Cooking For Others: For a Living

Posted by on Monday Dec 14th, 2009 | Print


EVENT: Mary’s Baby Shower
VENUE: Rebbecca’s Apartment, Chelsea
PARTY SIZE: 40
TYPE: Afternoon Sit Down Tea
MENU: (Cocktail Fare) Caprese Skewers with Pesto Dipping Sauce; Deviled Eggs; Asparagus in Parmesan Puff Pastry; (Sit Down) Sexy Ugly Caramelized Onion Tarts; Green Apple & Brie Sandwiches with Honey Mustard; Turkey & Beet Relish Sandwiches with Dill Mayonnaise; Mixed Greens with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette; Zucchini & Walnut Bread; Chocolate Chip Banana Bread; Cherry Scones; Apple Cinnamon Scones; Magnolia Cupcakes

Our friend Jocelyn is lucky enough to have two older sisters who have made her an aunt three times over. We love to hear about her nieces and nephews and see pictures of them–Helena, her sister Rebecca’s daughter, modeled for us as our pretend “love child“–but more importantly for us gals of BGSK, Jocelyn’s sister was the one to grant us our first catering gig two weekends ago.

Rebecca’s friend, Mary, is pregnant with her first child. And since Rebecca is the one who set Mary up with her husband in the first place, she held the baby shower at her loft, co-hosting with Mary’s two sisters. Rebecca had contacted us about cooking for the afternoon tea in October, back when Cara still had her full-time job, and we were really excited to give this fifty-person catering gig a shot, though not as much for the professional opportunity as for the fact that we simply thought it would be fun.

Skip forward a few months, and the catering opportunity, while still seeming fun, also started to feel like a very exciting step on the way to another side of our foodie careers. Of course, Rebecca’s call was not completely out of the blue: Cara did a bunch of catering in college–especially of this type of afternoon tea event–and Phoebe has been hired by parents’ friends to make all the food for their dinner parties.

(thanks to Phoebe’s mom for these very official looking aprons.)
We spent a few weeks developing a catering menu, not specifically for Rebecca, but with plenty of options that would work for her event–afternoon, tea, lots of women. An email chain later, we had whittled the menu down to only the best and the brightest. There were three passed hors d’oeuvres:

the elegant puff pastry-wrapped asparagus with Parmesan,

deviled eggs: a little bit retro,

and caprese skewers with Phoebe’s famous pesto sauce for dipping.
On each table, platters of scones and quickbreads, as well as two kinds of tea sandwiches:

brie, apple & honey-dijon on wheat; turkey, beet relish, dill mayo & arugula on white

In the arms of our trusty servers, Alex and Matt, we passed a caramelized onion tart that was the epitome of teamwork (Cara made the pastry, Phoebe the filling), and a salad with an herb vinaigrette, the epitome of amnesia (don’t ask).

Fortunately (with respect to prep time) and unfortunately (regarding Cara’s baking obsession), Rebecca said she’d be supplying dessert: pink Magnolia cupcakes displayed in an adorable, wire-branched cupcake tree.

The most exciting moment by far was when the guests devoured the platters of sandwiches with an unforeseen gusto and we had to make more and more of them, with a dwindling bread supply and in fast forward. Runner up was when, before we located the oven mitts, we had to remove the asparagus from the oven with our bare hands. Ouch.

Though we swear our muscles were tired the next day, as if catering were some kind of contact sport, we really did have the fun we’d anticipated in October. Without being coy, we’d like to point out that if you ever did have an event and wanted to hire some able-bodied and semi-experienced young caterers to take charge of the food, you could do worse than to think of us. In fact, if you email us, you can see our catering menu for yourself.

From our kitchen, happy from our first professional gig and excited for our next, to yours,

Phoebe and Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS

**Recipes**

Sexy Ugly Caramelized Onion Tarts

Makes 2 tarts

The dough is made in my mini food processor, so I have to halve the recipe. It means splitting the egg yolk, which is a bit awkward but nonetheless endurable. If you own a bigger processor, by all means make the dough at once. It’s also easy enough to make the pastry by hand.

Ingredients

For the pastry:

2 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 sticks cold butter
1 egg yolk
4-5 tablespoons cold water

For the onion filling:

3 tablespoons oil
4 – 5 (depending on how prone you are to nibbling) large sweet Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
dash cayenne

To finish:
4 tablespoons butter

a few sprigs fresh thyme

In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into roughly tablespoon-sized pieces and add, then pulse until the mixture looks a bit crumbly. Put in the egg yolk and about 3 tablespoons of the water, then run the processor until the dough starts to come together. It should clump into a big ball; if it doesn’t, drizzle in another tablespoon of the water. You want to add as little liquid as possible.

Remove from the food processor and flatten into two 7-inch disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling: Sauté the onions in the oil over a medium flame, stirring very infrequently. Once they soften and begin to brown on each side, return the flame to low and allow to slowly caramelize. During this time, it is important to make sure the onions are spread as evenly as possible across the pan. Every few minutes, scrape the bottom and redistribute the onions so each gains the maximum amount of surface area. The intention is to slowly crisp the onions by enticing the remaining liquids to sweat out, and for the onions to sweeten by condensing in their own juices. If you stir too often, the onions will turn to mush. This process takes about 40 minutes.

When the onions are dark brown, but not burnt, add the thyme, cumin, and season with salt and a touch of cayenne. Set aside.

When ready to make the tarts, preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out each disk into a rough circle. No need to be perfect, you just want the dough fairly even. Fold about 1 inch of the edges in all the way around, pinching every inch or so to seal. Slide onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Spread about 3/4 cup of the onion filling onto each crust. Top with 2 tablespoons of butter, cut into little squares. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the crust is golden. Garnish with fresh thyme, then cut into 8 wedges and serve.

Caprese Skewers

Serves 15

You can really make as many of these bites as you want to fit your party size. We offered around 1.5 bites per person, which is always a safe assumption.

Ingredients

25 cherry tomatoes
25 basil leaves
25 bocconcini (bite-sized mozzarella balls)
1 cup basil-parsley pesto (recipe follows)
toothpicks

Thread the cherry tomato, followed by a basil leaf (folded in half) through the toothpick. Top with a bocconcini ball pressed halfway through with the skewer so the end is not revealed. Place pesto in a serving bowl in the middle of the platter and arrange skewers around the edge.

Basil-Parsley Pesto
Makes 1-2 cups  

2 garlic cloves
2-3 cups basil
1 cup parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 – ½ cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 lemon, juiced
Combine the garlic, herbs, and nuts in a food processor. Pulse to grind. Add the oil slowly to reach desired consistency (a thick paste). Remove to a bowl, add the Parmesan and the lemon juice, then taste for salt. Serve in a pretty bowl beside the caprese skewers.

Classic Deviled Eggs
Serves 12

Ingredients

6 eggs
small handful arugula, finely chopped
2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I made homemade, since it’s such a prominent taste in these eggs)
a few grinds fresh pepper
smoked or regular paprika for garnish

Hard boil the eggs: put 6 raw eggs in a pot with water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. When the water has cooled to the point where it’s comfortable to stick your hand in to grab the eggs, that means they’re done. Remove and cool completely in the fridge. Peel and then cut in half along the longer axis.
Take the egg yolk out from both halves and place in a bowl. Gently mash them, then add the salt, mustard, mayo, pepper, and arugula. Taste for seasonings and correct if necessary.

Arrange the 12 halves on a serving platter. Carefully scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling into the concavity of each egg. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika, preferably smoked.

For homemade mayo:
1 fresh, organic egg yolk
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
pinch salt
1/2 cup oil

Place 1 fresh organic egg yolk in the bottom of your food processor or in a small bowl that won’t shift when you whisk. Add 1 teaspoon water and the vinegar and salt, then pulse/whisk to combine. Drizzle in the oil little by little–going especially slowly at first. Continue to add the oil until the mayonnaise is thickened and smooth and all of the oil is used up. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 3 days.

Puff Pastry Wrapped Asparagus
Makes 40 appetizers

Ingredients
about 40 asparagus spears
1 package puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge for 24 hours
oil in a spray bottle, or a few tablespoons in a small bowl to apply with a brush
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Rinse the asparagus and pat them dry. Snap the woody bottom off of each one (it will snap naturally when you bend the bottom) and discard.

Unwrap the puff pastry and unfold each sheet. If the pastry refuses to unroll, grab a rolling pin and flatten the dough into a rectangle measuring about 10 x 12″.

Cut the pastry into strips that are about 1/4-inch thick and 10 inches long. Fasten the strip of dough at the base of an asparagus spear by winding it all the way around. Then spiral the dough attractively around the spear until you reach the top.

Place the asparagus on a parchment-lined baking sheet with the loose end at the bottom. Repeat with the remaining vegetables, leaving about an inch between them on the tray. Spray or brush with olive oil, then sprinkle lightly with both salt and Parmesan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the asparagus are wrinkled and browned and the pastry is golden. Serve warm or within 2 hours of making them.

Dill Turkey Sandwiches with Beet Relish
Makes 30 small sandwiches
Ingredients

1 package Pepperidge Farm “Thin Slice” white sandwich bread
8 ounces mayonnaise
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 cups beet relish (minced very very fine)
1lb turkey (at least 30 slices)
2 handfuls arugula leaves

Mix the mayo and dill together in a small mixing bowl. Spread a thin layer of the dill mayo on one slice of the bread. Top with two slices of turkey.

On another slice of bread, spread a thing layer of beet relish. Top with a few leaves of arugula. Sandwich two halves together and press down gently.

Using a serrated knife, cut the crusts off the bread (using a damp cloth to clean the knife after each pass). Slice the sandwich across the diagonal into two pieces. Arrange sandwiches on a platter, and serve.

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  • Kate

    Wow! Congratulations on your first catering event (together). Everything looks great, maybe when graduation rolls around this May, I'll actually get to taste a recipe or two!

  • olivia rae

    I was just watching Barefoot Contessa and had to check you guys out since Ina raved about your blog!! I LOVE INA! I blog about her all the time! She is a goddess!!

    So happy to have found your blog, great recipes!! xoxo

  • Colleen

    My girl Ina mentioned you on her show and I had my computer handy. I'm a 20-something New Yorker who loves cooking and blogging, also. I am now a Follower and hope to be inspired by your kitchen capers. When the mood strikes, please visit me at:

    http://collology.blogspot.com/

    Congrats on the book deal- proof that the dream can come true. Bon Appetit!

  • hawiley

    I am definitely going to try that asparagus with puff pastry. But you really must try mine: instead of puff pastry wrap the asparagus in bacon. It is always a hit at every party and I get complaints every time I decide to skip it in favor of something else.
    Great blog. I, too, found you through Ina. LOVE her! How lucky are you to have her -and her food- in your life!
    I will definitely bookmark your page and did share it on my FB.

    • Linda

      exactly how do you do this?   sounds like something I could take to a Super Bowl party tomorrow!!

  • Kelsey B.

    Gorgeous and congrats! I love the Mackenzie platter- I have those, too! :)

  • Kenneth, Rae Dana & Kenneth Jr.

    I also heard Ina rave about your blog! How excited I was when I learned you are young women (my age) who love to cook. I recently started teaching myself to cook and love to look at recipes for hours! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Rhonda in OK

    I did cook for a living – for 2 fraternity houses for 3 years – until the boys and one of the housemothers drove me crazy.

    Your cooking looks like much more fun than the mountains of chili dogs and taco salad that I cooked so much for them.

    Thanks for sharing the recipes too.

  • Sherrie

    The food sounds fab!

  • shayma

    girls, what a wonderful menu. i love the "Sexy Ugly Caramelized Onion Tarts", what a name! the puff pastry twirled asparagus are absolutely elegant and brill. how darling are the two of your in your emerald aprons? happy hols, lovelies.

  • Unplanned Cooking

    Congrats to you on your first catering gig! It looks as if you did a fabulous job.

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    Thanks all for the congrats and kind words!

  • Will

    that onion tart….So sexy…So ugly…

  • Courtney

    I just made the asparagus, mini caprese and deviled eggs off of this event, the recipes were perfect and such a big hit! Thank you! The only difference that I made is that I pressed the parmesan into the puff pastry before I cut it into strips and wrapped it, they came out so pretty and still tasted great! Can't wait to search your index for my next party.

  • Courtney

    I just made the asparagus, mini caprese and deviled eggs off of this event, the recipes were perfect and such a big hit! Thank you! The only difference that I made is that I pressed the parmesan into the puff pastry before I cut it into strips and wrapped it, they came out so pretty and still tasted great! Can't wait to search your index for my next party.

  • Anonymous

    Just made the asparagus for Easter appetizers! Yummmmm. Had them at my cousins baby shower and they were such a hit! Thank you.

  • Simskatie911

    Came back for another look and new recipes.  I plan to have a tea party soon.  I noticed in your picture  chairs and tables for very young ladies.  I love it! 

  • Kate

    This all looks delicious! Congratulations and good luck with your next catering adventures!