chinese new year

7 Feb

I love dinner clubs. So much so that I’m in two of them. They are both very different. One is with some of my best college friends and their spouses who are now some of my best gal pals. This meal of the month club is a great excuse to get together monthly despite crazy busy schedules.  The host couple picks a theme (though theme is not required) and everyone brings something. It is very casual and more about the company than the food.  With that being said, we’ve had some awesome meals. Even for the non-cooks out there, this is a great fun.

I’m also  in a Gourmet Dinner Club that is most definitely about the food but as it turns out the company is just as awesome! This club started when my friend Kari and I went to see Lynne Rosetto Kasper at the Fitz. We bought her new cookbook, How to Eat Supper (which I love and you can read more about here) and vowed to get together to try a few recipes. We did and had a blast. We decided we should get some interesting peeps together who liked to cook so we could get together on a regular basis to cook things we wouldn’t necessarily try on a regular Wednesday night. The whole point was trying things you hadn’t made before. We each recruited a couple people and voila – Gourmet Dinner Club was formed.  We take turns hosting and the host gets to pick the theme and direct the rest of the group to what they should bring. You could assign courses, certain dishes, whatever floats your boat.  In some cases we cook together and others we bring our dish already made.  Some of our themes have been: the color red, Prince songs (your dish had to be inspired by a Prince song), aphrodisiacs, Italian wine pairings, Oktoberfest, ginger, and pizza just to name a few. We have made some really fabulous meals and it is a shame I have not chronicled more of them here. So, I’m going to start.

I hosted our last gathering and the theme was Chinese New Year. Each person had to research traditional Chinese New Year dishes and bring whichever one they wished – as long as they brought the background of the dish as well. They excelled at their homework. We had a feast.

Setting the mood...

Did you know that the Chinese New Year is all about things that are lucky or that symbolize good fortune? The color Red is very traditional on this holiday, which is why I had Pomegranate martinis available.

Her cheeks match the drink!

On Chinese New year, you do not eat in courses, instead you lay out a big feast – and feast we did!

Liza made pot-stickers with two different dipping sauces. Here’s a peak at the pot-stickers:
I have yet to meet a pot-sticker I didn’t like. These were no exception – delish.

Natalie made Chinese long beans – and they were really long!

You needed two spoons to keep them tame plus they sounded rice krispies in the pan – snap! crackle! pop!

Annette took Longevity Noodles (symbolizing a long healthy life) to a whole new level. They were the longest noodles I had ever seen – like 3 feet long. We will all live very long lives because of those noodles. However, they weren’t just noodles. No, she wrapped her noodle around a scrumptious pork meatball that had a quail egg inside. Who thinks of that??? Annette, that’s who.

As the host, I made the main dish.  I made a whole fish – as it is bad luck to serve fish or chicken or duck in any way but whole. This was my first time cooking a whole fish so I was a bit intimidated.  I went with Black Sea Bass as that seemed to be a Chinese favorite. I named my fish Fletch. Why did I name him? Not sure, but for whatever reason Chevy Chase floated through my brain when I was at Coastal Seafood and all I could think about was “Fletch Lives”. So, my fish became Fletch. Here’s how Fletch turned out. I served him over stir-fried Chinese greens with fillets of black cod with a white miso crust. (they only had one small whole fish which would not feed all of us hungry cooks, so I added some fillets to the mix)

He could not have been easier to make and he was delicious.  The fillets turned out great too and were also very easy. It’s funny how fish intimidates so many people yet it is one of the easiest and quickest things to cook.

I always thought he was looking at me. What creeps me out about this shot is the teeth. We left the head alone.

We ended up with two desserts. I consider that the luckiest omen of the evening. Who doesn’t want two desserts?

Lee made a dessert bar with rice flour and adzuki beans. Yep, beans in bars. Sweet, chewy, chinese-y.

Kari opted for black sweet sticky rice topped with warm coconut milk, jack-fruit and lychees. LOVED the sticky rice.

Then there was the Tray of Togetherness. Throughout the Chinese New Year season, it is customary to offer guests an assortment of treats from a Tray of Togetherness (chuen-hop) – a tray filled with an assortment of symbolic foods to provide a sweet beginning to the New Year. The tray has eight compartments, as the Chinese consider the number eight to be extremely lucky. I don’t think we got very lucky with the taste of the goodies in the Tray of Togetherness. Most of it was very sweet dried fruits. I did enjoy the sweetened coconut.

Also featured in this photo are some Chinese candies that taste like butterfingers, oranges – which are extremely lucky, and fortune cookies, even though they did not actually originate in China. I still like them so I went with it. Who doesn’t like opening a fortune cookie?

It was a fantastic evening! I wish I had more photos of the people so you can meet the chefs, but that will have to wait until next time.

In the meantime – do you have a dinner club or some variation of one? Please share! Or share if you want to be in one – I’m happy to share some tips on how to get it started.


6 Responses to “chinese new year”

  1. Kris February 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    I am part of a dinner club, and have been for oh, probably 6 years now. When I joined there were 5 others (2 couples), a woman whose husband did not participate and myself, also sans husband. There have been fluctuations – someone who was a member before me rejoined for about a year, the loss of a husband through divorce and finally the loss of another member due to a move. So recently we’ve been having 2-3 guests per dinner until we get a couple new, permanent members. Host rotates. Host chooses the theme (past ones: black & blue, apples & pumpkin, Indian, on a stick, hot sauce, to name a few). Members pick the course they want to make but rarely do we know the recipe each other is making. Since none of us are endowed with big kitchens, everyone’s dish is pretty much ready to eat when we arrive. It’s a great time and I’ve gotten to try so many things I wouldn’t have made at my own house.

  2. Lee February 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    IT truly was a feast. The Gourmet Dinner Club has been so much fun and really gotten me to try cooking some dishes that I normally wouldn’t have.
    Thanks Jen – for hosting featuring us in the blog.
    Well put!

  3. Susan February 11, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Fletch???? LOVE that you named him (her?)

    food looks amazing as always!


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