One of my signature questions of all chefs is, "Do your friends cook for you at their homes?" I recently queried Charlie Palmer. He answered no, just like all the others, although he did add, "It doesn't have to be fancy. I'd love a good BLT."
I must admit that I am intimidated about cooking for my chef pals. I completely chickened out when I invited Bruce Adiells and Nancy Oakes for dinner. I made reservations at the Kenwood restaurant instead. So when I received the evite to Josh's 45th birthday party/Syrah Bistro's tenth anniversary and read the request that everyone bring a bottle of wine and food to share, I froze once again. Then I noticed that Josh's wife Regina advised that it didn't have to be fussy - Josh simply loves eating other people's food.
Gulp. No way out. It was time to cowboy up.
What to prepare? I combed my cookbooks and meditated. No luck. Then it occurred to me that I should take the opposite approach. I considered recipes with cheezewhiz and desserts that featured Twinkies. Fried bologna bowls was an option; I could dress them up with a really good artisan cheese. We recently did an appetizer segment on Food Guy & Marcy and I recounted the first one I ever made, be it ever so humble: Crustless Wonder bread spread with a mixture of shredded cheddar cheese, minced green onion, garlic powder and mayo, broiled until melted and lightly browned, then cut into fours. Please do not mock me. It's still a hit whenever I make it and if I could have figured out how to keep these little suckers hot, I would have brought them to the party last night.
I had been ruminating on this way too long when I remembered I had Alaskan king crab in my freezer. My buddy Terry Cosgrove owns commercial fishing boats and had recently gifted me with five pounds. I couldn't think of a more worthy group with whom to share my bounty. I carefully cut the arm length crustaceans into manageable pieces and then shelled them. All of this with my Henckel scissors, one of my favorite kitchen tools. Next I went online to find a recipe for a condiment and settled on Emmeril's spicy lemon tartar sauce.
I arrived at the soiree platter in hand. The first dish I noticed was Ruffle potato chips with sour cream and onion dip. No kidding. Other offerings ranged from kale salad to seven layer dip to gateau au yaourt. After placing my crab on the table, I observed the buffet. There's nothing worse than bringing something to a potluck that no one is eating. It might have been the location right next to the oyster bar and near the beer, but my crab dish was a hit. The rest of the evening was a frenzy of friends and camaraderie....and isn't that the real lesson here?