Our family gatherings just got a whole bunch bigger. My youngest brother recently moved to the Cape along with his wife and four children. Our weekly family dinners were averaging about 10 to 12 people. Add six more and it’s quite a crowd. But somehow we have managed to pull off fabulous dinners two weekends in a row.
My mother suggested early on that all dinners by necessity should be pot lucks, with everybody contributing something. Our house is the biggest so we usually host. At first I was worried that our little rescue puppy Cooper would lose his mind over all those people invading his territory. He suffered from a pretty bad case of fear aggression in his first months with us. Even though he only weighs seven pounds, when he is frightened he is seven pounds of charging fury.
I spent about six months reading every dog training book I could find. About two months ago, he finally relaxed and realized our house is safe. But just to be sure, I warned my brother’s kids to leave him alone. Thankfully they are well-behaved children who listen well. Even so, I never leave him in the room alone with a child. It’s not safe for him or the kids.
Besides, it’s not like we don’t have plenty of other pets that are child friendly. Our other miniature dachshund, Sadie, loves children and has gone camping with my brother’s kids every year so she knows them. Our cat Chloe is so friendly that she hugs people. Even the chickens allow the kids to pick them up.
Before everyone arrives, the Kitchen Genius builds a fire in our fire pit. There is plenty of seating down there and most gatherings begin with everyone catching up around the fire. After dinner, the guys tend to go back to the fire. Others sit at our dining room table and the young mothers tend to gather in the living room with their babies.
Our menu for our first gathering was simple. Shaw’s had chicken thighs on sale, buy one, get one free. We bought six packages and KG barbecued them over the fire. My mother brought potato salad and I made macaroni salad and baked beans. I sliced up a watermelon and KG put out jars of homemade pickles.
In true KG form, dessert was inspired by ingredients we had on hand. We had a loaf of homemade bread and a bag of apples in the refrigerator. Apple bread pudding was an obvious choice. I spruced up the homey dessert with some bourbon sauce and it became a recipe we will make again.
The trick to a good bread pudding is to make sure the bread really soaks up the milk and eggs. You need to let it rest for about a half an hour before baking it. The mixture of milk and eggs should be about three-quarters of the way up the side of the pan. Otherwise you have a dry and bready dessert rather than the tender custard you are seeking.