How do you give an elegant-but-easy Bridal Shower?
No problem. The bride, Mona Shah, has loads of pals who happen to be chefs. Along with me, the co-hosts were some of OC’s most talented culinarians: Cathy Pavlos (Lucca, Irvine), Delia Snyder (Don the Beachcomber, Huntington Beach), Deb Schneider (Sol, Newport Beach) and Phyllis Ann Marshall (FoodPower, Newport Beach).
The co-host chefs brought dishes to my house. I made some, too.
You know it’s a party when Mr. Wonderful ties balloons to the Boxster.
And Bonnie greets the guests at the gate.
I made two chocolate candy-box cakes a day in advance.
Oodles of chocolate went into the heart-shaped beauties that I made. I bought all the chocolate at Trader Joe’s. The dense cake is laden with ground pecans (and only a smidgen of flour). I served a good-sized dollop of vanilla boosted whipped cream with each mahogany-hued wedge.
Chocolate Candy-Box Cake
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
3/4 cup ground pecans (ground the consistency of cornmeal)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, room temperature, separated
1 tablespoon rum or raspberry liqueur or orange juice
1 teaspoon sugar
CHOCOLATE BUTTER GLAZE:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Garnish: assorted soft-centered chocolate candies ( I used See’s)
1. Position oven rack in the lower third of oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch heart-shaped cake pan with solid vegetable shortening or butter. Dust generously with flour; invert and tap out excess flour. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Use the pan to trace a heart on cardboard; cut out heart and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine pecans and flour; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat. Stir in water and blend until smooth. Place chocolate mixture in a large bowl and stir in 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Cool 5 minutes.
3. Separate eggs, placing yolks in a small bowl and whites in a large bowl or large bowl of electric mixer.
4. Stir egg yolks, a little at a time, into chocolate. Add rum or liqueur and nut-flour mixture; stir to combine.
5. With an electric mixer or electric hand mixer, whip egg whites on medium-low speed until small bubbles appear and the surface is frothy. Increase speed to high and add 1 teaspoon sugar. Whip until soft, white peaks form. Scoop 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate and fold with a rubber spatula. Add remaining egg white and fold.
6. Scoop batter into prepared pan and smooth surface with spatula. Bake 25 minutes or until it feels soft but not liquid in center. Do not overbake because chocolate firms as it cools.
6. Place cake on cooling rack for 20 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and sides of pan. Place cardboard heart on top of cake and invert. Peel off and discard parchment.
7. Prepare glaze. Chop chocolate into matchstick-size pieces.
Place butter in top of double boiler. Top with chocolate. Place over bottom of double boiler that has hot water in it (the water should not touch the bottom of the top pan). Stir occasionally to blend until mixture is smooth, shiny and liquid. If chocolate and butter don’t melt, place over very low heat and stir. Glaze cake, and top with an assortment of chocolate candies, pushing them into the glaze to stabilize their position. (Recipe adapted from baker-cookbook author Flo Braker)
The day before the shower I also made Thai Carrot Soup, a sweet-spicy concoction that I served in demitasse cups as tray-passed appetizers.
Chef Cathy Pavlos served the soup, and no doubt told jokes at the same time.
Thai Carrot Soup
Yield: about 16 to 20 demitasse appetizer servings
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
3 medium-size garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons peeled, chopped fresh ginger
1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 1/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Optional: 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce; see cook’s notes
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 cup light cup coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garnish: Chopped fresh cilantro, toasted sesame seeds Cook’s notes: Fish sauce and coconut milk are available at Asian markets and at some supermarkets with large Asian specialty sections.
1. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, garlic, ginger and carrots; cook 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add broth, pepper flakes, coriander, turmeric, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, peanut butter, brown sugar, sesame oil, and coconut milk; bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover and allow to cool slightly.
2. Process in batches in either food processor fitted with metal blade or blender, until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
3. Store, covered, in refrigerator until ready to serve.
4. Heat on low until simmering gently. Remove from heat and ladle into soup bowls or for an appetizer portion, place in demitasse cups. Garnish soup with chopped fresh cilantro and pinch of toasted sesame seeds.
The hostess quenches her thirst before making a sauce for the salmon.
Rice and Black Bean Salad with a lime-cilantro vinaigrette accompanied the salmon. I garnished the salad with aromatic slices of fresh papaya and lime wedges.
Plus, all the luscious dishes that the chefs brought.
A real feast.
Hooray for Mona, her fiance Paul, and Nicole Caldwell who captured the day in photos!