Cooking For Others: Sarah’s 25th
EVENT: Sarah’s 25th Birthday
VENUE: Sarah’s Parents’ Apartment, Upper West Side
PARTY SIZE: 45
TYPE: Thursday Night Drop-in with Finger Food and Impromptu Punch
BGSK Catered Menu: Caprese Skewers with Herbed Croutons; Shrimp & Mango Salad in Wonton Crisps; Corn & Leek Flautas with Jack Cheese; Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Marinated Red Onions on Mini Brioche; Individual Teriyaki Noodles with Pickled Carrots and Black Sesame Seeds; Sweet Pea & Crab Crostini with Sugar Snap Peas; Panko-Crusted Spinach Dip with Pita Chips; Yellow Cake with Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Icing; Sarah’s Birthday Chocolate Bark
Though we shouldn’t admit to taking for granted that we cater Jordana’s birthday parties, we sort of do expect her to hire us year after year. In fact, we’ve got a Saturday night in November penciled in on our calendars. But none of our other friends have asked us to cook for their parties, professionally or out of the goodness of our hearts. So we were delighted, if not surprised, when Sarah asked if we’d cater a party at her parent’s apartment for her 25th birthday.
For some reason, the menu came to us right away. We were aiming for refined but hearty finger food, as per our usual BGSK style. And since cooking for a friend’s party does not mean we want to stay in the kitchen all evening, we choose all room-temperature fare that could be set out en masse for grazing.
We’re posting about the desserts here. We’ll discuss most of the savories in future posts (well, one we already got to), but we’re including the noodle boxes in this post because they’ve become a bit of an obsession for us. We buy big packages of cup-sized take-out boxes, fill them with the noodle of our choosing, and stick a pair of chopsticks in. Since everyone loves noodles, we’re thrilled to have found a foolproof way for making such a utensil-friendly dish part of our finger food buffet.
But before any of this, any recipes, savory or sweet, we present you with a slideshow of the celebratory evening.
Teriyaki Rice Noodles
Makes 15 appetizer servings and 6 main course servings
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin (rice wine)
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 slices peeled fresh ginger
1 whole clove garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons safflower or other neutral oil
1 16-ounce package rice vermicelli
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
4 scallions, cut into strips
Black sesame seeds (white are fine too)
Combine the soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, sugar, honey, ginger, and garlic in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer and reduce until it has thickened slightly, about 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Bring a big pot of water to boil for the noodles. Salt it, then add the noodles and turn off the heat. Let the noodles sit for 5 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain them.
Toss the noodles with the sauce and serve, topped with a sprinkling of carrots, scallions, and sesame seeds.
Yellow Cake with Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Icing
Makes 1 cake
For the cake:
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoon unsalted butter, at soft room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9″ springfrom cake pan with a circle of parchment. Spray with oil or smear evenly with softened butter.
Whisk the eggs with 3 tablespoons of the sour cream and the vanilla.
In a separate bowl–the bowl of a stand mixer if you have one–whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add the butter, cut into rough tablespoon-sized chunks, and the remaining sour cream, and, using your hand-held mixer or your very strong arm if you don’t have a stand mixer, beat this together for nearly two minutes. It will be quite creamy. Pour in the egg mixture in two parts, beating for nearly a minute after each.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cake bounces back when you press it lightly. Remove the sides of the pan and cool completely.
When cool, peel off the parchment. Using a serated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally.
For the Peanut Butter Filling:
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
scant 1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temp
2 teaspoons sour cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a food processor, beat all the ingredients until very smooth and uniform in color. You can store the buttercream in the fridge, but use it at room temperature. It goes on very smoothly with a knife if, like me, you’re not into piping.
For the Rich Chocolate Frosting:
This will make a little extra. I’m sure you’ll find a use for it.
6 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
6 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
Soften chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Stir in remaining ingredients. Place top of double boiler in bowl of ice and beat frosting with electric mixer about 5 minutes or until it reaches spreading consistency.
To assemble the cake:
Lay the top half of the cake on a platter, top side down. Spread the peanut butter filling evenly across. You want this to be 3/4″ thick. Now place the other half, cut side down, on top of the filling. Frost with the rich chocolate icing.
Sarah’s Birthday Chocolate Bark
aka Toffee Graham & Pecan Chocolate Bark
Makes 4 cups
12-14 graham crackers
2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
24 ounces ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Line a 9 x 13″ pan with aluminum foil. Arrange the graham crackers in one layer, breaking them up as necessary. Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Pour over the graham crackers, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 1o minutes, monitoring closely to make sure the sugar does not burn.
Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature until completely cool. Break up the graham crackers into bite-sized pieces.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in short bursts in the microwave. You want it to be just melted—don’t let it bubble or anything. As it’s melting, stir with a heat-proof spatula. Once melted, remove from the microwave or double boiler and add the nuts and the broken-up graham crackers.
Pour the mixture onto 2 parchment-lined pan and spread it evenly with a spatula. Put the pans in the freezer and let the bark sit until hardened. This should take about 1 hour.
Using your hands or a knife, break the bark into bite-sized pieces. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
Photos (mostly) by Alex.