One of my favorite things in life (to host and attend) is a dinner party. I discovered my love of food by devouring every word and gorgeous photo in Martha Stewart’s 1982 cookbook, Entertaining. I daydreamed of the days I might attend such elegant affairs. As an adult, I now get to see those dreams into fruition. Many people love to entertain but do not host dinner parties because of the stress, time, and expense; but what if you only had to make one dish, and not a whole menu? Enter an elegant, sit-down dinner party menu for twelve.
A few years ago, we got together with several food-loving friends, created a Facebook group, and Jubilee Supper Club was born. We gather every eight weeks or so, and alternate hosting. Whoever hosts provides the main course and usually a few other nibbles, and we all pitch in with appetizers, drinks, side dishes, salads, and a dessert. Jubilee Supper Club is named after the spectacular phenomenon of a Mobile Bay jubilee, when flounder, crabs, fish, and skate inexplicably beach themselves and wait for the lucky passersby to score some fresh seafood for dinner. It happens at least once a year, always in early morning, and is a sight to see.
Jubilee Supper Club was also a sight to see this past Saturday night. Our dear friend, Allison, hosted (it was a major bonus that she lives eight doors down from us). Everything was gorgeous. The table setting was a sea of gorgeous gold-rimmed china and crystal.
Allison arranged our appetizers on her buffet against the wall. Marinated gigante beans, St. Andre-peach crostini, and grilled octopus were perfect nibbles with our cocktails or rosé. The octopus I prepared, using the recipe from my first blog post. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a slight char from its short stint on the grill. The 4-year-old demanded some before I left the house, so I had to cut off the head and flip it upside down for it to be serve-able (and photographable).
Amy brought the crostini, which was a delight. The rich, pungent cheese was perfect with the sweet, juicy peach. A drizzle of sweet-tart balsamic fig glaze topped it off, and the crowning glory, a sprinkle of Amy’s garden-fresh basil and mint. We are so lucky to have access to Chilton County peaches, which are the best peaches in existence. Not trying to start an Alabama-Georgia thing here, but #eatlocal and all.
Our starter was Chris’s chilled Spanish soup, salmorejo. The fresh tomato base was reminiscent of gazpacho, but the inclusion of breadcrumbs and garnish of hard-boiled egg and Serrano ham gave it a richness and tongue-coating heft that gazpacho just lacks. When I serve gazpacho, I pair it with a whipped goat cheese crostini as a foil to the vegetal tang. This soup needed no such pairing. It was also adorned with a drizzle each of olive oil and sherry vinegar, which played nicely with each other despite their differences. The salmorejo was rich and creamy (without any cream) while staying true to its tomato-based self. It was truly a first course to remember.
Buck’s Authentic Salmorejo
A delightfully tangy, tomato-based chilled soup of Spanish origins.
- 2 ½ - 3 pounds ripe tomatoes cored
- 2-3 cloves roasted garlic can substitute 1-2 cloves raw garlic, but I far prefer to use roasted
- 1 cup breadcrumbs make your own, or you can cheat w/ commercial seasoned bread crumbs; a lot easier!
- 1 cup Extra Virgin Spanish Olive Oil
- 1-2 teaspoons Sherry Vinegar can substitute good-quality Red Wine Vinegar
- a pinch of sugar or more, to taste
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- Garnishes: chopped Jabugo or Serrano ham (can substitute Prosciutto, if you must) chopped hard-boiled egg, and diced mild chili pepper, such as poblano
Process tomatoes in a blender/mixer until they are the consistency of a chunky soup.
Add garlic halfway through the tomato, blending so that garlic is processed and flavor infused throughout tomato mixture.
Add breadcrumbs and blend until just incorporated into mixture, which will be a thick, paste-like consistency.
Continue blending while slowing adding olive oil in a thin stream until attaining desired consistency of finished soup.
Add 1 teaspoon vinegar and a pinch each of sugar & salt; blend at high speed for ~ 30 seconds to obtain an even blend. Check seasonings, adjust as necessary, then refrigerate until cold.
Serve very cold in chilled bowls w/ a drizzle of Spanish Olive Oil, ham shavings and boiled egg garnish (to be added to taste at the table).
Recipe courtesy of Chris Buckridge
Notes: you will need to adjust vinegar, sugar, and/or salt to account for how ripe your tomatoes are. The final soup should taste of very ripe tomato; a bit sweet w/ a subtle, underlying flavor from the garlic. Just start w/ minimum amount of seasonings and build to your personal taste.) While less traditional, you can also add some finely chopped mildly spiced chili pepper (or sweet bell) for a bit of fresh bite, color, and texture. While I have seen this in Andalucia, it is not very common, although I think it really adds to the dish. (It is a common misconception that Spanish food is spicy, but that is not true at all!) Note: If you use raw garlic, the soup will develop a VERY strong garlic flavor during storage in the fridge.
After everyone practically licked their soup bowls clean, we were treated to a gorgeous and tangy snap-pea salad. I absolutely adored the way Sarah sliced the pods lengthwise to reveal the cross-sections of peas all snuggled up in their pods. Slivers of red onion provided sharp contrast to the sweet peas, and the freshness of parsley and cilantro along with the tangy vinaigrette danced on the tastebuds.
Peeling in action
After salad, Allison served the piece de resistance: New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp. This is a classic preparation of head-on shrimp bathed in butter and garlic, served with crusty bread to mop up all of the deliciousness. She paired this with another (equally fabulous) dish of peeled shrimp sautéed with butter and garlic. The best part? Allison’s father caught the head-on shrimp the day before. Although BBQ shrimp is a messy dish, we all unselfconsciously tucked in, deftly peeling the shrimp with our fingers and relishing the buttery, succulent meat.
Elizabeth and Scott brought the perfect side dish to accompany the shrimp: a butter bean (Limas to those outside the South) corn, okra, and tomato sauté that beautifully reflected the bounty of a Southern summer. Sautéed in bacon but not overly heavy, this succotash was spot on. The succotash of my youth (my Granny’s) was just lima beans and corn, but the addition of tomatoes, bacon, and okra makes it almost a meal unto its delicious self.
For dessert, Druhan and Patrick brought a towering key-lime icebox pie. The shards of extra crust surrounding the pie reminded me of the ramparts of a castle. Druhan squeezed two bags of tiny, not-quite-golf-ball-sized key limes to procure more than a cup of juice needed for this confection, but her efforts did not go unappreciated. Topped with a sweet, smooth layer of whipped cream, this pie was a gorgeous, delicious triumph.
Bottom line: I hope this post has inspired you all to start your own supper clubs. Be sure to check out our Instagram hashtag #jubileesupperclub for more shots of our gatherings!
If you love to cook, gather, eat, and repeat, you should be #supperclubbing. It gives us a chance to slow down, plan a thoughtful menu, and catch up over delicious food, wine, and cocktails, and what’s better than that?