Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

I was in Kuala Lumpur when my grandma had a giant party to celebrate her 80th birthday, so I wanted to make a nice meal for her while I was in Portland as an (Extremely-Belated) Birthday Dinner… Since my grandma had recently moved and no longer has access to a full kitchen, it was important that everything could be prepped in advance and be re-heated for service with only a microwave and toaster oven. I was already thinking I wanted to do Braised Oxtail as the main course, so this was actually no problem… (If Steph and I can cook in the Motel 6, I can certainly cook in a big apartment that’s just lacking a full kitchen…)

We loaded up my car for our family trip to the coast and left for Salem (which is about halfway between Portland and the beach). For appetizers we served a dish referential of my time in Australia: Trio of Dips (below). I know I should have made one with beets to truly reference our Aussie restaurant experiences, but that’s never been one of my favorites so instead I went with (clockwise from top) a Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip (recipe top secret so as not to steal certain people’s Super Bowl Party dip-making thunder), a Spicy Spinach Dip with Pine Nuts, and a Smoky Chickpea Dip (roughly like this one). We served them with toasted sliced baguette, but I wish we’d had Turkish bread to be more traditional…
The main course was Braised Oxtail with Red Wine Reduction Sauce and Celery Root Mash (topped with yummy fresh-grated horseradish). I really love to make braised dishes like this in the winter, and this is maybe my favorite braised dish I make. (We were even lucky enough to find pig feet that weren’t too hairy, which makes prep much easier and way less icky…) Turns out my grandma really likes braised meat and is also a big fan of celery (celery root, for those of you who haven’t tried it, is a big white root that tastes like an earthier, more intense version of celery), so this ended up being a good choice for her special meal.
My grandma is more of a lemon fan than a chocolate fan, so dessert was the lemon bars I posted about over on my recipe page a few days ago. They are seriously the best lemon bars in the history of baking. Please go make yourself a batch if you like lemon bars (or lemon in general). You’ll be glad you did… They’re shown here served on my mom’s “Special Plate,” which she always gave us on our birthdays when Stanley and I were kids…
After dinner we headed on to the coast… which is another post altogether… But it was really nice to get some quality time with my grandma and to have an excuse to make (and eat) such yummy food.

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