Monday, January 16, 2012

Mixed Plate: Feast of the Beast

I could have used that age-old Prince reference and say we were partying like it was 1999 when the year came to a close, but it was more like, it was around midnight when the Meat Sweats kicked in. For whatever flash of temporary insanity my court-appointed lawyer would insist I plea to, a brief moment of madness is all I can come up with to explain why our New Year's Eve became a carnivorous meat feast, which included a 10-pound smoked ham, 16 pounds of roasted turkey flesh (and a fake inflatable bird for show), a large London Broil, platters of charcuterie, and a sweet finish of bacon brownies and bacon/chocolate chip cookies. Are your pores weeping animal fat yet? Mine are.

We Wish You a Happy New Year and a Night of Meat Sweats - Photo by Wasabi Prime
This sounds like a fearful New Years Eve gathering, no? Sinewy cuts of muscle and tendon, tender rivulets of fat and the crackle of salted crisped skin... mmmm... tasty. Maybe I watched too many episodes of The Walking Dead, but the desire to leave out platefuls of fleshy protein goodness was a temptation too good to pass up. A typical New Years Eve gathering with a single roast and some fussy stuffed mushroom caps just seemed "been there, done that," and we owed some friends who have always hosted holiday get-togethers a proper "thank you." We had a few folks come over, a group of full-on Meatatarians who didn't have any big NYE plans and just wanted to keep it intimate, casual and totally carnivorous. It was also a safe option, as we are all hearty boozejuice imbibers, and while our livers are strong with The Force, having it at a house made it easy for people to stay over and not take any unnecessary road risks. We could all Release the Kraken with abandon, with a hearty supply of protein to slow the inevitable demise of brain cells into 2012.

Meat o' Clock... and all's well! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
To be honest, all that barnyard animal fodder wasn't eaten in a single night. Yes, I cooked a 16-pound turkey, but after you break it down and remove the non-meaty parts, you're left with maybe 13 pounds of the edible stuff, likely less once it's cooked. I did a dry rub of Southwestern spices on the bird and let it marinate in the fridge for about two days. I seared everything off in a hot pan and then finished it in the oven. Once it was cool enough to handle, I pulled every scrap of meat off the bones and sliced down the breast into bite-sized chunks. The bird was literally shredded apart, and the meat was used to stuff tacos for the party. Turkey tacos -- Turkos, as Mr. Wasabi was calling them. I know it's not as pretty as showing off a centerpiece roast, but most casual parties are grazing events, you want something you can snack on. The soft corn tortillas got messy towards the end, but I left forks out for easier eating. I did something similar with the large London broil I cooked -- it was seared and sliced thin, then stuffed into a baguette smeared with Dijon mustard and an herb/oil/citrus sauce similar to chimichurri, which was a nice alternative to typical mustard and mayo on bread. The sauce gave the sandwich some bite and the ability to enjoy steak wrapped in bread is a little easier for casual grazing.

Heavenly Smoked Ham, the Menu for the Night and a Classy Fireside View - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The smoked ham, purchased from our local BBQ-erie, Armadillo BBQ, right on Main Street in Duvall, was a bone-in half ham, and I cut more than three-quarters of the smoky delicious ham up for the party, but saved a chunk or three for us, frozen/hoarded away for later use. I also removed the bone and froze it, to be used for what will I'm sure be a delightful soup at a later date. The big meaty chunks of ham were so delicious -- they were eaten with no extra seasoning, enjoyed hot and cold, a perfect meat to just leave out at a party and let guests pick away. My mother would do the same thing for her holiday parties, just leave a giant spiral-cut ham or two out, and people would pick at it when it was still hot, but it became ravaged by a hungry meat-zombie horde, later in the evening when it was cooled and perfect to make ham sandwiches, piling on slices of cheese and other meats from the cold cuts platter. Ah, memories...
Party Prep, Enjoying the Last of the Holidays and Indy gets VIP Seating - Photos by Wasabi Prime
 For all the scary meat-zombie references and the savaging of barnyard beasties, I did make an effort to make the house party-ready. I even wore a funny hat. We didn't have enough seating for a sit-down meal, so I purposely spread all the chairs around the house to create cozy gathering nooks for people to sit, as guests often tend to break off into smaller sub-groups. The buffet table was meant to be a fueling spot, and the kitchen countertop became an open bar, with easy access to opened bottles of wine, beer, a very boozy cider and yes, even mead! We are lucky to have friends who not only make beer but cider and mead as well, which they were kind to bring. People also brought bottles of Scotch, which was very nice, plus it was an invitation for Brock to pull out his own supply of good liquors, like his special bottle of Pappy Van Winkle and a variety of Scotch he's collected. Again, this is why we have a spare bedroom, a fold-out couch and a downstairs area with plenty of room to set up a fold-out bed -- although one guest had the preparedness to bring his own air mattress. Party Professional.

Releasing the Kraken with a Variety of  Drinks, and Archer Episodes Aplenty - Photos by Wasabi Prime
When I say parties often mean guests branching off and having their own mini social gatherings, I mean the girls went off and drank wine while the boys sat and watched Archer episodes on Netflix. Don't worry, we all came together in time to see the bell toll 2012, but there was a lot of raunchy laughs throughout the night, and that's just how things go at Casa de Wasabi, love it or leave it. This might sound appalling to party planners and etiquette mavens, the watching of naughty cartoons during a gathering, but by the time I was several glasses into the rum-spiked hot cider, I fully accepted that the party was no longer within my OCD planner control, it was a creature existing on its own. So I let it run free and wild like some rabid ferret in a yarn store. I tipped a tipsy glass in honor of the party gods, cried, Havoc! And let loose the Bacchanalian dogs of war - 2012 was greeted with only a partial sense of awareness.

Meaty Just Desserts - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I didn't let dessert go untouched by The Magical Animal. I meant it when I said I made bacon brownies. I took a favorite dark chocolate brownie recipe and sprinkled in crisped bacon crumbles before baking off the batter. I've made variations of bacon brownies before, and they're pretty rich and often times the chocolate can overtake the bacon, so you kind of miss the fact there's little porcine bits of goodness in there. Although that's kind of a good thing, because a big ol' greasy bite of bacon in a brownie is a little gross. But the real treat was the browned butter bacon and chocolate chip cookies. This was a recipe I got from Edible Seattle Magazine and it's a winner. Honestly, add browned butter to anything and it makes it better, but in this recipe, it heightens the savory-ness of the cookie, which works well with the chunks of bacon. Yes, browning the butter takes an extra step, and it will make the batter extra sticky, so you'll need to give it some time in the fridge to cool and harden before forming into the cookies, but the flavor impact is worth it. When cooking off the bacon, I actually reserved and strained the fat, adding some to both the brownie and cookie batter, to add even more pork flavored goodness. I know this sounds like a criminal act, all this use of lard, but I figure, it's not something I make every day and at least with a party, the naughtiness is spread out across a group. Much like Avian Flu. Plus, I sent the mister off to work with the leftover brownies, so we wouldn't be totally buried in temptation. But I admit, chocolate chip cookies (bacon or not) are my weakness, so I kept those leftovers for myself. If you don't hear from me in a few days, call 911, I've probably keeled over from a massive coronary.

2012's Arrival, Along With a Hangover Brunch and Leafy Satsumas - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And so 2011 came and went -- in like a lamb, but out like a lion, as the party kept going past 2am. People spent the night and somehow through some delayed hangover effect, I got a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast of leftover meat, hash and eggs on the table. I say delayed hangover effect, because by around 11:30 in the morning, my energy faded and I was bedridden for the rest of the day, watching a Star Wars marathon through a haze of aspirin, water and my own cursed miserable existence. But hey, I can't say New Years wasn't memorable, and supposedly this is my big year, as it's the Year of the Dragon. It must be, because man... was I draggin' on New Years Day.

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