Well, it's mango season. Okay, nearly the end of it. So when Sahil suggested in April that we do a mango-themed potluck, it didn't seem like a bad idea at all. The dinner was planned for almost a month and a half after our last one, and I wasn't quite sure if people would be enthusiastic enough when it was time to cook.
It started off with 7 people signing up to attend and two backed out eventually, which makes me want to put some more rules in place, about attendance (among other things that I hope to get to later in this post).
Picking up from the numerous questions I'd asked at the end of our last potluck, I cannot stress enough on having enough dinner ware. We met at Raunaq's home for dinner on May 27th, and as hosts or organizers, you will do what it takes to wash those extra dishes or spoons, when you run out. But a situation like that is best avoided, right? We ran out of quarter plates this time and had to do our dishes from dinner, to be able to serve dessert. As a host, I'd hate for that to happen.
Did we do a better job of serving our food differently/better and taking pictures well enough? Three cooks in, I'm not sure if we have a right answer to this. Our food went cold again, and we had only an induction plate and no microwave. Add to our woes, two of our dishes were pork and lamb. Even the slightest amount of overcooking could (and did) ruin what was cooked. Pranav, who was new to the 'club', made lamb chops. He came over to my place before we got to Raunaq's, so that he could grill the lamb chops. They were perfect, hot off the grill. We were so paranoid they'd end up chewy when it was time to eat, that we took a shot at eating them at room temperature, instead of re-heating them on an induction stove. They weren't bad at all, just not as awesome as they were hot! Raunaq's pork went chewy because it was cooked twice (once when he made it and next we he re-heated it). And that was shame. The relish that went with the pork was so good, I imagine the finished dish would've been excellent had it not gotten chewy.
We started dinner fairly late this time around. We'd planned to meet by 9. But it was close to midnight by the time the last person got in. So we kept ourselves busy by drinking some kombucha that Raunaq's been making. I'd also carried some Mango Mead from Moonshine Meadery, an upcoming meadery, here in Pune. We had only a sip of the mead and I'm not sure everyone liked it very much at all. I've enjoyed some of their other stuff and I quite liked how the mango mead tasted, but I guess it takes a little getting used to.
All of us ran into some prep-time issues, yet again.
I made three batches of pavlova and was happy only with one. I've baked pavlova before and the ones I made this time around seemed deflated and weren't crunchy enough on the outside. Some of them didn't crisp up at all. And that left *me* deflated. The one batch that did turn out marginally good was packed away in an airtight box and not opened until it was time for dessert because I was afraid it'd go soggy. The pavlova fared well, based on the feedback I got at the dinner table.
Pranav attempted cooking his lamb chops mid week and ruined them. He learnt his lesson and tenderised a fresh batch of chops with raw papaya the night before the final cook. He also thought the recipe didn't quite work for an Indian palate, so he fixed the spice ratio on the rub he used for his chops. Both him and I LOVED the outcome. I wish everybody else had gotten to eat the chops hot off the grill and enjoy them the way we did. The chops were served with a mango and mint chutney, though most of us felt they tasted good even without a chutney at all.
Sahil was at a beer judging event for most part of the day and his fish and raw mango curry ended up being more of a dry dish. We're not entirely sure what he did wrong, but I guess he fixed his dish the following day by adding some more raw mango and some coconut milk.
Jomy did a terrible job with timing how long his chicken might take him to cook. He started cooking at 7:30 pm and arrived at Raunaq's close to midnight, by which time all of us were just plain hungry. The jus from the grilled bird was beautiful. The chicken itself, got mixed reactions. While the outside was great, the inside of the thigh I got was quite pink. Definitely not raw, but quite certainly not cooked all the way through either. The flavours hadn't quite seeped all the way through and that made me a little sad.
Raunaq, who hosted us that evening, made a cold soup with cucumber and mangoes and also did pork tenderloin with a mango relish. The soup was refreshing and light. The pork, quite a downer. But I guess it's all part of the game, as long as we learn not to make the same mistakes while cooking these meat(s) again.
We didn't have very many leftovers - a handful of chops that Pranav took home, a small portion of the fish and some breast meat from the chicken. So, I'd like to believe we did okay there.
All of us tweaked our recipes a little, mostly because we're a bunch of Indians who enjoy cooking and are able to tell (to a small extent) that purely Western/American flavour profiles may not appeal to us.
That said, we ended up questioning our choice of book. Indian authors writing for an American audience. We were hoping we'd have gotten an insight into the varieties of Indian mangoes and were also hoping we'd have gotten to use specific mangoes for specific recipes. All of the recipes just said "mango", and not alphonso or totapuri or kesar.
We had a brief few minutes of pictures, when we laid the table out. But I really do want to do a better job of the pictures, I do. I'm just wary of coming across as obsessive in my attempts to do so.
I was quite pleased with how we went about the feedback for the food - asking questions, speculating why what went wrong and discussing how something was the right amount of sweet or why it was perhaps a little off.
All in all, dinner was fun - talking about what we'd cooked, making jokes and being terribly story tellers, discussing TV shows (where I just stared around blankly for the most part) and a helluva good time.
I'll end this post with a couple of articles related to cookbooks, potlucks and cooking for people.
The first is an article I'd shared on twitter a couple of years ago and that showed up today while I was running a search for another tweet. It's about making cookbook clubs work. And I think it's delightful. Here goes: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/10/how-to-start-a-cookbook-club.html
The second is something I read this morning. A Paella Cookout Competition (of sorts). I'm almost tempted to make the fourth cookbook potluck 5 or 6 of us cooking just 1 or 2 dishes. Not a competition, but an opportunity to see how different people cook the same recipe. Sounds fun?