Tag Archives: food

Setting the Stage for the Interview Dinner

 

evewith-fireplace-and-cats-copy

Our geology department has faculty job candidates coming through and to hold down costs, candidates will not be put up in hotels but in faculty guest accommodations. The advantages? Casual discussions over coffee in the morning and with that a far better sense of what living and working here is like.

As I used to crack when I was involved in interviews for Resident Administrator positions, Attila the Hun could be charming for a twenty minute interview. One wants a lot more than an interview before we invite someone in to our geology family. The increased exposure, thus, is all good.

I’ve offered our house and food for interview dinners, as I have in some past job searches, so each candidate will come and share our home for one evening. Anyone familiar with the whirlwind of interviews knows what it is like to have a dinner interview in a public restaurant. Too-loud, inappropriate music that you have to shout over, polite and necessary but utterly derailing wait staff interruptions, problems with logistics and how to get everyone who shows up at the event a chair close enough to hear and be heard. Cross-chat inevitably ensues, the decibel level rises. The only really useful thing is if the candidate is rude to the wait staff, because if that happens, you know this is not a person you want in the family.

Home dinners can offer quieter conversations and reflection, plus time to observe the candidate when he or she or they are tired and have most guards down. This can be a chance to see personality. After nearly sixty years of meeting and greeting and talking, I would hire on character, not accomplishments. You can still make a mistake, there is no perfect method, but you’re less likely to end up lying awake in bed wondering when the knife will slide into your back. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Now for the good stuff. Food. You bet there will be no caterer. I must make up a set of menus, not too repetitive, because many of the department participants will be coming to most if not all of these dinners. Five dinners, with leeway for the vegetarians among us. Only one candidate is a vegetarian, as if so happens, but I am well-aware that while most of the department are omnivores, some prefer to eat low on the food chain.

Color this picture with an oak fire in the fireplace and everyone sitting casually about in comfy chairs. Quiet light, no need for music or wait staff, for I always do these events buffet style. Anyone who leaves hungry has only him her or their self to blame!

So I’m thinking a North African meal, a vegetarian/pescavorian meal, a Middle Eastern meal derived in part from the Ottolenghi cookbooks, an Italian meal– polenta and mushrooms and then, perhaps a Thai dinner. Always enough vegetarian options so that no vegetarian may go hungry!

In the next few days I will share some specific menus, and perhaps even if you don’t want to make a batch of interview meals you may want to try one of these options for home and family.

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Do you want a party?

PROSPECTIVE MENU AND AMOUNTS AND SCHEDULE – for about a hundred people to arrive around 6PM Saturday

My husband jokes I am a field marshal when it comes to giving parties, but it isn’t that complicated at all. We provide loads of fresh bread, two flavors of vegetarian beans, St Louis-style ribs, Thai-sauced salmon, lemon-caper sauced salmon, nine pies, and a humongous cake. Some years I add corn-stuffed pasilla peppers and marinated grilled giant mushrooms. I ask the participants to bring hors d’oeuvres, drinks, vegetable dishes and salads because my biggest problem is always refrigerator space, and those items require a lot of room. Almost everything happens outside. To protect everyone’s digestions, I use surgical gloves while preparing food, washing at every turn, and am paranoid about leaving anything at room temperature until actually serving. You can find many official sites on-line that will review food safety protocols. There are great net food umbrellas that you can buy in most pharmacies in the picnic section to keep off  flies. Remember that botulism can work its will in any cooked food left at room temperature in an anaerobic condition. Think beans. Serve those beans burbling hot!

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Menu:

honey gold bread

dark rye whole wheat bread

pork ribs with hot tamarind plum sauce – 9 slabs

salmon with Thai sauce and salmon with brown sugar lemon and caper sauce– 6 flanks

2 bins of barbeque beans;   (three lbs dry) both vegetarian

Gold Country Cake: double layer golden cake with blackberry filling and cream cheese frosting *recipe to follow in next post

10 pies/ four apple, two grape, two rhubarb custard, one peach.

at least one case sodas, five gallons plain water, a case of beer, whatever wine is in the house. Set outdoors in shade, embedded in ice in coolers. I like to pre-rinse bottles and cans so the melting ice is not full of unwelcome bacteria.

Tuesday

clean fridge and ovens

continue clean-up house/yard

treat and trim roses

make cakes

pick apples, lemons, Thai lime leaves, bay leaves for beans, thyme, whatever else is in season in the yard

do basic food shopping except for salmon.

Wednesday

make pastry for pies/ roll and store in fridge — At least eighteen crusts this last time.

make fillings for cake

make sauce to be used on Thai salmon

make rib rub

clean house (yuck)

Thursday

make all possible pie fillings — pack and store in fridge

set beans to soak overnight

Friday

boil till tender, then bake those beans with all sorts of flavorings –best to have two distinct flavors.

assemble and bake pies

strip ribs of silver skin/ dry salt them, bag in fridge.

(assemble/finish cake– this can be put off to tomorrow)

make sauces for salmon

Just before bed, mix two kinds of bread dough and go scant on the yeast so they won’t take over the world by morning. These are safe to leave on the counter if you use no milk or egg in the recipes.

Get tables from neighbors!

Set Up Suggestions

Two days before

Clean Property– there’s always more to do on this

The Day Before

Move all benches, chairs, etc., into position

Make tables with OSB boards and wooden horses if you run short

Borrow chairs & benches from neighbors

Pull out camp coolers

String Christmas lights all over the place but make sure they will not catch anyone of height

On The Day

Go buy the salmon and loads of ice

Set drinks to cool

-Power & light to cooking area outside by grills

– Power & desk lamps to tables

As people arrive,

– have hors d’ouevres go to outside front table

– All desserts to remain “distant” at first, but bring out to table early after serving of main meal Otherwise if served inside the mess on carpets is phenomenal.

SATURDAY SCHEDULE FOR COOK

Obtain salmon and ice

Morning– fuss around and do some pick up

12:30 assemble cake

1pm start ribs at 250 F CAN DO THIS IN GRILL or inside ovens

3 form bread loaves or rolls

3:00 ribs to grill if not already there

3:30- 4:00 bake bread in relays

4:00 beans to second oven to reheat

6:00- 6:30 oven-poach salmon

Grab a glass of your favorite beverage and drift about watching people eat. The real trick is that if you invite over a hundred people to dinner asking them only to bring the details and vegetables and salads, they will be happy even if you overcook something! People really love the scent and sight of fresh bread but it’s one of the easiest things to make. Just don’t forget the butter!

party underway1

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Salmon Again?

salmon and lemons

The Kid Complained: Salmon Again? (so we tried something new)

a flank of salmon, without skin

sauce:

3-4 tablespoons of capers

3 tablespoons of ranch dressing

1 teaspoon of herbes de Provence

black pepper, fresh ground, plenty

about fifteen pitted chopped Kalamata olives

for pan:

fifteen more pitted Kalamata olives

1/2 Eureka lemon sliced paper thin and seeded if necessary

1/2 Meyer lemon ditto

brown sugar to dredge lemons

—————————————————————————–

Commence by rinsing salmon in very cold water; drain and pat dry before laying it in your baking dish. Fold under any parts that are thinner than the main body of the piece so as to reduce overcooking.

Combine sauce ingredients, pour over fish…scatter the remaining olives around fish in pan.

Dredge thin slices of lemons in brown sugar and arrange down middle of fish.

Bake at 350 degrees until done to your taste– I prefer barely set to opaqueness, and still a tad translucent in the center.

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glorious food

 

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                   I sit here at the computer patting my warm sleek black cat who purrs as though it all means something. But cat, I’m procrastinating. There are soaked kidney beans to be boiled then baked this afternoon in slathers of molasses, packed with sweet onions and mixed with mustard. There are chicken thighs to be spiced and stuffed with olives and medjool dates, capers to be cast, lemon juice to be sprinkled.
      Pie crusts range upon the counters, clamoring to be filled with sliced apples, nutmeg and cinnamon, crumbled brown sugar and more lemon juice. Grape pie filling sits in bowls, waiting for the final prep and the plunge into the hot oven. Both the apples and the grapes grew upon this little property as did all the lemons I use like a chorus.
     I have two flavors of bread dough to start today so it gets the tang of an overnight rise, I have an enormous cake already baked to split the layers on and spread with mixed-berry jelly before I robe it in cream cheese frosting. Oh yes, let’s not forget imbibing it with syrup as well! Can’t have a grand cake crumble like sawdust in the mouth.
     Stuff those pasillas, corn and goat cheese and a mincing of onions. Mix the spice rubs, a sneeze-worthy combination of paprika and black and white pepper, salt and thyme, a smidge of cloves and a dash of allspice. That’s for the racks of ribs, to be slow-smoked in the grill for four or five hours till the meat is truly melting off the bones. Tomorrow, last minute, I’ll oven-poach flanks of salmon under different glazes, one a buttery European blend of herbs, the other a blazing Thai take with honey and our own violent red peppers fresh from the kitchen garden.
     So, am I cooking for an army? In a way. Tomorrow evening we host the annual welcome party for faculty, staff, graduate students, alumni and fellows of the university’s department of Earth Sciences. An army of people who every year work to better understand this earth on which we stand. Earthquake hunters, fossil seekers, people who snuff along spying on the mysterious ways of water. Our army, Earth’s army, in a long struggle that moves without much note from the rest of the world. Must make sure that if anyone leaves hungry it’s his/her fault not mine!
     I’m a Fellow of the department. I joke I’m entitled to the name of Robin Goodfellow by their honor. What am I doing? Procrastinating.
      See you after the feast.
     Yours,
            Puck

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