Some quick notes on the actual dinner first discussed here. First thing - too many items to pull together at once - especially after having spent the afternoon at a soccer game. We managed to get to some version of everything planned except the salad, but it was a bit rushed. Otherwise, quite good.
Some specifics on what we actually ended up serving:
Arepas - Not assorted, but one variety. Made with chicken stock, stuffed with Lomo and Comte, grilled on the char-broiler. Served with Hogao.
Carnitas - Soccer game considered, no time to do proper carnitas, but instead made "instant carnitas":
Marinate cubed picnic shoulder in Fresh orange juice, garlic, ground ancho, pepper melange, cumin seed, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt. Spread chunks out on baking pans so they have some air around them and roast in a 375 degree convection oven until done and nicely caramelized. Doesn't take long in there. For the record, please note again that this is not a proper carnitas, but it works well enough with all the fixins provided in this menu. And you can do it fast.
Grilled shrimp - simply prepared. On skewers, on char-broiler. Brushed with melted butter containing a crushed garlic clove and some Bay Seasoning.
Mexican Rice - As I said, things became a bit compressed in this plan, so just sautéed a couple of onions and a diced red pepper in olive oil, added (goya) medium grain rice to pan and tossed to coat. Cooked for a couple of minutes until some translucency apparent. Added salt and some of the Hogao prepared to accompany the arepas. And cooked in the open pan, in the manner of risotto, with chicken stock. Ended up whacking it with Hogao again along the way. Pretty tasty.
Salsas - did both. I'll put up a separate post on salsas later.
Guac - did more or less as described here recently. This version included roasted poblanos.
Habichuelas Negras - Again, time compression pushed this to the "instant" version. Goya black beans from can into a pan containing a copious quantity of EVOO in which a crushed garlic clove has been slightly cooked. Add Hogao (the all purpose short-cut this evening), salt to taste, smoked spanish paprika. Practically painless to produce (if you have the Hogao and paprika on hand) and very good.
I guess I'll owe you a post on Hogao down the line too.
Grilled the scallions on the char-broiler and then seasoned with EVOO, Maldon Salt, and an aged balsamic-style moscat glaze.
Drinks were as planned. Didn't have any suitably priced Rioja Tempranillo for the Sangria, so used Gotim Bru (tempranillo, merlot, cabernet). Also, added some cubed fuji apple along with the citrus. OK, this is embarrassing, but I threw in a splash of ginger ale too (maybe 4 oz to a bottle of wine). Not my usual procedure, but it needed something - and it worked.
The cake was very good. Even after Secondo dropped it on the way into the dining room. Even with the white rug. Even with the candles burning. No tears were shed. Rug's fine; most of the cake, and even some of the candles survived.