Tuesday, 22 February 2011

An Ultimate Potluck

I'm sure I mentioned in some earlier post that I love potlucks.  I love how people can put their best feet forward and make dishes to please people's taste buds and appetities, how people can get together and enjoy the fruits of each other's labour, and how people can have a good time without exhausting only one or two people being responsible for feeding so many mouths.  The evening after my lunch with friends at Lady of the Lake, I had a party with some fellow Ultimate players to attend, and once again (oh, joy!) it was a potluck.  The hosts were the same people who had a potluck dinner with me last August, and with half of the total guests in attendance being vegetarians of varying degrees, I had to make a dish that could be enjoyed by most if not all the guests.  A richer, belly-warming dish was in order as it was still wintertime, so I opted to make Shrimp Penne with Mushrooms, Sundried Tomato and Red Onion in Cream Sauce.
Shrimp Penne with Mushrooms, Sundried Tomato and Red Onion in Cream Sauce.
Cream Cheese Crab Dip.
Of course, there were some other wonderful dishes that were shared that evening.  Some of the appetizers included homemade guacamole as well as, pictured just above, a cream cheese crab dip.  The creator of this dish kindly revealed to us fellow diners that she used cream cheese, cocktail sauce, Worcestershire sauce, green onions and crab meat (real meat, too, not the imitation stuff).
Vegetarian chili.
Eggplant lasagna.
On top of my pasta dish, there were two other main course items.  First, the hosts made a hearty vegetarian chili made of corn, bell peppers and a variety of beans.  Another guest made an eggplant lasagna in a crock pot; though an unconventional method, it got the job done, and it still tasted great!
Boston Creme Cake.
A look at half of the Boston Creme Cake.
A slice of the Boston Creme Cake.
Lastly, there was the pièce de résistance for dessert, homemade Boston Creme Cake.  Bless the maker, that cake was wonderful!  I definitely appreciated that it wasn't too sweet (especially with the creme and dark chocolate icing) and that the cake was soft and moist.  I'm sure I would've had a second helping had it not been for all the food earlier in the evening.

For some of us who stayed through the night to play some Frisbee Golf on a friend's PS3, I treated us with some Mayan Hot Chocolate that I got from Soma Chocolatemaker over the Christmas break.  Unlike my last attempt here where I just served the thick hot chocolate straight up in small cups, this time I mixed the concoction with hot milk to create a thinner, more quantitative drink with a creamier edge to it.  It was a coincidence that we were discussing over dinner about mixing chili peppers with chocolate, and this version of hot chocolate proved that the two go with each other very nicely, and it capped off another wonderful evening of potluck fun.

Shrimp Penne with Mushrooms, Sundried Tomato and Red Onion in Cream Sauce
450g (1 lb.) penne rigate
12-20 shrimp (depending on size), shells removed
200g (1/2 lb.) mushrooms, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced/chopped/minced
75mL (1/4 cup) sundried tomatoes, julienned

250mL (1 cup) whipping cream
125-250mL (1/2-1 cup) fresh Parmesan, grated
10g (1/3 oz.) fresh herbs (e.g. oregano), stalks discarded
Olive oil
Corn starch (optional for shrimp)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. (Optional) Coat shrimp with some olive oil, corn starch and pepper and set aside for ~15 minutes.  The starch will help give the shrimp its gloss and help it maintain its firm texture when cooked.
  2. Cook penne as per package instructions, reserve up to 250mL (1 cup) of pasta water in case needed later.
  3. Drizzle olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Saute garlic and shrimp (and, if step 1 was skipped, some pepper) until shrimp appear cooked at least on the outside. Remove shrimp from heat and set aside.
  4. Add mushrooms, onion, sundried tomatoes and herbs into pot along with a pinch of salt and a splash of water.  Place lid on pot and let cook over medium high heat for 4-5 min.
  5. Remove lid and pour cream into the pot.  Replace lid and let cook for at least 2 min. until cream is heated and boiling.
  6. Reduce heat to medium low and add Parmesan to the pot, stirring to even the mixture.  Add pasta and stir until evenly coated.  Add pasta water if sauce appears insufficient to coat all of the pasta.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary, remove from heat and serve.

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