Monday, December 30, 2013

Holy Hosting, Batman.

In the last two weeks of the year, the Chez will have hosted 4 gatherings. The smallest a group of 7, the largest a group of <approximately> 36. We love to host gatherings and house guests, and are really lucky to have a home large enough to accommodate both with relative ease. But wuf

To date, three gatherings have happened: two were potluck, which was super fun, and by virtue, fairly stress free. The one for my family's holiday gathering was the simplest of them all though. I have a smallish nuclear family, and with Mi Madre living out of state, it was the 5 Nashes + my brother-in-law (Spouse's lil bro), who was visiting from out West, and his sweetie, who arrived on Christmas Eve.

This year, keeping in mind food preferences, and my family, I went with a menu of two soups, a delicious artisan made bread loaf, and butter. 

For the meat eaters, our friend's fantastic Green Chile Chicken Noodle soup and for the vegetarians, a very easy Red Lentil soup, recommended by a friend at work. 

Spouse and his brother hit up the North Market on Christmas Eve Eve Day and bought a fabulous light sourdough loaf from Omega Artisan Baking that turned out to be perfect. Crusty (but not hard) on the outside, and wonderfully chewy and dense (but not too dense) on the inside. Held up super well to the soups, a great companion to the Kerrygold (unsalted) butter we had decided on, and poof, by the end of the dinner, was gone, baby, gone. 

I had previously made the Green Chile Chicken Noodle soup, as Reverend Al swears by it for when one feels icky, but had never made the Red Lentil. Both are simple and really flavorful, esp with hacks. And I have to say, quick to make. 

Here's Reverend Al's recipe:
My hacks:
- Trader Joe's has the best green chilis around (in a can), as they use New Mexico Hatch chilis, which are far superior to what you'd get in a can of Ortega or whatever you typically find at a grocery store. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.
- I used Jameson's Whiskey, instead of brandy. 
- Skipped the mushrooms as Spouse hates them (so does my sweet Papa)
- I added a decent supply of hot chilis from my freezer stash (harvested this summer)
- Bad chef omission: neglected to realize that I was out of chicken broth, so just used water. I know, I know. I suck. 

The soup was still damn tasty and only one serving remained to be refrigerated. 
One recipe serves 4-6 people (and 4 folks had some), so there's the math. 

Recipe for the Red Lentil soup:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
6 cups good-tasting vegetable stock (or water)
1 1/3 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/2 cup brown rice, picked over and rinsed
as much fine grain sea salt as you need
slivered almonds, toasted / black oil cured olives, chopped / feta, crumbled

In a big soup pot, over medium heat, combine the olive oil, onion, shallots, and red
pepper flakes. Let them brown, and caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the lentils and rice. Simmer for about 30
minutes or until the rice is very tender, and not at all toothsome. By this time, the
lentils will have collapsed into a thick slop of sorts. If you need to add more
water/broth at any point do so a splash at a time, until the soup thins out to the
point you prefer.

Unless you used a salty broth, you will likely need to salt generously, until the the
soup no longer tastes flat. Serve each bowl topped with almonds, olives, feta, and a
slight drizzle of olive oil if you like.

My hacks:
- I added 2 cloves of garlic and a dash of black pepper, because duh.
- I didn't add anything to the soup, or even put out any additions, so technically, in addition to gluten-free and vegetarian, it was also vegan at that point. 

This recipe also serves 4-6 people, and had 3 people who ate some, with two servings left over. 

I finally decided, yesterday, what we'll have for New Year's Eve. We're hosting a few good friends and wanted to keep in simple. Going with Italian, one meat option and one veggie/GF option. Hopefully it turns out to be a great bookend to all of our holiday hosting. 

I think Spouse and I will put a kibosh on things for January, at least at this point. Partially, so we can recharge our own batteries, but also so we can put the house back together. 

One of the most amazing parts of hosting is how awesomely tidy one can get one's house, as well as how flarking quickly one's house can get so very UN-tidy. <le sigh>. 
I need a Dobby, whom I would treat verra well, I solemnly swear.

Was your holiday hosting well received? 
What will you be serving for New Year's Eve? 

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