Chef Nicholas Walker of Cobb Galleria Centre invited me to celebrate Spring with him in his kitchen. He presented a multiple-course lunch that depicted a transition of winter into spring using. Some dishes leaned towards the coziness of winter, other towards a gentle lightness of spring.
I love themed parties! In fact, I always try to create a theme around any dinner party I host. It helps me keep the menu together, try new recipes and make things interesting for my attendees. In the past, I have organized a game night, pool party, grill day, just tapas, wine and cheese, TV show finales, Moroccan, Mexican, Indian, Italian and much more. But this was my first time hosting a Hawaiian dinner party.
With the help of my friend Sonia Viteri, and the assistance of the cooktop replacement service that I got through a company like First American Home Warranty that dealt with my cooker malfunction, we decided on a menu for 15 people who were part of the group, Dinner with a Passport, a once a month dinner adventure meet up founded in Atlanta. We had less than 24 hours to plan, shop, prepare and host! With a few emails, phone calls, and shopping trips, we settled on a easy and light menu that would beat the heat of the summer (in Hotlanta) while representing the fresh ingredients used in Hawaiian cuisine. We found most of the recipes on the internet and adopted some of them as we went along.
The best thing about this menu is not much prep work is required. Only a couple of hours of marinating and chopping is sufficient. Everything is cooked and assembled just before serving. Good option for a last minute party thrower!
We greeted our guests with lei’s and offered Mai Tai’s and wine for drinks. The first course was a coconut fried shrimp. We used beer batter and unsweetened dry coconut (toasted in the oven) and deep fried the shrimp as guests started to arrive. Sonia whipped up a sauce with mashed pineapples, chillies and mustard to serve with the shrimp.
For the second course, we prepared three different kinds of salads. The tropical fruit salad was mixed cut fruits served in the shell of a watermelon. There were kiwis, watermelons, pineapples and papayas (pretty much all the fruit we had left over from making other dishes).
The papaya cucumber salad with a spicy dressing was a huge hit. Cilantro, ginger, sugar and red chili paste worked their magic on each other to create this flavorful dressing that made the fruits jump up and down with excitement. Papaya pairs well with spicy, tangy sauces in case you never tried it before. We served the salad over a bed of fresh lettuce leaves.
Next was a crunchy watermelon salad with cabbage, fried noodles and green onions. The black sesame seeds and chopped mint leaves added a lot of color to this already colorful meal. It was refreshing with the right balance of sweetness and crunchiness.
For the main course, there was Huli Huli Chicken, grilled drumsticks marinated in pineapples, white wine, soy sauce and ginger. We marinated the chicken for 2 hours and then kept basting it with the marinade while cooking so its nicely caramelized. The chicken was sweet, tender and juicy after being on the grill for 30 minutes.
It was paired with a short grain jasmine rice cooked with coconut water and sesame seeds. The rice was served in frozen pineapple shells. It’s sole purpose was to remind you of the tropics, so we named it Tropical Rice. There were also Hawaiian rolls for those who preferred bread.
Dessert was a simple Hawaiian banana fritters. Small variety of bananas (lady finger) were cut in half and fried with butter and brown sugar. We made a sauce from rum, water and dark sugar and drizzled it over the bananas and vanilla ice cream. If you plan to make this, make sure the bananas are fully rips, else they won’t taste sweet.