12 November, 2012  |   1 Comment

Slow Cooker Posole Recipe – Party on the Porch.

A few months ago we hosted a big old Cheers! St. Helena shindig on the porch.

Skywalker

For the most part, I followed the timeline in my How to Throw a Porch Party (when you’re dang busy) post, but some things caused good-time changes.

Music
I ran out of time to make a playlist, so we ended up using an 8tracks.com playlist. Those playlists are made by people much more musically savvy than I am. A Pandora station made of music from Celso Pina would also have set the mood fiestively.

Closing Time
We ran out of booze on purpose. The party got happy – meaning, it ran late and was in danger of waking the children. (Won’t anyone think of the children?)

We live near several firefighters, police officers and general upstanding people of the community, and I’d love to stay in their good graces. Running out of booze is an easily forgivable way to gently get your guests on their way home. Good night!

Photography
I didn’t take photos of the table, of the foods and the guests.
I was having too much fun.
And I know, I know, in this modern age, if you’re not ignoring your guests while you document ALL THE FUN you’re having (ahem), the party never happened.

Trust me, it was good.
There was a leopard, fireworks and leg wrestling.
(Just kidding about the leg wrestling.)

But on to the food.

Pork Posole

Posole is a near perfect party food.
It’s cheap to make, is slow cooker friendly, and infinitely customizable.
Gluten-free! Dairy-free! Cheers!

Helen Jane’s Green Posole Recipe

(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients
3 pounds pork shoulder — could be bone-in at 4-5lbs, or boneless at 3 pounds, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
Vegetable oil for browning
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound tomatillos, peeled, washed and cut into quarters
3 medium jalapeños, stemmed, scraped and chopped
1/2 small onion, choped
1/2 cup water
2 bunches (5 cups?) fresh cilantro leaves and stems
3 (15 ounce) cans white hominy, drained and rinsed

Posole fixins
Cilantro
Onions
Radishes
Lime wedges
Corn tortillas
Hot sauce

Directions
Salt and pepper the pork pieces thoroughly. If you’re cooking in the oven, preheat oven to 300°F. If you’re using a slow cooker, well, I’m not sure you’re supposed to do this, but I preheat my slow cooker. I’m planning to cook it here for 8 hours on low — so it’s preheated on low.

Heat vegetable oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat until shimmery. Add onions. Add a dash of salt. Sauté for a good 4 minutes. Add garlic. Stir through for another 30 seconds. Add pork and brown for about 8 minutes while stirring every 2-3 minutes.

Add the oregano, chicken stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scrape and stir until all is heated through and bubbly. Put this mixture into a slow cooker or put a lid on the pan and stick into a preheated 300° oven.

In a blender or food processor or blender, drop in the tomatillos, jalapeños and onions along with a 1/2 cup of water. Let it go until smooth. Enter the cilantro leaves, pulse until well chopped.

If you’re using the oven, take the pork out in 2 hours.
If you’re using a slow cooker, check in 30 minutes before you’re serving.

Stir the hominy through the pork mixture. Shred the pork with two forks until its bite-sized, tender, stringiness is the right size for your mouth. Stir the green mixture through the pork and hominy mixture. In the pot? Serve about 15 minutes later. In the slow cooker? Do the same.

Serve with a ladle into big individual bowls.
Set out all the fixins, so guests can customize your bowl.

(We serve this with guacamole, chips and corn salad.)

27 August, 2012  |   5 Comments

Harvest Stomp!

We hired a babysitter, secured transportation, and, thanks to the generosity of Trinchero Family Estates, James and I attended the 2012 Harvest Stomp party at Trefethen Vineyards.

Matriarch

Although, lately, I’ve been writing all my moony internet-thinks here, I really do love parties. Even better, I like to squeeze what I can from professional events for entertaining people at my house (win! no babysitter fees!).

Homework.
Party homework.

It started at the drop-off when horse-pulled wagons delivered us from our vehicle to the front gate. Ratcheting up the anticipation, the wagons helped us mingle with other partygoers.

Learning: Make the welcome memorable. Put your guests at ease.

On the ride in

Cleared out under a giant walnut tree in the vineyard, it was so refreshing to see all of the tables adorably mismatched. Of course it was on purpose, styled and laid out by professionals, but it helped add to a homey feel.

Learning: I don’t need to freak out about everything matching. If I like it, it probably goes together.

'Scape

Liz poured her family’s tasty Marston Family Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc.

Learning: The most enjoyable wines come with a good story (preferably from good people). Maximize that investment by learning something interesting about your wine.

Laughing Liz

The biggest Paella pan I ever did see served up some tasty Paella.

Learning: I’ve never made Paella. I need to get on that. Maybe we’ll try it for next week’s porch party?

Big old Paella

Oysters.

Learning: Oysters are almost always a good idea (really, does there need to be another learning?). Also, Hog Island’s shuckers were devoted indeed. Injured shuckers!

Devoted Shucker

I ate an Octopus Taco and it was delicious.

Learning: Pickled veggies can take my taco to a new place. Unusual proteins also improve the taco bar significantly. Ground beef who? I’m tackling seafoods and beans next.

Octopus taco

Amazing shirts and western wear were everywhere at this party, giving people easy conversational starters.

Learning: Dress themes can help your guests mingle. Bonus points if it’s general enough for interpretation.

Fave shirt

Oh hey! It’s my favorite birthday wine, Arrow and Branch poured by their lovely proprietress Seanne Contursi.

Learning: I should probably moisturize more thoroughly.

Arrow and Branch

Tony was our host for the evening, he took care of our transportation, a special wine for the table and all practical decisions.

Learning: When it comes to friends, I can always increase my level of generosity. Really.

North end

Food trucks rallied to make all the food for the event — all was distributed on several buffet tables. Lamb, chicken, greens, it all came together for some hearty belly-filling food for the auction ahead.

Learning: Buying pre-made foods isn’t cheating. It’s efficiency.

Noms

Thanks Tony for an amazing evening — we’re lucky to have a friend like you.

23 July, 2012  |   6 Comments

The 2012 Bocce Chili Cookoff, Wine Sisterhood style.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

Every year, Katie and I host a chili cookoff for all the bocce teams that play on Thursday night. Katie leads the team of super foxies, the Tipsy Moonshiners. She’s also a Jello shot expert. You want her on your side.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

Pomegranate or Meyer Lemon?
Your choice.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

This year, the Wine Sisterhood jumped in to sponsor the event. We were so excited for the black kraft paper covering the table — entrants used chalk to write down the names of their chili right on the paper.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

These amazing chalkboards pointed folks in the right direction.
They looked good to boot.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

As usual, the tasting was a cheerful affair, as people moved through the line with their tasting cups.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

Judges (everyone at bocce) put beans in the cups of their favorite chilis.
One bean for their favorite side, one bean for their favorite chili.
One bean to rule them all.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

Would it be the Italiano Chili?

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

The He-Man chili?

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

About 28 chilis in, and 15 sides, we worked to a winning finish.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

After the first game, we announced the winners.
The first place chili: Vino Venison chili.
First place side: Jalapeno cornbread with brown sugar bacon.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

This was the first place side. It was a goodie.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

There was an exciting tie for first place in the sides category — solved with a roll-off of course.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

Jen’s cheese grits and “New Familia Chili” took second place.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

My vote was for the cheese grits and the Vino Venison chili.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

If you need a fun potluck idea, consider a chili cookoff. People love participating, even if they just bring dessert

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

When it was all done, you could feel the contentment of the crowd, bellies full of beans and meat.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

Get your friends together, celebrate your creativity.
Win a hand-crafted glitter award.

Wine Sisterhood sponsored bocce chili cookoff

Special thanks go to the Wine Sisterhood, who covered the costs of the event and educates us all about wine. Consider heading to their gathering next year, won’t you?