Gong Xi Fa Cai – Happy New Year!
A few weeks back, Foodbuzz put out a call for proposals for another one of their "24, 24, 24" meals. Since the date would be very close to Chinese New Year this year, Annie and I submitted a proposal, focusing on a Chinese New Year theme. We were surprised and honored to have been chosen as one of the food blogs featured this month.
Time for Some Hot Pot
The Chinese in Malaysia like to celebrate Chinese New Year with a hot pot / steamboat dinner. The whole family gathers round a large table, with a pot of broth boiling in the center. All sorts of goodies (fish balls, meats, veggies, and seafood) are added to the pot, cooked, and consumed. At the end of the meal, when all the ingredients have turned the broth enticingly sweet, noodles are added and enjoyed with the broth. It is quite a gustatory experience!
Our concept was to take the Chinese steamboat and give it a San Francisco Bay Area twist, by making a cioppino broth and cooking various types of seafood like halibut, scallops, mussels, and Dungeness crab. And we would buy all the seafood from our favorite fishmonger, Pat from Mission Fresh Fish. Sounds good, huh?
Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 Dinner at House of Annie
Of course, what would such a great dinner be without great company? So we invited Carolyn the Food Gal and Michael of Cooking For Engineers, plus their spouses, over to the House of Annie for dinner. We had had Michael and his wife over for an heirloom tomato tasting last Summer, but we’ve never met Carolyn in person before. As fortune would have it, they were both available for dinner!
Looking for Inspiration
But now, the pressure was on, to cook up something really special for our honored guests with seriously refined palates. The main course would be cioppino, and we planned to do a tiramisu for dessert. But we had no idea what to do as an appetizer.
We thought about doing a batch of wild salmon cakes with kaffir lime, but figured that might be too much seafood already. So I was flipping through Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen, and came upon her Caesar salad recipe. But how to make it "fusion", in light of our fusion cioppino hot pot? Just then our neighbor walked in.
"We’re doing a hot pot for New Years, but cioppino instead of Chinese-style."
"Cioppino? Sounds interesting."
"Yeah, but we’re wondering what to do as an appetizer. We were thinking about doing a Caesar salad, but don’t know how to ‘Asian-ify’ it."
"Oh, my Thai friend showed me a Caesar salad dressing that’s really good."
"I’m all ears!"
"Okay, start boiling some eggs, then I’ll come back with the recipe."
She came back, and together we worked out the dressing until we were satisfied with the flavor. When our guests arrived and we got dinner started, Daniel helped to toss the salad fixings with the dressing, then plated. (We will blog the Thai-inspired Caesar salad recipe in an upcoming post.)
"Thai Inspired" Caesar Salad
After the salad came the main course. Earlier in the day, Annie prepared the cioppino broth using the celebrated Tadich Grill recipe that we’ve had success with in the past. But we put a little Asian spin on it by adding some minced ginger and lemongrass stalk. (We will blog that recipe for cioppino hot pot in another upcoming post!) Annie had pre-sliced the halibut, shelled the shrimp, and pre-steamed the mussels and clams. The crab came pre-cooked but we cleaned it and cut the body up into quarters.
We brought the pot of broth out to the table, set it up on a portable butane stove, and got it boiling. When it was ready, we added the fish, scallops, shrimp, crab, mussels and clams to the pot, then covered it to simmer.
Cioppino Hot Pot Boiling
Once the pot came to a boil again, we ladled out the ingredients into each diner’s individual bowls.
Cioppino Hot Pot: Crab, Shrimp, Clams and Fish
That cioppino, chock full of sweet, fresh seafood, was alluring and sumptuous. Slices of Semifreddi’s sourdough bread helped to sop up the flavorful broth. A 2006 Ecco Domani Chianti, brought by Carolyn, was the perfect accompaniment to the meal.
For dessert, Annie wanted to keep to the Italian-Asian fusion theme and made a green tea tiramisu, a recipe she’d done before to rave reviews. (We have an old YouTube video of the green tea-ramisu making, and we will blog the green tea tiramisu recipe for it in — you guessed it — another post).
Homemade Pineapple Tarts and Almond-Orange Biscotti
Of course, this dinner wouldn’t have been so fabulous without our fabulous guests. Being foodies, our conversation ranged all over, from wagyu steak to perfect fried chicken to barbecue to Chef Boyardee. We shared stories, compared notes, picked up tips, and generally had a blast! Our conversation ran long into the night. Incredible as it may seem, perfect strangers became fast friends.
Thank you, fabulous friends, for sharing in the bounty of our table. And thank you, Foodbuzz, for helping make it happen! We simply must do it again sometime.
Cheers and Aloha,
Annie and Nate