04 September 2011

Welcome Chez Nous - Our House is Meant for Family and Friends

Our house just feels right, even complete, when it is shared with family and friends. 
Slow living and enjoying the good life are so much richer when shared with people we love!

Last week, Jack and I had a party to celebrate our 25 terrific years of marriage so far, and lots of our dear friends and family were here to celebrate with us. Even with Hurricane Irene looming large on the horizon, the evening was so much fun. It was the people here who made the entire weekend such a warm and happy event... and our house felt complete.

We had decided, a couple of months ago, to host a pig roast, and several of our friends then immediately booked rooms at a local bed & breakfast, not dreaming we'd have a potential hurricane to rain on our roasting parade. Based on our experiences attending pig roasts on Long Island (with our great pals Russ & Nic) Jack and my brother, Dick, (in long-distance consultation with Russ) devised a grill that was perfect for our needs. A twin bed frame (meltable plastic wheels removed) on cinder blocks, topped with some steel grating that Dick cut to size, made an awesome grill. We had a huge pile of extra old wood in the back of our property, so the fuel situation was taken care of. But what to do about the threat of rain?

Always one to meet such a challenge head on, Jack devised a huge tent strung up between the trees, to keep the grill area from getting doused, just in case... Fortunately, the tent ended up being superfluous after all, and stayed on the sidelines.
Flamin' Jack Flash

Apart from a few sprinkles, the rain never came! (We did have high winds later that night and the following day, but for the most part, Cape Cod was spared the ravages that much of the East Coast suffered.)

We had ordered a 25-30 lb. pig, from our local butcher, Ferretti's Market, right here in Brewster. Unfortunately, when the pig arrived it was just over 24 lbs. and we decided we would have to augment the whole pig with some other butchered pork. Jack bought a large pork shoulder to smoke (and it ended up being much more flavorful than the whole pig, which was roasted over a wood fire, but more on that later.)
Jack marinated the pig on Friday, with a mixture of garlic, olive oil and rosemary.
We keep our rosemary bushes in large pots, so we can move them indoors for the cold New England winter months.
We had originally envisioned a Mediterranean meal, sort of a melange of Provencal and Tuscan cuisines, but Drake came up with the idea of a more Southeastern Mediterranean feast, with Greek and Arabic influences. He planned the menu and we all chose what we were going to make.

All day Friday, Jack, Drake, Madeleine and I cooked together - SO MUCH FUN! Friday evening, Giles, Mia, and their girls arrived, so that Saturday, Giles was in the heat of the kitchen, too, adding his own flavors to the mix. (The family that cooks together stays together, yes?...It works for us!)
Drake making the best whole wheat pitas ever. This was the basis of our menu - which would be pork in pita breads, loaded with various toppings and side dishes.

 The beginnings of carrot salad.

Silly Maddie, making our family hummus recipe - with enhancements, including tons of grated lemon zest.

Granddaughters helping in the potager (kitchen garden).
Giles (looking tres serieux) puts his own stamp on our traditional tabouleh recipe.
Making tzatziki.
Jack kept hopping in the pool to cool off.
Our good luck rooster watched over the kitchen proceedings, as usual.
The table was set with chairs from kitchen, dining room & garden. Set for 24, we ended up squeezing in even a few more!

We had originally planned this long table to be on the pool terrace, under the stars, but the uncertain weather forecast convinced us to move it inside. By rearranging our living room furniture, the table and chairs fit into the room with ample elbow room to boot! Jack had created the generous family-style table by combining our kitchen table, our terrace buffet table and some found plywood - all of which were hidden under the cloth! The tablecloth was made out of ikat fabric I had originally purchased for curtains - but hey, now we have a fabulous tablecloth for years to come.

Our first guests, Dan & Lisa, arrived late afternoon, prepared for a storm which - thank heaven - never materialized.

The fire was started several hours ahead of dinner time, in order to have beautiful hot coals, rather than a roaring fire, under the grill.
The pig is first roasted skin side down. The thick skin keeps the meat really juicy and tender inside.
 Heavy leather gloves needed!
 Jack constantly basted the pig - both sides.
Taking the internal temp - almost done!
Sadie & Tino, doubtless thinking: if we wait really patiently, will we get to join in the feast?
The smoked pork shoulder was first seared on the grill, then smoked for 5 hours over hickory chips and a handful of star anise. In the end, this had more flavor than the grilled pig, which was tender and sweet, but lacked that certain je ne sais quoi.

 Three generations - my mom Nora, brother Dick and daughter Madeleine.
 My sister-in-law, Lucy with cousin, Kent and his friend, Kristin.
 Dear friends from Hingham and Hull - Debby, Dan, Lisa, Woody & Sue.
 Drake shows Dolores and Renato his new camera.
What a group!

Pitas, both wood-grilled and smoked pork, hummus, tzatziki, curried carrot salad, tabouleh, roasted onions/garlic/other veggies, sweet onion/apple/grape chutney, Mom's famous mustard mousse, roasted eggplant dip, roasted red pepper/tomato sauce, and more!
Drake's friend Lora had probably never imagined a family could take so many pictures of food!
Two platters of pork - one smoked pork shoulder, the other wood-grilled whole pig.
The pork has been served - Jack announces "tutti a tavola!"
My nephew, Dickon, looks over shoulders as Drake explains the various dishes.
Late arrivals, Robert & Mary, just in time for the meal...and with a surprise dessert!
One of our centerpieces - fresh basil varieties from Renato's & Dolores's orto (kitchen garden).
 Drake demonstrates that the pita should be loaded with tzatziki, and eaten with gusto!

 The first of many toasts. Chin chin!

All three of our kids made the nicest, heartwarming toasts - Jack and I were smiling from ear to ear. And I didn't even cry (at least not that I can remember).
A lovely gift from the Italian contingent - much appreciated.
Above: pear frangipane tartes.
I had made six pies (four varieties) for the festivities....all in all employing more than 3 lbs. of butter. 
My other pies included Chocolate Pecan, Lemon Blueberry and Seasonal Fruits with Pastry Cream. Eager guests began sampling the selections before I had plated them!

An amazing addition to the desserts table: Robert & Mary's triple goat cheese cheesecake.

Brunch the following morning was a collaborative effort again. Drake and Giles made Eggs Benedict with a twist - smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon, including capers and red onions.

...and fresh-picked tomatoes.

There was only one regretful aspect to this great party weekend - a few of our best friends and family could not join us, due either to the hurricane or to other previous family engagements. So we can't be blamed for already thinking ahead to the next gathering which will include them, as well!

...Then our house will REALLY feel complete!
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