Robot Pretends to Be A Grown Up and Hosts a Dinner Party

Need. More. Brains. And Caffeine.
In addition to spending a few hours Thursday night making food for Friday night, I stayed up ’til 3 working on edits for my boss, who kept emailing me new and different numbers. This robot is running down and seriously in need of a recharge. On tired days my brain feels like it’s in a box of fog. I very seriously considered hiding in the bathroom and taking a nap.

I hosted a little potluck dinner on Friday, partly because I like cooking for people and encouraging non-slap-cup-and-Yanjing-beer-centric activities, partly because my student cancelled, and partly because it’s been a year and I like celebrating good decisions. Also, partly because bacon. Last time I organized a get-together like this I was scolded. How things change.

So I made a few things Thursday night to cut down on the me feeling like an insane person, namely, little meatballs in sauce, cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates, and an almond-nectarine tart (a variation on the pear-almond tart I make for birthdays back home).

First, I put about 2/3 cup of whole almonds in a bowl to soak. Then I started on the meatballs.
1 pound of ground beef (or what have you)
1/2 onion finely diced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
Salt, pepper, splash of Maggi, soy sauce and cooking wine, a good dash of herbs
Mix these together thoroughly, then form little balls, and line them up in a baking dish. Bake at 375F (190C) for half an hour, then pop into a pot with some tomato sauce or pureed tomato or whatever you have on hand. I tried a few over pasta for dinner, (verdict: very tasty) and put away the rest.

Next, I replicated Leia’s highly addictive cheese-stuffed bacon wrapped dates that she brought to our tapas afternoon. I had to bike to 2 Jenny Lou’s and a BHG to find the dates, but it was totally worth it. These are incredibly easy, if a little messy because of the sticky dates. Two bags of dates, one pound of bacon cut in half, and about one package of soft spreadable Laughing Cow or funny looking Asian rip off cheese. Blue, brie, goat, could also work. Hopefully the dates are pitted. Cut them almost all the way in half, stuff the pit cavity with cheese, close them up, and wrap with the half bacon slices, then skewer shut with toothpicks. Either broil for 5 minutes or bake at 190C for 30-40 minutes, turning halfway through, until crispity and delicious.

I took out some duck breast to thaw and marinate, putting them in a Ziploc bag with cooking wine, light and dark soy sauce, Maggi, salt, and honey. Then I started with the almonds. After soaking for about an hour and a half, the skins come off like a prom dress. I put the almonds in a blender with 1/4 sugar and flour, and three Tbs of margarine. Also, two eggs, and vanilla extract. That’s the custardy almond filling. I made the pie crust with margarine instead of butter as well, to accommodate some dairy-allergic guests. About one cup of flour, a dash of sugar and salt, 6 Tbs margarine, a dash of ice cold water with two egg yolks and some almond flavoring, all pastry-forked together to make a crust. Bake at 190C for 8 minutes, then fill with the almond batter. I thinly sliced several nectarines and laid them down on the filling, then baked for 45 minutes.

Work was long and mostly I was figuring out last minute cooking prep, but I did stop at the Bainaohui and buy a new camera battery. Success. After far too many cups of tea and some Reeses Pieces to keep me going in the afternoon, I hurried home to finish getting ready.

Pan seared the duck as usual, ten minutes on the skin then 4 minutes on the other side, then into the oven for 15 minutes, a short rest, and thin slices. Sliced bread to go with the warming up meatballs.

Lastly, I assembled some shrimp spring rolls.
Peel, de-vein, and boil a package of frozen shrimp(imported, for our heavy-metal-toxin-wary friends), then set aside in the fridge
Give a quick boil to two bundles of bean thread (also known as mung bean vermicelli), drain, cut into smaller lengths.
Finely julienne a carrot and cucumbers, and rinse and dry basil and mint.
Soak each rice-skin individually in warm water, for maybe 10 seconds. It doesn’t have to completely soften in the water, it will continue to soften when you lay it carefully flat on a clean plate. Careful with these guys, they tear easily and are quite sticky.
Layer: Basil and mint leaves, rice thread, vegetables, and 2-3 shrimp. If you have it on hand, Hoisin sauce goes very well in these. Wrap tightly like a mini burrito. Serve chilled with chili dipping sauce and lime wedges.

People brought banana bread and brownies and ice cream and pita and vegetables with hummus. And wine.

Cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped date deliciousness.

Sliced pan-seared, soy sauce and honey marinated duck breast

Shrimp, Basil and Mint Spring Rolls

Nectarine and Almond Tart

Dinner went swimmingly, everyone enjoyed themselves and nearly all the food is gone-a few bacon dates and some pie left, but everything else was devoured! And we went through an egregious amount of wine. Bambi, who had gone out to dinner with some out of town friends, brought them back for drinks. Things may have gotten a little rowdy at this point, all the food gone, most of the wine gone, and someone broke out baijiu.

My body shudders at the thought of that foul demon liquid passing itself off as a beverage. Someone convinced me to drink a little. No, Robot, we know we don’t like this evil demon drink. Stop tasting it, it’s always going to be bad.

Someone put on dance music, so a few of us motivated to go out, since my crowded living room is not nearly as fun a place to dance. We first went to Fubar at Gongti Dong Menr, which is a little fake speakeasy hidden behind a hotdog restaurant. Really, the draw of the place is pressing a secret button to open the wall. After a drink there, weighing our options and trying to figure out where other people were, we headed to a club called Spark. It’s apparently in the basement of the Place, which is close to my work and somewhere I often go to lunch, so discovering a hidden nightclub there was very strange. It was fun though. had to coax Ginny to actually enter it since the front room was filled with lasers and he wanted to play in them.

Saturday I woke up far too early to Skype with my family, and then we headed over to Dongzhimen for the bus to Summer League Finals. It was a long day of playing Frisbee and being outside in the muggy colorless sky and no food. We had a team dinner at Kro’s afterwards in which I ate the most pizza yet again. Most people went out after, and I wished I had joined but I barely had energy to make it to my apartment and fall asleep in my own bed. A really great weekend.


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