Have you ever read a recipe and thought "that can't be tasty"? I usually skip right over those. Many of us also have food gifts that are getting dusty in the pantry because we are unsure if they will be good.
The "It Couldn't Be..." dinner I hosted Saturday, supported by Foodbuzz, was a chance to try those offbeat dishes. I invited food and recipe loving friends to contribute a suspect course to a pot-luck style meal. Decor included my funky chicken collection atop a colorful oilcloth table covering from local fabric store Sew to Speak.
Pastry chef Heather brought Hot Mushroom Meringues from the Antoinette Pope School Cookbook
, published in 1957. These appetizer toasts topped with eggy mushroom and baked meringue earned a solid 4 on a scale of 0 to 5. They could use some help in the visual department but were a passably tasty dish.
Debra and family brought baked spareribs with luau sauce from Texas restaurant chain Luby's cookbook. The sauce of peaches, tomato and vinegar was surprisingly tasty, again earning a 4 from those who ate the combo.
Alex used the occasion of the It Couldn't Be dinner to cook his first beer can chicken. He searched Larousse Gastronomique
for an unfamiliar yet possibly tasty sauce, settling on the chicken liver Bearnaise. The chicken and sauce were both outstanding, solid 5s.
I couldn't see having a whole dinner without vegetables so I made a salad topped with homegrown heirloom violet jasper tomatoes, ark of taste Jimmy Nardello peppers
, and purple beauty sweet peppers. I searched for a salad dressing that would fit the spirit of the It Couldn't Be meal and came up with the cottage cheese dressing from our 1966 Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery
. The veggies were tasty but the salad dressing was hit or miss. Alex and Heather couldn't stomach it at all, while the rest of the table decided it was passable but not something to serve again.
Drinks for the meal were wine gifts of various sorts. We started with a sparkling strawberry wine that only tasted acceptable with an ice cube or two. It leaned heavily towards soda pop but not so much so as the second bottle, an apple Ohio wine that scored 0 among those playing the ranking game. Fruity does not begin to define the depth of sweetness in this concoction. The final wine was an unlabeled mystery red given to us by a seed potato buyer. It was the best of the bunch and we would love to know more about it.
After a quick tour of the garden, I served the piece de resistance: sausage cake
from a Nordic Ware promotional cookbook circa 1970s. Made from a whole pound of (homemade
, of course) pork sausage with cold coffee as the liquid, this spice cake was clearly meant to be served as dessert. Three of the five adults enjoyed the cake, while the other two had trouble overcoming the psychological barrier that their dessert contained undetectable meat. We tried the cake with an apple moonshine pairing and decided that a chef could serve this at a restaurant using the moonshine in a hard sauce and patrons might love it.
Dense and sweet, unsuspecting diners might not know the cake contained sausage if they were not told. We'll try this theory on our family coming over tonight. Shhh....
Overwhelmingly, our dinner party was pleased with the recipes we chose. It just goes to show, when you take a risk on something that 'couldn't be', you may very well be pleasantly surprised!