Think about the Every year, like most nonprofit organizations, the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth has a large gala to help raise funds to continue their mission. This being the 75th anniversary of D-Day (June 6), the committee decided to make D-Day the theme. It isn’t easy to plan an elegant night around a battle that cost so many men their lives. The committee decided to center on the events that lead up to the invasion.
The event was held on May 11. There was a mission briefing, big band music, actors who were dressed as fly boys and a trio of female singers belted out period tunes into a giant microphone with “NBC” on it. Many of the tables were decorated with tall cylinders lined with black and white photos of people in uniform and, of course, planes. One of the dining areas was set up to simulate an officers dining hall. The tables in there were decorated with antique ammunition boxes, a manual typewriter and replicas of the bombing maps used by our fighters during WWII. There was another dining area under the wings of the B-17 which was flooded with blue light. Somehow, the Gala committee made all this come together to create a period feel — but with great elegance that would be hard to top at any black-tie affair.
As the caterer, my challenge was to plan a meal in keeping with the theme, but worthy of a plated, black-tie affair — for 450 very special guests. After tossing around several ideas, we decided the main meal would be Wine Braised Short Ribs, Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, Maple Dijon Roasted Carrots and Fisherman’s Stew. Meat, potatoes and soup — very in keeping with a mess hall meal with a little class!
We took a little liberty on the appetizers. We started with a grazing station laden with fruit, cheese, grilled vegetables, smoked meats and dips. Whenever we do a grazing table, I always think of the scene in “Peter Pan” where the children in Neverland are sitting at a table overflowing with all different kinds of food, when in fact, it is only their imagination and they aren’t eating at all. I imagine many servicemen and women often dreamed of feasting on their favorite foods as they lay in their bunks so far away from home.
I couldn’t resist the urge of working Spam into the meal. According to Hormel's figures, 100 million pounds of Spam was sent abroad to both American and Allied soldiers, so it fit in well with the theme. We fried it and skewered it with a pineapple tidbit. We had several takers, but many refusals, too. For the record, I would never refuse a piece of fried spam!
Thanks to my amazing staff and great friends, the meal was well received and no one dropped a plate on a guest! I’ve had several requests for recipes from the night and I never mind sharing a recipe, but I don’t think they meant the one for 450 people. So, instead, I’m sharing my “inspiration” recipes with some tweeks we made.
If you’re not doing anything tomorrow, there are several programs planned at the museum to commemorate D-Day and they have a special admission price all day. Visit their website mightyeighth.org for more information and stop by and say hi while you’re there!
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
• 5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
• Salt and pepper
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 ½ cups chopped onion (2 medium onions)
• 2 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
• 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
• 8 sprigs thyme
• 4 sprigs oregano
• 2 sprigs rosemary
• 2 bay leaves
• 3 cloves
• 4-5 cups beef stock
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
2. Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined, 2-3 minutes.
3. Stir in wine, and add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium-high and simmer, uncovered until wine is reduced by half about 10 minutes. Tie the rosemary, thyme and oregano together with kitchen twine and add to the pot along with the bay leaves. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.
4. Cook until short ribs are tender, 2-2½ hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
• 1 ½ stick of butter
• 2 onions, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
• 2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
• 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 tablespoon dried basil
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 cup water
• 1 1/2 cups white wine
• 3-5 pounds of assorted seafood, clams, shrimp, scallops, mussels, fish
• 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
1. Over medium-low heat melt butter in a large pot, add onions, garlic and parsley. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until onions are soft, 5-6 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes to the pot (break them into chunks as you add them). Add chicken broth, bay leaves, basil, thyme, oregano, water and wine. Mix well. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.
3. Stir in the shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and fish. Bring to boil.
4. Lower heat, cover and simmer 5 to 7 minutes until clams open.
5. Stir in cream and let simmer another 3-4 minutes.
Maple Dijon Glazed Carrots
• 2 pounds young whole carrots
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1/2 tablespoon stone ground mustard
• 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
• 2 teaspoons soy sauce
• 1 small clove garlic minced
• 1 tablespoon chopped chives (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the vegetable oil, syrup, mustard, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic.
2. Toss the carrots in half of the mixture and garlic and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 20-30 minutes turning half way through. Actual cooking time will depend on the size of your carrots.
3. Remove from oven and toss with the remaining glaze before serving.
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
• 4 pounds red or golden potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
• Chicken Broth (enough to cover potatoes)
• Salt & pepper
• 2 cups sour cream
• 1 stick unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons horseradish
• Chopped fresh chives, for garnish
1. Put the potatoes into a large pot, add 1 tablespoon salt, and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes, reserving 2 tablespoons cooking broth.
3. Mash the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add the sour cream, butter, and horseradish and cooking broth as needed to thin out potatoes.
4. Taste and season well with salt and pepper.
5. Garnish with chopped fresh chives.