So, Friday night went off without a single hitch. I was getting worried there, but I pulled it off! (Lesson #1: I need a cleaning person. If I had a cleaning person, I could do this more often.) I even had time to wash and style my hair! The nice thing about paella is that much can be done ahead (did my "mise en place" chopping, etc, the night before, and pre-cooked much of the ingredient list before the guests arrived) and what gets done at the last minute is pure theater!
The house looked pretty festive: I found some great dyed mums at the grocery store and got my "Spanish" element that way, without clashing with my dishes. Which are decidedly NOT Spanish! More of these blossoms were placed around the house to carry the theme. I liked the tablescape with the candlesticks and small vases, rather than a huge flower arrangement. Easier, too. I'm all about easier.
I impressed the two gentlemen guests with my fire-starting prowess: three matches and I had a roaring fire in the family room! The Old Man used to take forever to get a fire going. Heh. Anyway, that's the last of my wood supply, and if spring ever really gets here, I will clean out the fireplace and try to find a source of wood for next year. No, didn't get a photo of the roaring fire. Too busy cooking.
The paella was another learning experience, but I think it came out well for a first attempt. I learned, for example, that my recipe was too big for the pan I bought. Had to leave a bunch of stuff out at the last minute….mostly lobster. Damn. (Not to worry…that container of picked lobster went over to my post-surgery middle son for his lunch the next day! He was thrilled.) Anyway, I realize now that I could have cut the recipe in half for this size pan, and still would still have had plenty of food. Live and learn. On the other hand, if I ever want to make this particular recipe for a crowd of 8-10, I'm gonna need a bigger, um, pan! Lots left over, but the guests got doggy bags and my son got a container, so it was good. I would also, in the future, cook the rice just a wee bit longer. It was a tad "al dente" for me, although the guests declared it perfect. I think the problem was that the pan was a tad too big for the burner, so there were hot spots. I have no idea how to fix that situation. Good thing it goes in the oven for a while.
The other smashing success was my sangria. I kind of improvised on the recipe I had, but it was yummy. In fact, the two red wine guys, drank the sangria with dinner! Two bottles of dry white wine, some peach schnapps, a little Cointreau, lots of fruit (apple slices, lemon and orange slices, strawberries, raspberries) and some Diet Sprite just before serving. REALLY delicious. Will definitely do that again!
Oh, and the piece de resistance (no picture) was dessert. A year or so ago, I treated myself to a new ice cream machine, the kind that has the built-in condenser. So easy to use. Hard to store, but easy to use. The night before the party, I mixed up half a batch of Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Ice Cream base. It's a cooked custard, and the intense cinnamon flavor comes mostly from steeping whole cinnamon sticks in the cream/sugar mixture while it's heating. Oh, yeah, and a whole vanilla bean, with the "caviar" scraped into the mixture helps with the flavor. It is just divine….maybe my favorite ice cream. I don't make ice cream for myself, but it is now my "go to" dessert for company. I even take it when I'm the guest, if I'm not traveling too far. One friend brought some Pepperidge Farm cookies, and rather than a sauce topping, I put out a bowl of my homemade granola. No one complained!
This little paella experiment resulted in four new cookbooks added to my collection, so I guess I better try some of the other recipes, don't you think? I must say, finding Spanish ingredients locally isn't all that easy, but I located a great source online called La Tienda. Not for a while, though: next up is a trip to the Poconos for Easter with my youngest son and his family. Can't wait to see my littlest boys!
PS…..I have to add one other little thing I learned from this party. I've got the wrong tables for uneven numbers! Seriously. I had a tough time figuring out how to seat my friends at my oval dining room table. It's essentially a rectangle with rounded ends, so how do you distribute people? I get the end nearest the kitchen, obviously, but then what? I finally left the chair at the other end empty and put one couple on each side, but that empty chair was kinda weird. I have the same issue with my rectangular trestle table in the kitchen. I've been thinking of getting a round table for the kitchen for a long time but…..the Old Man MADE that oak table when we first moved into the house. How do you get rid of that?! Frankly a round table would fit better in the space, but……just can't do it. Maybe the solution is to invite one more person. Or get a boyfriend…..