Monday, August 20, 2012

Naked Dinner Parties

Get your mind out of the gutter. No matter what you are thinking, naked dinner parties aren't like this:
Who wants to go to this dinner party?
 Confession: Until last Saturday I thought that Jamie Oliver was called "The Naked Chef" because he started his career cooking in the nude to gain recognition. Seriously. Just think about the naked cowboy and it makes total sense. Come on, it does. Well anyway, it turns out I was wrong.

Our friends R & C invited us over to their new place for dinner last Saturday night. You might remember R and her amazing hors. She is fantastic. For years and years and lots of dinners out we heard about how C was such a great chef. It was all very suspicious though because he is British and they never invited us over to eat. Just a low brow Brit cooking joke for C to rib me about later. For company and cooking's sake, we were really looking forward to dinner. 

We arrived at their gorgeous new home and kicked things off with wine and a tour. We also cut into the cheese and bread with a vengeance, so please forgive me for the following picture...

Oops. We ate it all before I got the blogging bug.
 R made an amazing orzo veggie toss in advance. It was a recipe she got from her mom and it was fantastic. We took leftovers and Landy was all over them. So was I. 

R & C were just across the pond for a family wedding and brought back some proper Hunter Wellies for L. ADORE.
Also known as galoshes, but not as fun to say.
While R & I were drooling over wellies and she was showing me this fantastic new blog design she surprised me with (the one you are seeing right now. really, she is the MOST amazing, trust me), the boys were finishing up dinner in the kitchen. While I am lacking knowledge of exactly what was going on back in the kitchen, I have pieced some bits together.

Upon arrival we saw a pizza stone in the oven. MAJOR excitement. It's so professional and very legit. I had to try and not eat too much crusty bread so I would have more room for pizza crusty crust. Decisions decisions. I have never used a pizza stone, but C says you need to preheat it in the oven until it is super hot (475 or more) to achieve maximum crusty crust all around. I said "crusty crust",  not him.
We brought crackers and no one ate them. This bread was warm, crusty, and the only thing my eyes could see.
C reads my blog because he's cool like that. He told me I would really like Jamie Oliver because we cook in a very similar fashion. My response: "Isn't he the guy who cooks naked?" Guys, you don't even know. I wasn't thinking he wasn't a good chef or anything, I just thought he was a showman. Someone who did crazy things for PR. Then I felt like a HUGE idiot. Especially after I looked into him some more. C was right. J.O. (that's what I call him now) is my man. We pretty  much share the same food philosophy. Please enjoy it in his words:

Fully Clothed Naked Chef.
 "My philosophy to food and healthy eating has always been about enjoying everything in a balanced, and sane way. Food is one of life's greatest joys yet we've reached this really sad point where we're turning food into the enemy, and something to be afraid of. I believe that when you use good ingredients to make pasta dishes, salads, stews, burgers, grilled vegetables, fruit salads, and even outrageous cakes, they all have a place in our diets. We just need to rediscover our common sense: if you want to curl up and eat macaroni and cheese every once in a while – that's alright! Just have a sensible portion next to a fresh salad, and don't eat a big old helping of chocolate cake afterwards.

Knowing how to cook means you'll be able to turn all sorts of fresh ingredients into meals when they're in season, at their best, and cheapest! Cooking this way will always be cheaper than buying processed food, not to mention better for you. And because you'll be cooking a variety of lovely things, you'll naturally start to find a sensible balance. Some days you'll feel like making something light, and fresh, other days you'll want something warming and hearty. If you've got to snack between meals, try to go for something healthy rather than loading up on chocolate or potato crisps. Basically, as long as we all recognize that treats should be treats, not a daily occurrence, we'll be in a good place. So when I talk about having a 'healthy' approach to food, and eating better I'm talking about achieving that sense of balance: lots of the good stuff, loads of variety, and the odd indulgence every now and then." - J.O.

I will say that I probably believe in a few more indulgences than J.O., but still, I feel the same except I say potato "chips" instead of "crisps" and prefer Big "Ole" instead of big "old". It makes a difference. Either way, C turned me onto his great world of online cooking videos and I'll definitely be picking up some of his books.

So back to it, R & C are putting together this amazing meal and as R & I drift back over to the kitchen I realize I need to start documenting. C was pulling together a tomato salad with chorizo that I can't even being to say enough about. It was, of course, a Jamie Oliver inspired dish. 

I dipped my pizza crust in this.... be jealous.
 Then Chef C took is pizza crust out of the oven. He had made the pizza with a ready made dough from Central Market. He left it out in a covered bowl at room temp for a few hours so it could warm up and gently rise. He spread a simple base sauce over it with sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella. That was all that went in the oven. The rest came flying forward in a fantastic way, freshly dropped upon the warm pizza base...
 chorizo slices and fresh arugula have been added. Then I heard "I'm not done yet."

Fresh chunks of Mozzarella and still "not done yet."

FINALLY done with fresh Parma Ham and some drizzled EV Olive Oil.
Adding back in the beautiful orzo pasta that R put together, my plate was going to look like Thanksgiving day.
SO fresh, SO delicious & a goat cheese bonus.
Upon my request, C created a perfect plate. As a reward, we let him eat it. And he did. With second portions  if I am not mistaken. I had seconds too... and would have had thirds, but you'll find out why I didn't soon.

"Let's have this for dinner every night!" said the fat girl who lives inside of me.
 This entire meal was just perfection. Major kudos to R & C for one of the best meals I have had at someone else's home. And for the GRAND FINALE.... R hits one out of the park.

Not prefrozen, not from a box, not from a bag... hand mixed homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Fresh from the Oven.
I learned about the "naked" chef and C learned that you just "plop" cookies down on a cookie sheet and they go from "squidgy" to round and delicious. 

I still can't get over this meal. It had something for everyone. Then I fell in love with the Hunter Wellies, while S had his own take home prize.

Good friends bring Scotch home from the UK.
If you are going to make your own pizza at home, take some advice from C: "the key to making pizza is less is more." Although I'm pretty sure I didn't desire less chorizo, less parma ham, less cheese, OR less arugula, so take that as you may.

Here is the youtube vid of Jamie Oliver making his Tomato Salad with Chorizo in a field. Really, in the middle of a field. This guy is special.

There is much to be said about a perfect night dining at home with wonderful friends. It is one of my very favorite things in the world. I'm just glad my friends let me blog about it later.


PS: The wellies were put to good use in the rain on Sunday morning and they matched perfectly with Landy's duck PJs from The Peabody.

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