Leena Eats: Just kidding…NOW I’m back! And with dinner party photos!

By on Dec 12, 2012 in Appetizers, Leena Cooks, Leena Eats, Mains, Meat, Parties, Pork, Sorbet, Soup/Salad, The Gastronomical Leena, Vegetables | 4 comments

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DUDE. You guys. I made this. For reals. Lovin the Momofuku Milkbar cookbook right now!

So. I said I was back, and clearly, I lied. What I actually meant is, hi, see you again in four months or so. 🙂

I spent from mid-June through early October studying my ass off for a little test called the GRE, because I decided hey, wouldn’t it be fun to get a doctorate and research food and culture for a living? It paid off, because I didn’t completely fail the math, and I did ok in the verbal and kick-ass in the essay section. BUT. It also meant no brain energy was left at the end of day to cook, let alone blog about food. Or exercise. Or eat well.

But I did occasionally bust out some winners, the cake above included. That bad-ass monstrosity was a chocolate chip cake layered with passion fruit curd, chocolate crumbles, and coffee buttercream frosting from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.

More after the jump!

I feel like I could probably create a nice big-ass cake like this using my own recipes (and some of Momofuku Milkbar’s pastry chef, Christina Tosi, of course!), and I haven’t come away from a cookbook with such knowledge in a while. Tosi also basically created a new way of baking using a mixture of homemade crunches, crumbles and vegetable ganaches and mixing them with new takes on iconic American flavors, like milk steeped in cereal, carrot cake, Funfetti cake, and cheese cake. Basically, if you love baking, this book is a fun read, cover to cover. I guarantee simply working your way through one of Tosi’s 191 step cake recipes will make you a better baker.

A side view of my cake. Look at all those pretty layers!

But the most recent cooking highlight in my life was a little dinner party we threw shortly after Thanksgiving. I did a few days of prep work for this one, but the menu was pretty simple, save for the dessert.

My little sous chef for the party.

The menu for the evening. Five minutes after I took this photo, my daughter smeared it all with her hands. Ah, kids.

I recently had the pleasure of eating dinner cooked by a friend from my college speech team. My school, Bradley, was notorious for being over the top with everything from how we practiced to how we performed to how we presented ourselves. It was just how we rolled. The friend reminded me of that as he served us a multi-course dinner—with three kids running around him, mind you—and his plating was BEAUTIFUL. The food was awesome, but the plating—that really impressed me. Because after planning and cooking a multi course meal for other people, I am usually too tired (and a little bit tipsy), so my plating looks like someone just threw it on there.

I attempted to change that for this party….I didn’t always succeed, but it is nice to have something to aspire to 🙂

Course one

Photo #1 of this dish: smoked salmon with sweet chili sauce, sour cream and chives, and rye crostini. The fingerling potatoes took forever to roast, so they came out later.


Photo #2: With fingerling potatoes, although the photo is not the best.

Course two

The second course was a butternut squash bisque with herb salad and bacon.

Course three

The main: cider braised pork shoulder with onion and apple confit, roasted brussel sprouts, and dinner rolls.

Course four

Cranberry sorbet palate cleanser. This is where my plating went downhill. I scooped them too close to serving, and the beautiful quenelles I made melted. Ah well. It tasted good!

Course five was SUPER labor-intensive, as it was pb&j pie from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. Below are a few of the 191 steps to the recipe.

The Ritz cracker crust. Like a basic graham cracker crust, only the Ritz are mixed with sugar, butter and milk powder. I ended up using twice the amount of crust for the recipe.

Then I made the peanut brittle.

Sugar and raw peanuts= my peanut brittle.

The peanut brittle after a trip through my food processor.

Which went in the peanut butter nougat layer of the pie.

For the nougat, I whipped egg whites to soft peaks and added in two different temperature sugar syrups. Then i mixed peanut butter with the brittle, which was folded into the egg whites. Boom. Second layer of pie!

The other two layers involved making a concord grape sorbet and a concord grape sauce, but it has you using fresh concord grapes for the juice. I was lucky enough to just miss concord grape season here in California, so I substituted 100% pure concord grape juice—not Welch’s! So much easier. Those steps were not photographed because I fell asleep and my awesome husband layered them for me.

The finished product

PB&J pie: ritz cracker crust, peanut butter nougat, concord grape sorbet and concord grape sauce.

Cut and served with a sprinkle of peanut brittle. The plating for this sucked. This was the only slice of 9 to not look mangled...the crust stuck to the bottom something fierce. Next time, I might line the pan with parchment before. But it tasted delicious!

And the take home treat

Cranberry banana cinnamon chip muffins. Yeah.

Such a fun party…I can’t wait to do it again!! And to start posting more often!


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    • Leena

      13 Dec ’12

      Thanks, Mark. Hope all is well at The Healthy Schools Campaign!

  1. Gina

    13 Dec ’12

    Post a Reply

    Wait till Eugene gets back and I can show him this shout-out. Your food looks awesome!!! I cannot believe the steps for that pie. The moment I saw that you made peanut brittle only to be processed and added as an “ingredient”—yeah well, that’s where I’d give up. But you didn’t! How did it taste? I’d love to know….

    • Leena

      13 Dec ’12

      Hey GIna! The pie tasted amazing once all combined! Like a giant, melty peanut butter and jelly sandwich of your dreams. The ritz cracker crust was the bomb, and although the sorbet tasted a bit salty on it’s own, once added to the pie, it just worked. i highly recommend this book as an xmas gift for Eugene!

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