I'm exhausted today from a weekend's worth of cooking, but the party was a success, everyone had a good time, and even some of the less adventurous eaters tried the caviar. :)
Bloody Mary Shrimp & Crab Cocktails -- the bloody mary granita was wonderful. Worth the labor of stirring and scraping every 1/2 hour for hours. I loved that it tasted like cocktail sauce but was lighter and more refreshing. I served these in martini glasses (plastic party ones since we're not martini drinkers around here)...I found it was even better when the granita melted and then it became a bit like a shooter. We made these without vodka, but you could certainly use vodka if desired.
Caviar Tart -- couldn't find enough salmon roe to make the dip I had planned, so I made the caviar tart from a recent issue of Gourmet. In the spirit of "Crash" I used black, red and gold caviar, and then used the bit of salmon roe I had to outline a peace sign design on the top. The presentation wowed the crowd, but many were timid in trying it. I was proud of those that tried. For some reason, caviar scares people. I've been eating it since I was a toddler, so I loved it. :) The base of the tart was a mixture of hard-boiled eggs, sour cream, melted butter, parsley, then spread with thickened sour cream made by draining out the whey (like making yogurt cheese) and then the caviar on top. Excellent with pumpernickel party bread.
Lamb Shepherd's Pie -- I used Cook's Illustrated's recipe and it was a winner. Made the lamb filling the day before and the flavors were fabulous the next day. Very rich. Definitely use shoulder meat and not ground lamb. Much better flavor and texture.
Wyoming Cowboy Beans -- Found this "authentic" recipe on the web somewhere -- just canned white beans, chopped onion, and chopped ham. That's it...but simmered on low heat all day. Thick and flavorful. A change of pace to not have the flavor of the beans masked by BBQ sauce or spicy seasonings. For fun I served the cooked dish in the cans the beans came in originally. Haven't seen "Brokeback" but was told they ate beans straight from the can in the movie.
Soft Pretzels -- these turned out great, but I was scared at first because the dough was really stiff and hard to work with. I finally decided to make small pretzel rings instead of the twists...would represent the Olympic rings of Munich, I decided/rationalized. :) They were 2-3" in diameter, but nice and chewy. They really were best right out of the oven, but I needed to make them the night before. They reheated OK but didn't crisp up as I wanted. No matter...everyone ate them up.
Bratwurst with Onion Relish -- also a hit. The brats had been made fresh the day I bought them at the deli. I simmered them in beer and onions the day before. Husband graciouslly grilled them for me. I decided to cut them into large chunks and put them on a platter surrounding a mound of the relish made from the onions that had been cooked with the beer and brats. You add mustard seed and other things...a bit of oil, red pepper flakes, etc. to make the relish. Serve it warm. It was fabulous with the brats and German mustard.
German Potato Salad -- I used Cook's Illustrated again, and it turned out great.
African "chop" -- one of the many ethnic dishes my friend brought, and it was the one of the best things on the buffet. I'm going to get the recipe. The flavors are reminiscent of Thai -- spicy with peanut butter...but the meat and veggies are chopped fine in the sauce. Served over polenta slices or pita bread...I couldn't stop eating it. YUM!
Cream Puffs with Fudge Sauce -- fabulous. Used R.L. Berenbaum's recipe but didn't have enough time to dry them out completely for 90 minutes...so checked Barefoot Contessa's recipe and she only does 10 minutes on a lower heat. They were perfect. Wish I'd started earlier in the day to make 2 batches. Bought some store bought to have once the homemade were eaten, and oh the difference was striking. But this is a cream puff crowd...My batch of 40 plus 3 boxes of 40 each disappeared (we had 16 people here...you do the math!) Made David Leobivtz's chocolate sauce which he calls "the best." I found I had to add more sugar and also some vanilla to round out the flavor...it came out very bitter, and I eat 85% chocolate all the time. Once I "fixed: the sauce, it was to die for. And the combination with the cream puffs was a winner. Very fun to make cream puffs from scratch for the first time.
Leftovers in the fridge for dinner tonight as my chef's hat is taking a rest for a day or two. I love parties, but they do wear me out! I could NEVER be a caterer or work in a restaurant. Though I suppose one's stamina gets built up over time.
Let me know if you want any of the recipes I talked about. Sorry I am so bad about taking pictures. I was so busy with cooking and hostessing, it didn't even cross my mind until it was way too late.