Sweet Smell of Excess
I told myself that if I ever get to take a substantial vacation any time soon (which doesn’t seem likely in my current state) that I’ll only go to one city (ok, possibly two) and explore the hell out of it. I always try to cram in as many places as possible in my allotted amount of time off and never feel settled in any of them (Spain and Wales in ten days wasn’t enough and even two and a half weeks for Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang and Kuala Lumpur was too brief).
That’s also how I feel about throwing parties, even low-key ones. I want to make a million things, and I often succeed despite space constraints (I can’t complain about the size of our apartment—it’s vast by local standards, but the kitchen is as tiny as NYC stereotypes would have you believe. Witness dirty aftermath in photo to the right. There’s a mere 18” of workable counter space, which is better than the zero inches I’ve had in the past). The trouble arises when I have my hands full literally, prepping snacks and sipping drinks. The last thing I’m capable of is taking pictures. Photoblogging and I are natural enemies. My antisocial nature becomes apparent when over the course of six hours I only manage a few food shots and not a single image contains humans. For all anyone knows, my Saturday night soiree was a party of one (does anyone else think it’s weird that two former Party of Five actors with animal surnames both play doctors in back-to-back ABC dramas?) when I’d estimate that thirty odd guests came and went over the course of the evening.
Deep-fried candy was intended as the main event, though judging from the heaving bag of leftover bars in the downstairs fridge, we didn’t make much progress. More attention was paid to battering and cooking oddball items like Sara Lee Cheesecake, Entenmann’s Blackout Cake, caramel apples and Hostess Sno Balls. Anyone interested in recreating the greasy decadence in the privacy of their own home can follow the recipe I posted from a previous venture a few years ago.
On the non-sugary front, I whipped up two easy drinking snacks to go with the Jalapeño Margaritas. Supposedly, I squeezed enough limes for 18 drinks (it’s a good idea to not save the task of juicing 30 limes until the last minute) but the pitcher was gone in a flash. Cocktails are like that. I thought I’d counter the Three-Pepper Spiced Pepitas, which was part of a Food & Wine feature “Bar Snacks for Food Snobs” with a common people Rachael Ray Spicy Chickpea Snack Mix. I don’t want to be a hater, but the garbanzos were kind of eh. It’s hard to compete with smoked Spanish paprika though.
I made a Fatty Crab recipe, Malaysian Glazed Chicken Wings, against my better judgment (ok, that’s a weird thing to say. I apologize for my completely irrational aversion to Zak Pelaccio, who apparently is opening a new restaurant in London). I’m crazy for fish sauce, chiles and sugar, so no complaints. In fact, I ate extra chicken last night for dinner and I’ll probably eat a few wings this evening. James was disappointed that I baked the poultry when we had a tub of hot oil at the ready. One can only fry so much.
Said oil was put to use for Perkedel Jagung (Indonesian corn fritters). I doubled the irresistible recipe given on 'Ono Kine Grindz and should’ve quadrupled it. I don’t even have photos of the fritters because they were devoured as soon as the hit the plate. They were served with Maggi Sweet Chili Sauce that we got at a Carrefour in Singapore. We brought a few bottles back last year because I’m obsessed with the sweet-spicy stuff but you can get versions in Chinatown. It’s even on Amazon, though the bottle is different and the label looks more old fashioned.
I borrowed liberally from James Oseland’s new Cradle of Flavor (which never struck me as absurdly titled until friends saw it on my desk and started mocking it/me with made up names like Bassinet of Taste. I thought my own invention, Snugli of Seasoning was a hoot—too much tequila has been known to influence humor perception) but am unable to reproduce the recipes in full here. No, I didn’t just gain respect for copyright, his recipes are just really freaking long and I don’t have the wherewithal to type them out. I made a shrimp satay that completely fumed up the apartment with its requisite toasted shrimp paste for the marinade. I’m highly tolerant of extremely pungent smells (seriously, I think I have a permanent sinus infection. For better or worse, I can’t smell anything) but James was having a freak out trying to ventilate the place before company arrived. Fans, candles and incense are no match for belacan. Thank god for global warming or else we wouldn’t have been able to keep the windows open all night in November. The dipping sauce was a simple concoction of kejap manis, sliced chiles and lime juice.
Gado Gado is kind of whatever you want it to be. I briefly blanched sliced carrots, green beans, bean sprouts and also included fresh cucumber and fried tofu. I forgot about the cabbage I intended to add. You can also make it heartier with sliced potatoes and/or hardboiled eggs. Vegans threatened to attend the event so I eschewed the animal byproduct. And just because a good percentage of plain vegetarians did show that didn’t stop me from putting shrimp chips on the side. The deep-fryer had to be put to use as much as possible.
The Javanese peanut sauce that gets mixed with the salad is actually a recipe worth typing out (unfortunately, Cradle of Flavor isn’t on the desk I’m currently occupying—I’ll add it in later). You start by toasting and grinding peanuts from scratch, which is so much better than using peanut butter and I’m not just saying that to be a purist. Shallots, chiles, coconut milk and vinegar eventually are incorporated.
So, next time it’s fried candy and say, one or two Southeast Asian treats. Hypothetically, I mean. It’s not like I’m going to fry candy and grill satay again any time soon–that would be repetitive. I hate paring down, though. Excess makes me happy.
I was also happy to be brought a pair of shoes that were too big for the original purchaser and the size 9 friend she passed them on to initially. I had just been lamenting (in my mind) how much it sucks to be a 9 ½ since inexplicably no one seems to make them (seriously—why the whole jump from 9 to 10?). It’s too bad that I hobble in even near-practical thick 2” heels. I have no idea how I’ll pull off spindly 3 ½ inch heels (note the use of “teetering” in the ad copy), not to mention the skinny jeans that should accompany them. I’d better lay off the peanut sauce and fried food stat.