Sunday Family Dinner

Swimming Spot Prawns & Fiery Lamb – It’s Fam Din Time!

July Fam Din Collage
July is another month with lots of birthdays in the fam. Seester N, Seester P, Bro-in-law R, Niece Luna and about a GAZILLION of cousins!  Ok, maybe we’re just a tad shy of a gazillion but really, not by much.

So for this month, N and R got to pick the menu for Fam Din–and boy, did they choose a doozy!

July 2016 Fam Din
I’m typically assigned the task of making the themed cocktails for dinner —which is totally fine because this gal truly does love her some adult beverages! Shocking, I know.

Since it was so hot and humid, I was leaning towards some type of margarita. I gave N a few options and she gave the thumbs on passion fruit. So I broke out the citrus juicer and ended up with about a quart of lime juice. THANK GOODNESS for electric citrus juicers because without it, I’d still be sitting in my seestrah’s kitchen squeezing limes. Foh-evah.

Once done, I combined the lime juice with freshly made simple syrup, triple sec, passion fruit juice and of course, tequila. YASSSS!!! I really enjoyed the tartness from both the passion fruit and limes–definitely making them again.

July 2016 Fam Din
Now say helloooooo to my little friend…..the sweet Spot Prawn.

These little buggers were seestrah’s choice for an appetizer and were swimming around the tank at the store when we picked them up earlier that day.

By the way, if you’re squeamish, just quickly scroll through to the next section.

July 2016 Fam Din

We gobbled the Spot Prawns two ways…..

First—sashimi style. We dipped them in just a bit of soy and wasabi and they were incredible! Truly sweet and fresh.

July 2016 Fam Din
Then we took the prawn heads and tossed them in a rice flour–you can also use cornstarch or tempura flour. My niece Nini deep fried them until they were golden and quickly sprinkled sea salt over them once they were out of the hot oil.

They were divine!! Perfectly crunchy and we still got a little bit of the prawn flesh in conjunction to the money bite. You know—the bite that’s filled with the tomalley-like goodness. Utterly rich, decadent and full of prawn flavor.

And seriously, if you’re freaked out by this, I kind of feel sorry for you but just pass yours right over to me because I will DEVOUR them!

July 2016 Fam Din
We also picked up some Octopus to nosh on. N sliced the tentacle super thin so that it was tender and easier to eat. Nini then made the perfect dipping sauce which had things like ponzu, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, scallions, paprika and anything else she could find in the pantry.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for the birthday boy, he wanted Lamb. Seester T, marinated lamb racks and loin chops overnight with a bunch of herbs, garlic and citrus zest.

When it was time for entrees, she had the boys grill them up and they nailed it.

July 2016 Fam Din

Initially, they were a bit concerned about the char due to the flare ups they had since the lamb was a bit fatty. But once the meat was rested, we sliced in and found a perfect medium-rare to medium.

Yeah, I guess we’ll keep those boys around after all.

July 2016 Fam Din
Seester fixed up a Mint Pesto to dunk the Lamb into.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for sides, we charred up some fresh Artichokes and N made a light Gremolata to drizzle over them to brighten things up.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for my side dish contribution, I made this Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Wild Mushrooms. Super easy and low fuss to make—plus, it’s perfect at room temp. I’ll be sharing the recipe with y’all in a few days.

July 2016 Fam Din
And then it was dessert time!!

Since we had two birthday babies, they each got their own dessert. I know, it was something I started back in April for Lucas and bro in law C and now I can’t stop.

R said he wanted something chocolate and peanut butter. After mulling over it a bit, I decided to make a batch of NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies (that he L-O-V-E-S) and sandwiched chocolate & peanut butter cup ice cream in between.

It was a total mess to eat but who cares when it’s a WINNER likes this!

July 2016 Fam Din
For Seestrah, it was much harder to decide what to make. She doesn’t really have a favorite dessert and likes an array of things. Since we already had something chocolate for R, I gave her several fruit options and she chose this Roasted Peach Napoleon.

There are essentially 3 components to this dessert which I was able to make earlier in the day and enlisted Nina to help assemble it. First up, I made the pastry cream which came together quite quickly. While the cream chilled, I roasted up the peaches and then baked off the puff pastry sheets.

Nina then layered it all together and we dug in!

Ok, technically there were candles, singing, wishes, and some presents before we dug in—but you get the picture.

July 2016 Fam Din
All in all, I think it was a delicious way to celebrate N and R!

Definitely stick around because August’s Dinner will have all 5 Nguyen Siblings + kids and fam in attendance and we’ll be cooking up the spirit of Aloha with a Hawaiian Lu’au spread!  ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Passion Fruit Margaritas
Appetizers: Sashimi Style Spot Prawns, Crispy Fried Spot Prawns Head, Octopus Sashimi
Entrees: Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto
Sides: Charred Artichokes with Gremolata, Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Wild Mushrooms
Dessert: Roasted Peach Napoleon, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Drinks · Sunday Family Dinner

Summer Grilling Family Dinner + Fresh Peach Bellinis

Grilled Lobster with Cilantro Chile Butter

We’ve got a fair amount of July Babies in our family. Though, let’s be honest…with a family as large as ours, there are a lot of babies year round. Big Seester N, Big Seester P, brother-in-law, niece, several cousins, an auntie, an uncle….and that just includes the family in the states!

For July’s Sunday Family Dinner, we celebrated 2 of our July babies—Big Seester N and my brother-in-law R. As for theme? We kept the menu quite straight forward but pretty dang delicious.

Summer Grillin’

And of course, since we were celebrating, there had to be a bit of decadence. In the form of lobsters. Lots of lobsters.

N was totally freaking out Lucasaurus with them.

July 2013 Family Dinner

Seester T staffed the grill for a good portion of our meal which totally amused her hubs, the birthday boy.

July 2013 Family Dinner

Now what’s a Sunday Family Dinner without cocktails? Surely not one of ours!

This month we toasted with Fresh Peach Bellinis. Granted they weren’t grilled but they definitely were a nod to summer using wonderfully sweet, white peaches. After adding a few spoonfuls of fresh white peach puree and a squeeze of lime to champagne flutes, I topped off each glass with bubbly Prosecco.

Simply perfect.

Peach Bellinis

And of course, we had to take our mandatory-monthly Seesters pic while holding our cocktails.

Seesters

Our menu included:

Grilled Rosemary Flatbread.

Grilled Flat Bread

Grilled Pacific Oysters……..

Grilled Oysters

A few Grilled Ginormous Prawns…….

Grilled Prawns

Rosemary Garlic Lamb Rib Chops……….

Grilled Lamb Chops

and Grilled Lobsters with Cilantro-Chile Butter…….

Grilled Lobster with Cilantro Chile Butter

Did I mention that our kiddos have quite the refined palates?

And I think they’re uber adorable.

July 2013 Family Dinner

For dessert? Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée that my niece, Nina, made. Although technically not made on the grill, she did torch the tops to brûlée it.

Totally counts. 🙂

Creme Brulee

The kiddos also made this adorable sign for the birthday babies—I loved that they used their nicknames!

image_1

Not only was the dinner scrumptious but it was fairly low maintenance with at least 80% of the “cooking” done on the grill. The cherry on top? It made clean up a breeze!

Peach Bellinis

And for those who cannot travel to Venice to try the original Bellini at Harry’s Bar, give my version a spin. My Seester said it’s pretty darn close to the real thing 🙂

CHEERS to another memorable Sunday Family Dinner!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Peach Bellini
Appetizers: Rosemary Grilled Flatbread, Grilled Oysters, Grilled Prawns
Entrees: Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops, Grilled Lobsters with Cilantro-Chile Butter
Dessert: Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

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Fresh Peach Bellinis
Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 ripe white peaches, pitted and quartered
1/4 cup water
1-2 tablespoons sugar, optional
4 lime wedges
chilled Prosecco or other sparkling wine

Add the peaches and water into a blender. Depending on the sweetness of the peaches, add sugar as needed. Puree until smooth. Optional: Strain the peach puree through a fine-meshed strainer.

Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the peach puree into each glass. Squeeze the juice of a lime wedge into each glass and slowly top with the chilled Prosecco. Gently stir each glass before serving. Cheers!

Note: The Bellinis shown here are garnished with yellow peaches, however, the cocktails were made with the traditional white peach.

Lamb · Sunday Family Dinner

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

I’ve been rather bad about reporting on our Family Dinners over the past few months. And not because our menus weren’t delish but somehow amongst the endless events, time slipped by.

December’s dinner menu featured Mexican-inspired fare. We had a variety of fresh salsas, chicharrón, ceviche, salmon-dill tacos, rice, and beans. I whipped up some mango margaritas and my beer braised carnitas. And although it may not have been Latin, our sis, P, made a ridiculously amazing chocolate bread pudding. The icing on the cake? It was our adorable nephew, Leonidas’ 1st birthday!

February Family Dinner

For January, we let my seester, T, and our niece pick the theme as they’re Jan-Babies. So we were off to the islands for mouthwatering, ono grindz! Our spread included mai tais and my take on hamachi-ponzu shooters. Our eldest seester created a wonderfully light yet fulfilling banana leaf-wrapped monk fish with a curry sauce. And for dessert? Big seester made molten lava chocolate cakes and paired them with my toasted coconut ice cream and guava ice cream.

With island music playing throughout dinner, it was almost—almost like we were in Hawai’i. <le sigh….>

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

For this month, we revisited Italia. Big seester got me a ravioli mold for Christmas and we were eager to give them a try. For our entrées, we had raviolis three ways: butternut squash with brown butter sage sauce, spicy sausage with a marinara sauce, and lump crab with a pesto sauce. They were quite the success considering it was our first time making raviolis. And because I learned from October’s Family Dinner, I invested in a hand crank pasta machine. Best…idea…ever.

Since I knew it was going to take us some time to get the raviolis to the dinner table, I wanted to make a heartier-than-usual appetizer. We’re a big fan of lamb chops so I turned to my trusted recipe using a ton of rosemary and garlic. By slicing the racks into rib chops while giving them ample time to marinate, the lamb is able to seep in a ton of great flavor. And because my fam loves condiments, I made a quick and herbaceous gremolata to pair with the lamb to help brighten the gamey flavor.

We also found that a light sprinkle of sea salt over the rib chops not only added the perfect seasoning but it also added some great texture. My fam gobbled these appetizers up in no time flat but they can also be served as a mouthwatering entrée.

Can’t wait until next month’s Fam-Din!

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Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Lamb
½ cup chopped rosemary
2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
16 lamb rib chops, Frenched and trimmed (approximately 2 Frenched racks)
kosher salt and black pepper

Gremolata
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

Optional
sea salt

In a small bowl, mix together the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, red chili flakes and olive oil. Place the lamb rib chops in a large shallow dish or gallon sized resealable bags. Season the lamb well with kosher salt and black pepper. Pour the herb mixture over the lamb and turn the chops around to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours (I like mine to marinate overnight).

Prepare gremolata by adding parsley, basil, garlic, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes into a food processor. Pulse to combine. On low, stream in the olive oil until you reach a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the lamb 15 minutes before cooking. Preheat grill to medium high. Grill the chops on each side for 2-3 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F for rare or 135-140 degrees F for medium. Allow the lamb to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the lamb rib chops with a sprinkle of sea salt over the top (optional) and gremolata.

Desserts/Pastries

Valentine’s Dinner…The Sequel

Our travels to New York left us quite weary and in need of some substantial rest. With that said, the BF still managed to take his gal out for a romantic Valentine’s Dinner—the same lovely spot that we had celebrated our 1st Valentine’s Day 4 years before. 🙂 What a sweetie.

A few days later, I decided to pull together dinner to reciprocate the love and extend the Valentine’s Day celebrations. I admit my final entrée wasn’t exactly what I had in mind at first. In fact, I had hoped to try my hand at a crispy duck breast but after 5 stores later (which included poultry shops and specialty stores) I was left “duckless”. Who knew duck would be so hard to find—especially non-frozen ones? I’ll definitely have to plan a week ahead next time. 🙂

I settled on making a rack of lamb but served it with a side dish that I hadn’t used before—polenta. After all, my 2010 Foodie Goal was to cook with an ingredient that I had never previously used…..and for February, it was polenta.  As opposed to our regular lamb chops preparation, I went with a traditional marinade of rosemary-garlic-lemon zest & juice-olive oil. I was hoping this brighter flavor would compliment the sautéed mushroom medley and polenta cakes.  (The latter was inspired by my dear cousin—author of Nutrition to Kitchen).

But I believe the star of the evening was dessert…..a Dark Chocolate Torte with a Cabernet-Berry Coulis. Rich, decadent, divine, and just screamed of Valentine’s after plating. Hey, I needed to pull out the big guns since I couldn’t produce the duck. 🙂

The results? I believe the BF was very happy with our dinner—particularly with dessert as he kept on repeating, “This is craaaazzzyyy….”. I took that for “crazy good” than “crazy bad” as he had a second helping of dessert. 🙂

Lessons learned from this dinner:
1) When attempting something “special” or out of the ordinary, plan ahead;
2) When things don’t go as planned, don’t be afraid to quickly jump to Plan B;
3) Chocolate and Wine makes EVERYTHING better;
4) Don’t wait for only Valentine’s Day to show someone you love how much you care about them.

Here’s to 365 Days of Valentine’s Celebration!

*Note: I’ve only included my preparation of the Dark Chocolate Torte with the Cabernet-Berry Coulis as this was the extra special component to dinner 🙂

Rosemary-Lemon Rack of Lamb with Sauteed Mushroom Medley and Crispy Polenta Cakes

Dark Chocolate Torte with Cabernet-Berry Coulis

Dark Chocolate Torte with a Cabernet-Berry Coulis
Ingredients:

Dark Chocolate Torte
1 2/3 Cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli)
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli)
1 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I used Ghirardelli)
2 Teaspoons Instant Espresso Powder
5 Large Eggs
1 Cup Granulated Sugar

Cabernet-Berry Coulis
3 Cups Frozen Mixed Berries (Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries)
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest

Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Using a 9-inch spring form pan, generously cover the bottom and sides with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper. In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips with butter in 20-30 second intervals in the microwave. Be sure to stir the chocolate between each interval and be careful to not burn the chocolate as different ovens vary in temperature. Melt and stir until smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso and cool for 15 minutes.

In a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until extremely thick. I did this for about 8-9 minutes. Gently fold in chocolate mixture and be careful not to deflate egg mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake torte until tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached, about 40 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if it looks cracked. Cool in pan on rack for at least 1 hour—the center of the torte will drop. Using a long thin knife, run blade along the sides of the pan to assist in releasing the cake and remove sides. Place plate on top of torte and flip onto plate. Remove pan bottom and peel off parchment paper. Continue to cool at room temperature.

While torte is cooling, place all coulis ingredients in a medium sized, heavy saucepan. Simmer on medium-low until berries have broken down and the wine has cooked off. Approximately 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

To serve, slice torte into wedges and spoon coulis on top.

**Use the highest quality chocolates and cocoa powder when possible. This will add to the intensity of flavor to your final product.