, one without fancy-schmancy table settings or a high price tag.  One that was all about comfort: for ourselves and especially for our guests.


You, too, can throw the same type of party.  Know your guests and their food comfort levels.  Cook for everyone’s tastes.  Get creative with your celebration–after all, just because it’s none of your guests’ birthdays doesn’t mean you can’t throw a birthday party.   Every day is somebody’s birthday.

PS Dinner Party Recipes/Methods

  • caramel corn
  • bread pretzels
  • I didn’t use a recipe for the pasta–I just made a Béchamel sauce and folded al dente pasta, browned Italian sausage and wee cubes of fontina cheese into it.  Bake and done.
  • For the chili, I threw all of my vegetables, including some dried black beans, into a pot with water seasoned with chili-type spices, salt and pepper.  I simmered it all together until the beans were cooked through.  Added a little cocoa powder for a bass note and some corn flour for thickening.  Very easy, very tasty.
  • Trifle–layer together cubed pound cake liberally doused with sherry and raspberry jam.  Pour over homemade vanilla pudding (I made 3 cups worth), making sure it oogies all down in between the cubes of pound cake.  Let that set up in the fridge, and then dollop on as much whipped cream as you want.
  • Dip the apples in boiling water for a few seconds, then shock in ice water.  Rub off the wax with a paper towel.  Make actual caramel for your caramel apples.  I doubled the recipe, doubled the salt and  flavored mine with maple and vanilla extracts.  Then, I either rolled my enrobed apples in mini chocolate chips or sprinkled them with coarse sea salt.

PPS  One of Albus Dumbledore’s favorite foods is raspberry jam.  Hence the raspberry jam in the trifle.

PPPS If you would love to attend a Dinner-and-a-Movie-Comfort-Food-Fest, please consider sending me your RSVP by voting for my entry.  Voting opens Monday, October 4.  Thank you!

Trifle: The Soup of the Pastry Kitchen

9 Dec
Don't be intimidated--it's only a trifle.

Don't be intimidated--it's only a trifle.

Just as soup is a tasty way to use up leftovers from the fridge, trifle is a way to use up odds and ends of leftover cake.  Yes, they write recipes for it as long as your arm.  Yes, they sell special trifle bowls and make it sound all scary and official, but I’m telling you, trifle is no big deal.  As a matter of fact, the definition of the non-dessert trifle is “something of little importance.”

This is how I think the dish got its start.

Disclaimer:  The following has no real basis in fact, so don’t fact check.  You’ll just be wasting your time.

A thrifty British housewife had some dry, leftover cake lying around the house.  Being thrifty (like I said), she didn’t want to waste it.  Being a creative housewife who had a bit of a reputation to uphold, she decided to use it as the base of a dessert.  Here’s what our heroine had in her kitchen:  sugar, cream, leftover jam from tea a week ago Tuesday, eggs and alcohol.  So, here’s what she did:  She soaked the cake in alcohol (I believe she used cream sherry), dolloped on some raspberry jam, whipped up a custard to pour on top and then topped the whole concoction with whipped cream.  She stood back and scrutinized her creation.  Realizing it, perhaps, left something to be desired in the way of refinement, she served it in cute little footed glass bowls for dinner the next evening, and the rest is history.

And that’s honestly all there is to trifle.  Make a cake.  Or use leftover cake.  Cube it up.  Soak it in tasty alcohol (or simple syrup with some alcohol in it).  Add some fresh or frozen fruit or some jam.  Make some pudding (homemade, please.  Chocolate or vanilla is fine).   Top it off with whipped cream (or creme fraiche, if you’re feeling saucy).

My absolute favorite trifle:  lemon sponge cake soaked in cream sherry.  Dollops of raspberry jam.  Vanilla pastry cream/pudding.  Whipped cream.

Other options:  chocolate cake soaked with Chambord.  Lightly sweetened raspberries.  Chocolate pastry cream.  Creme fraiche.

Pound cake soaked with Grand Marnier.  Mandarin oranges.  Vanilla pastry cream.  Whipped cream.

Sprinkle your trifle with candied or toasted nuts.  Or shaved chocolate.  Or broken up toffee.  Have a ball–it’s only trifle, and it’s as good as you want it to be.  You are all creative people.  Now, go make some trifle.

But wait–we have questions!!  Can I use lady fingers? Of course you can.  What about brownies? Use any cake-like substance you want.  But I hate pudding! Fine, make mascarpone cream.   I have some poached pears lying around.  Can I use them? Yes.  Any other questions, please just leave them in the comments section.  I’ve got to go.  Sheesh….

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