Last year, I was missing my English golfing friends so much that I invited seven of them to visit and golf in Michigan. Surely, I thought, they wouldn’t all say “yes”. They had families, jobs, etc. I would be lucky if one or two agreed to make the transatlantic trip. Right?
Well, it is good that I desperately wanted them all to come, because, much to my surprise, they all said “yes”. Fabulous! But was I ready to host seven English ladies for a week??
Coming from villages with meticulous two-century-old houses and beautiful English gardens, what will they think of our still unfinished, new-construction house? Our idea of landscaping is to dump a truckload of mulch around the house and hope my neighbor, the gardener, will surprise me and put some plants in. The paint that I bought for the deck and downstairs has been around so long it is congealing in the can. And do they know some of us will be lodging three-to-a-room?
Too late to think about problems now. I’ll look on the bright side: the kitchen in our new home has been functional from the day we moved in (how could you live in a house without a kitchen??). So, I will feed them as well as I can, and hope for the best.
The English ladies arrived in style — with these darling shirts noting their home course (my former course) in Worcestershire, UK, http://www.thevalegolf.co.uk/.
When we weren’t golfing, as planned, I plied them with food/drink.
So, WHAT did I feed them? When I have seven guests in the house for a week, my menu items must meet one of three criteria:
- can be done ahead (e.g., kefta and vinaigrette),
- can be made in a jiffy by me while my guests relax (e.g, a simple, fresh salad or corn on the cob) or
- would be fun and easy for my guests to make (e.g., crab muffins).
All the items in the menu below meet one or more of those criteria.
Choice of Beverage: Citrus and Gin Fizzes, Gin and Tonic, or White Wine
Appetizer: Crab Muffins
Main: Moroccan Kefta in Tomato Sauce
Side: Couscous with Pine Nuts
Veg: Just-picked Corn on the Cob
Salad: Local Greens, Summer Tomatoes and Shredded Carrots
Dressing: Basic Vinaigrette
Prompted by glorious weather, I made one final tweak to the menu — changed it to a progressive dinner: cocktails at the house; wine and crab muffins at the beach; and dinner back at the house.
Our beach course, the crab “muffins”, is adapted from a Betty Rosbottom recipe in Bon Appetit (link below). I call them muffins as they don’t resemble traditional crab cakes at all. Further, while the recipe is yummy as is, I like it with a reduced proportion of cream cheese/sour cream, basil substituted for the orange and scallions for the chives.
I think these crab muffins are delicious, festive looking, and easy to make. Can you get any better than that for a handy appetizer? For our apres-golf meal, my guests gleefully dug in and made this easy recipe in a jiffy with minimal help from me. One chopped herbs, another shredded cheese, another mixed, etc. We finished them up at the house while we had our cocktails, packed them warm into a “cooler”, packed the wine into another cooler, tossed our (plastic) wine glasses in a bag and headed for the beach to wait for the sunset.
Mini Crab Muffins Recipe
Recipe Adapted from http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Mini-Crab-Cakes-352041
Serving Size: 24
Yield: Makes 24
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup parmesan, finely shredded
1/4 cup sour cream
6 leaves basil, fresh, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons scallions
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, chopped or shredded if chunks are large
1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Have ready: flexible mini-muffin pans (I prefer Demarle Flexipans). You’ll need about 24 compartments (each 2 ounces. If using traditional pans, butter compartments.
2. Remove root end from scallion. (If scallions are large, slice lengthwise.) Slice crosswise very fine.
3. Beat cream cheese until creamy. Add 1/4 cup (25%) of the Parmesan, egg, sour cream, basil, lemon zest, 3 tablespoons (75%) scallions, salt, and pepper. Fold in crabmeat.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix panko, remaining Parmesan, and remaining scallions in small bowl. Melt butter and mix thoroughly into panko mixture.
5. ASSEMBLY: Reserve 20% of the panko mixture for the topping. Spoon about 4 teaspoons (one rounded tablespoon) panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. Press lightly to form crust (you do not need to press up the sides of the cup). Spoon about 4 teaspoons crab mixture into each cup on top of the panko mixture. If using 2-ounce cups, the combined panko and crab mixtures should fill about 3/4 of the cups at this point. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon panko mixture in each cup as a topping.
6. Bake crab muffins in the middle of the oven, turning pan halfway through cooking time. Bake until golden on top and set – about 30 minutes. Cool in pans 5 minutes.
If using flexible pans, crab muffins should be easy to remove. For traditional pans, loosen sides of muffin with a knife and carefully lift out of pan.
7. Arrange crab cakes on serving platter. Garnish with scallions or basil.
DO-AHEAD DIRECTIONS: For delayed service, cooked crab muffins can be assembled a few hours ahead, refrigerated and baked at service time. If you need to make a day ahead, assemble, bake and then refrigerate for reheating at service time at 350 F.
VARIATIONS: The base of these crab muffins works for many different ingredients – not just crab. One of my favorites is to replace the crab with 4 slices of good quality, chopped and cooked bacon and about 1/2 cup chopped, slow-roasted tomatoes. I eliminate the lemon and basil. I call these my BLT muffins.
In the end, nobody commented on the unfinished house or complained about the close quarters. I’ll never know if it was just English politeness or if they spent so much time in the kitchen and dining room that didn’t have a chance to notice. But you really can’t go wrong by keeping guests well fed, can you??