Saturday, August 23, 2008

I love a good party: Baby Shower Brunch

A very dear friend is expecting a baby and the first thing I said after she told me that she was pregnant was "Can I throw you a shower?!" I love to celebrate babies most of all. Becoming a parent has stretched me in such unexpected, good directions, so seeing such a fantastic person on the verge of parenthood is exciting indeed!

Mindy and I have been running buddies over the past couple of years, and most days we run, we end at my place with a big breakfast. I thought a brunch shower would be appropriate, since so many great Mindy memories are associated with breakfast. We had crepes with plenty of toppings. This is my go-to crepe recipe. It has never failed me:

Vanilla Crepes:

1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons melted butter
vegetable oil, for brushing pan

1. Place milk and vanilla in the jar of a blender. Add yolks, sugar, salt, flour, and butter. Blend on high speed 30 seconds. Scrape sides of blender; blend 30 seconds more. Transfer batter to an airtight container; refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Brush a non-stick skillet with oil. Heat on medium until just starting to smoke. Remove pan from heat; quickly pour 2 tablespoons batter into middle of pan. [note: the first crepe is usually a disaster and makes for good scraps for the cook to munch on while making the rest.]

2. Quickly (in 2 to 3 seconds) tilt pan in all directions so the batter covers entire bottom in a thin layer. Return pan to heat for about 1 minute. Jerk pan sharply back and forth to loosen.

[not the prettiest picture, but it's hard to tilt the pan and take a picture at the same time. Hopefully, you get the idea of what's supposed to go on here. You can do it! Just keep twirling the pan!]
3. Lift edges with a spatula; if underside is golden brown, turn by using two spatulas or by flipping crepe with a toss of the pan [a much more exciting option, if you can do it with confidence]

[this is what the crepe looks like when it's ready for the flip.]
4. Cook about 30 seconds more, or until brown in spots. Slide crepes onto a plate. Grease pan again with oil, heat to just smoking, and repeat process with remaining batter.

For chocolate crepes, substitute 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder for 1/2 cup flour.

For the fillings, I took advantage of summer's bounty: fresh peaches and berries, along with sauteed pineapple, sliced bananas, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and my beloved lemon curd. Here's the recipe, and seriously, try it:

Lemon Curd:
3 large egg yolks
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice [sorry, but this time, it really should be fresh lemons, rather than the juice in the green bottle]
6 tablespoons sugar

1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small sauce pan; whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir sides and bottom of pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until mixture is smooth.

3. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let cool; refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour, up to 2 days.

My husband always tells me that I'd be less stressed out if I didn't try out new recipes when I'm entertaining, which I believe to be true. But, tell me, when other time would a strata be appropriate? Maybe you all are cooking stratas for your husband and two-year-old sons all the time, but I haven't been quite so motivated. A party, on the other hand, is a perfect venue for such fanciness, and, although I was nervous sticking my Canadian Bacon Strata in the oven. But, hooray, I was pleasantly surprised to see it in all of its puffy, eggy majesty as I pulled it out. Thank you, strata, for making me look good. Unfortunately, there are no pics of this one, since the strata finished cooking ten minutes into the shower.

oh la la, I was not the most organized lady on shower day, and, fortunately, everything came together just as the first guest arrived. But, you know, the lesson learned during this party, as well as other entertaining ventures I have tried is that people don't particularly care about the food or the table or the fussy stuff that the hostess cares about. When someone comes to a party at my house, they just want to have a great time. The details can certainly add to a party, but if I'm stressed, my guests will feel it and worry. So, you see, when I have a party, I throw it for me too. So, once the party started, we certainly celebrated Mindy and her baby girl and all the great hopes and dreams that come to mind when a new person is about to be born.

Here they are--a sweet mama with a sweet little girl inside! Doesn't Mindy have the prego glow to outshine them all?! Here she is, showing us the baby quilt I made for her (aw, shucks!) More to come later on baby quilts :)

No comments: