So prepare yourself for a bit of a read … this is my very first Gourmet Clun edition, and there is so much to share!
First, let’s start with some history. Back in the nineties, my mom and dad and four other couples founded the Gourmet Club. This is how it works. The couple who is hosting chooses a country. Each couple is assigned a course from appetizer, soup, salad, and dessert, with the host always providing the entree, and all guests rotating through different courses depending on who is hosting.
The only rule: you can’t repeat a country once it has been done.
Not only does the Gourmet Club give my parents and their friends the opportunity to try new and interesting recipes from different countries, but it allows them to stay close to their friends. Even with busy lives, somehow the members of the Gourmet Club have managed to squeeze 5 or 6 gourmet gatherings together each year. Over a 20 year span, I find this remarkable. The Gourmet Club has survived whatever life can throw at you: allergies, children, divorce, new marriages, drama, illness and even loss of life. A wonderful example of how the love of food can bring people closer together.
Even as a child, Gourmet Club fascinated me. I have memories of my parents always heading off to Gourmet Club; I remember my dad dressing up for Scotland, sporting a kilt and a blackened tooth while talking in a Scottish accent. I remember the legend of the Japanese dessert so terrible that it ended up on the garage roof. I remember one of the members wore chainmail armour to the gourmet gathering with a medieval theme of ‘a Charles Dickens’ Christmas’ (yes, sometimes they get creative with the theme – after 20 years, you start to run out of countries!)
So in my 20’s, my taste buds finally evolved to the point where I started to appreciate ethnic foods. As my friends and I all began to share a love of cooking and trying new foods, we decided to give our own Gourmet Club a shot, taking inspiration from my parents and their friends.
We have now been doing our own Gourmet Club for over 3 years now. In that time, countries we have done include France, Chili, Trinadad and Tabago, Lebanon, Vietnam, Ireland and Thailand among others. Some of the more notable dishes (in my mind anyways) include:
– Kelsey’s backlava from Lebanon, flaky, sweet and covered in honey.
– John’s spicy and intricate Tom Yum soup with little ‘monsters’ (full prawns with heads and tails and all) and a vegetarian version with pineapple and okra.
– Lori’s creative coconut jello layered with exotic fruits for Vietnam, including Jack fruit (the one that smells like stinky feet but tasted great!)
– Micheline’s addictive garlic dip from Lebanon, we all smelled terrible together. Served with barbecued chicken skewers.
– My own Chilean nut cake, a messy monstrosity of a cake with 10 baked pancakes layered and covered with caramel. It was promptly devoured.
Of course, there are so many more fantastic dishes from our gourmet clubs.
So with some colourful Mexican tablecloths and a large bowl of sangria, our friends came over, each bearing a different Mexican course.
The Appitizer: Mango Salsa and Pico de Gallo
Lori was assigned to the appetizer. She brought not one but two different types of salsa: a mango salsa and a classic pico de gallo. Served with tri-coloured corn tortillas, this was certainly a vibrant and festive dish. Both salsas were fresh and delicious, and we had to take the pico away before everyone ate it all as we needed it as a garnish for the main course. As a bonus, the salsas allowed us to sample a variety of hot sauces: Marie Sharps, Melinda’s, Chalula’s … but the classic Mexican Valentina’s seemed to be the favourite of the night.
The Soup: Tortilla Soup
Next up was the soup. Micheline treated us to a delicious and hearty tortilla soup slow cooked in the crock-pot. Garnished with sour cream, tortilla chips, and cheddar cheese, a dash of Valentina’s hot sauce had us all devouring this soup.
With the salad, Kent provided us with a light and fresh salad to cleanse the pallete before the entree. Avacado, diced shallots, and tortilla to garnish, this salad was perfected by a light and flavourful dressing made from lime juice, garlic and cumin. It’s always great to see the boys get involved in the cooking!
The Main Course: Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Drizzle
When John’s dad was in Mexico last year, he caught a whole school of palometa, a light and flakey Mexican fish. He cleaned them, froze them, and flew them back to Canada where he graciously donated a healthy portion to our freezer. We figured that this Mexican fish would be perfect for our Mexican gourmet entree of fish tacos! The fish portion of this meal is John’s own creation. To prepare the fish, john lightly breaded the fish with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. Fried in a small amount of oil, the fish was great for fish tacos. We served the fish on corn tortillas, and garnished them with homemade guacamole, green cabbage, red onion and Lori’s pico de gallo.
There are two additions that make these fish tacos go from good to awesome. And I have to give my brother Steven credit for both. The first is a lime cilantro drizzle, made by blending lime juice, cilantro and olive oil together, to be spooned onto the taco. The second is Valentina’s hot sauce, also Steven’s discovery. Steve gave me this recipe a while back, and when John and I made them and decided that they were the best fish tacos we had ever had, we knew we had to try it at Gourmet Club. I think the boys were all ready to explode after this course!
If you are lucky enough to have tomatillos on hand, you can make Salsa Verde as an alternative to the cilantro lime drizzle.
We also made beer battered avacado tacos as a vegetarian alternative.
The Dessert: Tres Leche Cake with a twist
Finally, there was the piece de resistance, a team effort by both Cody and Jackie. Due to the complexity of the preparation involved for this dessert (I think they worked on it over a period of two days) I asked Jackie to provide a description of the cake, as I wanted to do it justice. Here is what she said:
“The cake that Cody & I made was similar to a tres leche cake… with a twist. Instead of incorporating some evaporated milk, coconut milk and a Caramel drizzle, this version took out the sweetness and substituted it with some fruity flavors to make it lighter
I guess you could call it a Lime and Passionfruit Custard Cream Cake. It is a bit labor intensive since you start off making a lemon chiffon cake which incorporates meringue that needs to be folded into the batter to make it nice and fluffy. You cut the cake into three layers and drizzle a lime sauce over top each one. Then you need to make a passionfruit custard crème in a bowl over top of saucepan which is then transferred into an ice bath to thicken and mixed with whipped cream for the filling. After having it in the fridge to let the cream set you finish it off with a sweetened cream icing topped with chunky coconut flakes. The result is a tart and slightly sweet cake… the zest from the lemon & lime is supposed to add a nice fresh taste to it.”
All I can say…light, fluffy, glorious. This cake was to die for!
So all in all, this gourmet gathering was a success, with each course being a hit. For the recipe of the week, I provided a write up of the fish tacos. Please keep in mind the recipe is only a general idea as most of the quantities were improvised to taste.
Special thanks to John’s dad for the fish, Steven for the fish taco recipe, Jackie for the description, and all of the chefs (and diners!) at Gourmet Club this time around. Anyways, I am off to share a leftover piece of Cody and Jackie’s tres leche cake with John!
Click here to view printable Word version of recipe:
Ingredients for fish:
– Any type of white fish you like: halibut, cod, talapia, sea bass, palometa, bass, red snapper are just some examples
– Bread crumbs
– Grated parmesan cheese
– Small amounts of chili powder, cumin and garlic powder
Directions for Fish::
Lightly coat the fish in bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder. You do not need very much of the 3 spices. Fry the fish in oil on high heat until it is done.
Other ingredients, topping and garnishes:
– Corn tortillas
– Thinly sliced red onion
– Thinly sliced green cabbage
– Guacamole – key as it provides a moist, creamy texture to the tacos.
– Pico de gallo
– Lime cliantro drizzle – see recipe below
– Valentina’s hot sauce (Chalula’s as an alternative)
Lime Cilantro Drizzle:
Combine lime juice, olive oil and cilantro and blend. Continue to add ingredients to taste. As a guideline, try using about 1/2 oil and 1/2 lime juice to start.
As an alternate to the lime cilantro drizzle, try Salsa Verde if you have tomatillos on hand.