Another month, another supper club. This time we explored the heights (or depths) of American cuisine with a trailer trash/church potluck theme. Some of this stuff I grew up with (in the form of Grange potlucks), some of it was new to me. Altogether it was an oddly successful dinner.
It was a beautiful July evening, warm but not too hot and not too buggy. The table was set on the deck where we could watch the sunlight creep up the mountain across the lake.
Some people got into the spirit of the evening a bit more than others.
For starters, there were Cheetos. I don’t know what it is, there are plenty of other cheesy poof-type snacks that I love but original Cheetos are just so goddamn tasty.
Linda brought this excellent spread of homemade pate packed in a Spam can (so sneaky) with good mustard and both water crackers and Ritz. In the course of preparing food for this dinner, Linda discovered that she actually loves Ritz crackers and was suitably appalled with herself.
We had an assortment of wines, some token cans of Bud Lite that went completely unmolested, and a bottle of gin that was misleadingly filled with sun tea.
And then there were jello shots. Jon made these, after a couple of false starts at home, and they turned out fabulously (instructions and recipe link below). The margarita gelatin was set in lime halves, which were then cut to create realistic-looking lime wedges.
The other shots were made from a sweetened version of our favorite Diva Quaranta cocktail, with gin, pomegranate juice and campari, and they were excellent as well.
Finally we sat down to our first course, an elegantly plated selection of nibbles which included homemade vienna sausage (knockwurst in aspic), vegetable salad, and pimiento cheese on tiny toasts.
Then I made Frito pie. I wanted to serve this in little individual-size bags of Fritos but our local grocery store didn’t have them, so I had to plate it up properly. The chili was my basic, from-scratch recipe with beef, pinto beans, slow-cooked sweet onions and a can of Tecate. Poured over Fritos it attained an almost mystical deliciousness.
After that everything was served family style. There was a crock-pot tater tot casserole, because of course we had to have tater tots.
And an ambrosia salad, made exactly like I remember from my childhood.
There was a baked ham studded with pineapple and maraschino cherries, which apparently do not go with wine, at least not any of the wines we were drinking. There was also a bean salad, which apparently eluded my camera.
For dessert Jon and I attempted a recreation of an old Grange dessert I barely remembered from my youth, called Republican Dessert (apparently so called because it’s very rich). We found a few weird-looking recipes on line, then adapted a bit. The crust was chopped pecans mixed with butter and sugar, then toasted. The first layer was cream cheese frosting, and the next one was caramel-bourbon pudding (rather runny). On top of that went freshly whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.
Because the pudding was so runny and the evening so warm, it kind of turned into soup as we served it, but it was strangely compelling and all of it was eaten.
What a great party!
Cocktail Jello Shots
We wanted to avoid using flavored Jello, because that’s just disgusting. The trouble with using unflavored gelatin with a classic cocktail recipe, though, is that it comes off very bitter if you don’t bump up the sweetness. Jon used this recipe for his margarita wedges, and it worked like a charm. He had this to say about the Diva shots:
The basic recipe is 4 oz booze, 4 oz juice/water, 4 oz sugar and 1 packet of unflavored gelatin. For the Campari/POM shots I mixed 3 oz of POM, 1 oz of water and the sugar together, then sprinkled the gelatin over the top and let it sit for a few minutes while the gelatin softened. Then gently heat it until the sugar and gelatin are completely dissolved – don’t boil it. Remove it from the heat and add 3 oz of gin and 1 oz of Campari and pour it into Dixie cups. I saw suggestions of spraying the insides of the cups with Pam or other cooking spray, but we don’t have any so I didn’t. Since I didn’t, the jello didn’t want to come out of the cups so I cut off the bottom of the cup with a paring knife, rand the knife around the sides and slid the jello out and cut it into rounds.