Raise your glass

8 07 2012

IRON MAN – more popularly known as Kuya Mike in some circles nowadays – I, and most of our Malaysian friends started at work at the same time.  On the same day.  One year ago.

Friends and guests all. Way Hung, Chee Hou, Kelvin, Im Keh, Kuya Mike, Jellyn, Yong Run, Chiet Yen, Heng Yie, Ee Xyan, Chin Hoi, Chin Jeck, and Brenda.

So about a couple of weeks before the big day, over lunch of the usual cafeteria fare, we thought about having a simple get-together – okay, a “party” – where the food was requisite, but the company more important.  (This included a couple of Singaporeans and some of my personal guests.)

Kuya Mike was gracious enough to offer his place.  Well, I kind of forced him to.  Haha.  With our budget, he decided to hire the best caterer he could find.  This caterer happened to be me.  Again, haha!

In honor of Kiddo, one of my and Kuya Mike’s dearest Malaysian friends and who as I write is still basking under the Tuscan sun when not on her Roman holiday, I thought up an Italian fusion spread.

We started with a salad of peppery wild arugula and other delicate baby greens dressed with a honey-calamansi vinaigrette, and on one’s choosing, topped with thinly sliced green apples and Japanese pears, and pan-grilled glass prawns glazed with honey.

For the entrées, we had pasta two ways – my signature angel hair pomodoro made with fresh plum tomatoes, torn fresh basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil and garlic; and farfalle alla Genovese which is bow tie pasta in a cream sauce made with a medley of wild mushrooms (white button, Swiss brown, cremini, baby shiitake, and oyster), spiked with freshly made, hand-pounded basil pesto (I have the calloused palm to show for it).

For the angel hair pomodoro, I used fresh plum (roma) tomatoes.

When we went grocery shopping, I didn’t bring a list. I never bring a list. I work on the one in my head. And I never really stick to strict recipe measurements. For the tomatoes, I took all that I “felt” I needed.

I halved, sort of “cored” and seeded every tomato before they got plunged into the boling water (the pot in the background). I blanched the tomatoes for a few seconds just up to the point when the skins started to peel off by themselves.

I forgot to bring my own IKEA stainless steel garlic press to Kuya Mike’s place so I had to finely mince the garlic for my angel hair pomodoro using this cleaver.

On the morning of our dinner party, I came from another party that had ended at 5:30 AM. From that party, I had to head straight to Fair Price Xtra at Nex Mall in Serangoon to look for, among other things, wild baby arugula and this solid stone mortar and pestle. It was intended for the hand-pounded basil pesto. But as I have known ever since I was a kid growing up in the kitchen, its bottomside can make a mean knife sharpener.

My basil pesto starts with a halved clove of garlic and a good pinch of salt. The rough surfaces of a natural solid stone mortar and pestle are perfect for brusing these ingredients into a nice pulp.

Before the basil leaves are added, the garlic and salt should first turn into a nice smooth pulpy paste.

I bought tons of fresh basil. But for the pesto, I had set aside two cups, loosely packed. Here, I start to add the basil to the pesto in progress. I caption this photo and somehow, I could still catch a whiff of the heady scent the basil leaves gave off the moment they got bruised and pounded into the paste.

The final bunch of basil is added!

A couple of trips to the supermarket yielded no pine nuts. So what it there for a culinarian to do? Opt for the next best thing – walnuts! This bag I got from Cold Storage says, “US Baked Walnuts.” Notice that the two cups of basil leaves has become a fraction of the volume with which I started.

I eyeballed just how much grated parmesan cheese should go into the pesto. Then everything gets pounded again.

Next to be eyeballed into the mortar was a good film of fruity extra virgin olive oil. At this point, I wanted to lick the pesto already.

The basil pesto is done! I used this right away so it was not a problem preserving the integrity of this fresh sauce. However, if you will have to set it aside for a while, I find that an additional thin film of extra virgin olive oil does thr trick!

I start the wild mushroom ragout with just enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of a heavy bottom skillet, in which I would allow a halved clove of garlic to “sweat.” Once the oil is infused with the flavors of this root aromatic, I remove it (the garlic) then proceed with the rest of the steps. NEVER brown garlic for a cream sauce.

For the ragout, I use a medley of fresh wild mushrooms which include creminis, white button…

… more white button mushrooms …

… shiitakes (these, I take the stems off) …

… Swiss brown, and oyster (which I forgot to photograph!).

The sauces are done! Once ready to serve, I would tear basil leaves on to the pomodoro, toss it with freshly cooked angel hair, and top the dish with grated parmesan cheese. For the cream sauce, I would ladle it on to al dente farfalle (bow tie pasta), add a dollop of my freshly hand-pounded pesto, mix everything well, then finish it off with a good (I mean, generous!) sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

These are the ingredients that go to my honey-calamansi vinaigrette. I realize that the salad was a big hit, especially since two of my real good friends, Way Hung and Yong Run, did say they loved it a lot!

I worked in the kitchen while Kuya Mike took care of the “front of the house”. Among other things, he set up stuff for entertainment and games.

I borrowed the XBOX Kinect from my amazing friends Darryl & Brenda Gallo. That’s Kuya Mike’s bike in the background. At one point Kelvin borrowed it, and with Jellyn and Chiet Yen, made a tour of the nearby nature park. Won’t you just love Singapore?

If the oven at Kuya Mike’s place wasn’t broken, I would’ve made the pizza from scratch, as well as individual chocolate cakes, doused with liqueur, topped with fresh berries and served in cute ramekins.  Instead, we ordered pizza in and threw a couple of tubs of gelato in our shopping cart the night before.

To wash everything down, we could’ve had proseco but Kuya Mike thought one better – champagne.  It was fitting.  We raised our glasses, made a toast to the year that has passed in each of our lives.  And found ourselves to be grateful in the midst of newfound friends.

And games.  And conversations.  And lots of snapshots.

Kuya Mike popped open a bottle of champagne and officially, it was party time!

 

First to arrive were Ee Xyan, Chee Shean, Chee Hou, Shan Shan and Chiet Yen.

Ee Xyan had firrst dibs on the farfalle.

Chee Hou, Im Keh, Chee Shean, Chiet Yen, Chin Hoi, Shan Shan, eNTeNG and Ee Xyan

A couple of lovelies, Im Keh and Shan Shan.

Everybody with Kuya Mike

Everybody with eNTeNG

Chee Shean and Chee Hou

Malaysia… Truly Asia. Here are the pretty ladies. Jellyn, Im Keh, Chin Hoi, Ee Xyan, Chiet Yen, and Shan Shan.

Here are all the pretty ladies with Kuya Mike.

Some of my best buddies at work. Kelvin, Vincent and Kean Lim.

Chee Shean is the New King of Pop! Beat it! Beat it!

 

Chin Hoi and Ee Xyan

 

My Singaporean Foodie Buddy™©, Yong Run, and Im Keh

 

Almost everybody was coming back from their hometowns. We’re quite glad that Way Hung, and then Heng Yie did still make it! Yey!

 

The games are now officially on!

 

Jellyn, Way Hung and Chin Jeck pay attention to the game.

 

Way Hung

 

The lovely Jellyn

 

Parting shot! Way Hung took a photo of us on his brand new Samsung Galaxy S3. Kuya Mike took a snap back, capturing him against the backdrop of our reflection on this huge mirror panel by the dining table. Great time with great people!

Copyright © 2012 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved


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4 responses

8 07 2012
michaelborreo

Boss! Thank you for putting this together. Last year, I never thought of meeting such a wonderful group as theirs. This simple dinner gave me a chance to know them a little bit more. Seeing their strong bond outside work made me a fan. I hope everyone enjoyed. I now raise my glass in all the right ways (good food, good times, good company..) — mikee..

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8 07 2012
wh

nicce~

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10 07 2012
dxpg

Nice party enteng & mike.. good food + great game + good company with friends, formula of a great time in Singapore. Hope we can have this gathering sometime before Bren leaves. 🙂

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25 07 2012
kialeh

wish to be there T.T

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