Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dinner for Eight

When I finally write my Divalicious Guide to Entertaining, it will be entitled: "Only an Idiot Hosts a Dinner Party in August." Or, perhaps more cheerfully: "Only an Optimist Hosts a Dinner Party in August." Turns out I'm a little bit of both.

I did indeed throw a dinner party on Sunday night. It is, in fact, August ... and ... good grief, its hot as hell. We're finally being treated to a week of weather I had sincerely hoped to avoid. And try as I might to avoid cooking, some good friends were in town and a party was had. I fired up both my air conditioner and the crock pot, and got down to business.

Now, there's a popular school of thought which insists one should not try a new recipe when preparing for guests. Will anyone be surprised when I say that this is rule I've broken in spades? No? Right! In the kitchen at least, I'm fearless, a risk-taker, convinced of my own invincibility. Thus I threw caution to the wind, secured an enormous shoulder of pork and made something I've never cooked before ...

Chile Verde Soft Tacos:

For the Pork:
  • one 5 to 6 pound, boneless, pork shoulder
  • some Emeril's Original Essence seasoning blend
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup of chicken stock (I used Emeril's All Natural)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3/4 cup of bottle green chile sauce, any brand will do
Trim the pork shoulder of excess fat, then rub the entire surface of the meat with Emeril's Essence and let it sit while you slice the vegetables. Place the sliced onions, jalapeno, bell pepper, cumin, chicken stock, water and green chile sauce in the bottom of a large crock-pot (slow cooker) and add the seasoned pork shoulder. Slow cook on low setting for 8 hours, turning once or twice, until the meat is fork tender and falling apart.

Remove the cooked meat from the slow cooker to a cutting board and, using two forks, shred the pork. Place the shredded meat into a large, covered, dish - reserve and keep warm. Meanwhile, pour the accumulated liquid from the pot through a strainer, then run it through a de-fatting cup. Discard the fat and pour some of the strained liquid over the shredded pork to moisten. Reserve the remaining liquid, keeping it warm for use at table.

For the Tacos:
  • cooked shredded pork shoulder
  • some thinly sliced radishes
  • some thinly sliced red onions
  • plenty of chopped fresh cilantro
  • some shredded sharp cheddar cheese, or cheese of your choice
  • some wedges of fresh lime
  • a variety of hot sauces, Tabasco, Sriracha, Habanero, whatever you like
  • some fresh white corn or whole wheat tortillas, warmed
To assemble the tacos, place some shredded pork into a warmed tortilla, top it with a bit of radish, some sliced red onions, plenty of cilantro, and drizzle the whole shebang with a wedge of lime. Add some hot sauce of your choice, a bit of cheese if you like, roll up and inhale! Repeat, often!

Honestly, I can't say enough good things about this meal! It was one of the easiest and most delicious creations I have ever served. A bit of prep work, and your slow cooker will do the rest. I served family style, letting each guest dive into the offerings to create their own unique mix. I high recommend the radish/onion combo - and, personally, I don't think you need the cheese ... but my guests disagree. Serving the strained juices to pour over the meat at table is a nice touch. The liquid is so beautifully flavored you could almost drink it on its own. And for heaven's sake, please don't skip the hot sauce. We like the Sriracha, but anything you enjoy will do.

This was a fun and festive meal, made all the more so by the inclusion of the Emeril's goodies I received through the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program. They sent a bunch of us lucky bloggers some of Emeril's products to enjoy and I must say the Original Essence was a perfect addition to this dish. This was my first time working with Emeril's line. I used the Essence in place of a salt and pepper rub on the pork and it was fantastic.

Naturally we had some appetizers, dessert, plenty of wine and spirits as well. To round out the meal I served a large garden salad and an outrageously good fresh corn pudding. I'll be posting the corn pudding recipe on Friday ... stay tuned.

In this case, the risk yielded some delicious rewards. The food was magnificent and the party was a huge success. So, where do you stand on issue of trying a new recipe for guests? Do you stick with the tried and true, or are you a risk-taker like me? Curious Diva wants to know!

Bon appetite!


Heavenly Housewife said...

Your meal looked beautiful.
I get really nervous about having people over. its a lot of work. I usually make things i am confident about, but usually i also try a new dish too (as with indian food you are supposed to have several dishes on the table, not just one). That being said, i have messed up tried and true foods (like rice!) when guests have come over. I guess sometimes that happens when you try too hard.

Melissa Good Taste said...

chile verde. Chile Verde. CHILE VERDE! I am obsessed with the stuff!

pixelgal said...

Oh my dear Diva; Every day you should thank your lucky stars and the Man upstairs that you didn't get my cooking genes! I can count on one hand the times I've tried new recipes with company coming and on one finger the success story. Usually the untried stuff results in something resembling the fabled C.S. of appetizer fame. And every day I thank God for our proximity to stores that sell decent and quickly prepared emergency meals. I'm proud of you!

The Diva on a Diet said...

HH - my many years of entertaining have taught me that sometimes less is more. In this case I was hosting good friends and wanted to keep the food appropriately casual. I know well from reading your blog that entertaining your hubby's family is a BIG deal ... so I hear what you're saying.

Melissa - As well you should be obsessed ... its damn good stuff!

Pixelgal - your comment puts me in mind of that microwave meal oh-so-long-ago! LOL

That said, you don't give yourself enough credit ... many's the delicious dish that has been served at your table!! xoxoxox

The Duo Dishes said...

The less oven you can use in the summer, the better. Oh well, just blast the air and give the guests more cocktails. They'll eat everything right on up!

Anonymous said...

Yum, the taco look so good!

Katherine Aucoin said...

I guess I'm both too because i am having a get together this Saturay night and trying a bunch of new recipes. Your tacos totally rock! What a fun dinner party!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Duo - indeed we did ... and indeed, they did! LOL

foodnfit - thank you! :)

Katherine - excellent, then I'm in fine company! Can't wait to read about your menu too. Have fun and stay cool (if possible)!

Anonymous said...

You had me at Tabasco!

I love pork shoulder - my store routinely carries it for .99 cents a pound so I luck out!

The first time I made my husband my pork bbq, he thought I was mad when I cooked it in the crock pot!

Astra Libris said...

Such a gorgeous dish!! I love how you used the crockpot method, too! I'm looking forward to trying your recipe soon!

I am SO with you on trying new recipes - I always try new recipes when guests come over! It's a bit of a risk, yes, but soooo much fun! :-) I'm so happy I'm not the only one who breaks this rule! :-)

Donna-FFW said...

What a great choice for a crowd! Sounds fantastic. Your table looked gorgeous as well.

I like to do a mix, some old and some new. I always appreciate feedback on new dishes!

Anonymous said...

The tacos look fantastic! I love breaking the rules and having delicious results :)

words...words...words... said...

Those tacos look delicious! I would have never thought to add radish, but I bet it works great.

I love trying a new dish on the rare occasion I have guests. I'm not much a thrill seeker, but this is the kind of tightrope I think it's fun to walk on.

Anonymous said...

I love soft tacos and, I love your chairs. Are they antique? In fact, I don't care what the weather is like, I can imagine myself sitting in one of those enjoying one of your recipe experiments very easily. (Was that hint far too blatant?).

The Diva on a Diet said...

biz319 - wow, .99 cents is incredible! Pork shoulder is very economical ... though I paid quite a bit more than that. City prices ... grrr.

Astra - thank you! I'm trying to make good on my New Year's resolution to make better friends with my crockpot. Don't tell anyone that this is the first time I've used it since then! LOL

Donna - thank you! I like doing the mix of old and new as well. Its nice to know I'm not the only risk-taker out there. ;)

5 Star - its good to trust yourself and break the rules ... sometimes you can just tell a dish will be fantastic. It helps to dine with good friends too ... for the dishes that aren't!

words words words - I think the radishes are fairly traditional, or at least they seem to adorn many of the Mexican dishes I've had while dining out. They're a yummy addition for sure. I agree about this kind of tight-rope walking as well.

Dana - You are welcome any time! I mean that sincerely. The chairs, as well as the rest of the dining room set, are antiques at this point. They were given to us by my husband's grandparents when we bought our apartment. I love them too and the china cabinet that came with is gorgeous. I feel so blessed to have inherited them.