It's not that I never had good tea parties growing up, it's just that they were in my head.
Today I went to one with real, live people and animated conversation in a light-filled room. There were nibblies of every sort and jams and curds and teas. Some people brought traditional tea party fare and others brought "it's a celebration and this is what my people do" offerings. Still others shared the bounty from season's end gardens or the farmer's market.
All of us ate too much and apologized not one bit for it. Here's to grown-ups getting their little kid tea party on.
My contributions were quince fried pies and cheese and bacon grits.
QUINCE FRIED PIES
dough for 12-ish pies:
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. rendered leaf lard (you could use shortening, but butter would burn, I think)
1/2 c. whole, raw milk from Sea Breeze Farm (sure, use a different kind, but you'll miss the love!)
Sift flour and salt together. Mix in cold lard with fingertips until it resembles sand. Stir in milk until shaggy and just holding together. Turn onto floured board, gather together into a ball, then a flat disk, and cut into quarters. Cut those into thirds and form into a small ball. This dough is more forgiving than pie dough--it's really closer to a biscuit dough, and the lard makes it easier to work with.
5 quince, peeled, cored, and diced (give yourself time; quince are ornery)
water to just cover
+/- 1 cup sugar (depends on how astringent the quince are--you'll just have to play*)
1 knife tip ground cloves
2 knife tips ground cinnamon
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. vanilla (scrapings of a vanilla bean handy? even better)
3 T. butter
Place fruit and sugar in a saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the spices and lemon juice. Stew the fruit over low heat until it's soft, but still a bit chunky, and most of the liquid has cooked away. At the very end, stir in vanilla and butter. Let cool (if you do this ahead and refrigerate, bring back to room temperature before proceeding).
Assemblage and fryage (I made that second word up):
1 c. or more of leaf lard
1 c. sugar
Roll each circle of dough into a 5 in. circle. Place a heaping soup spoon of filling in center. Moisten edges of dough with your fingertip and water, then fold over gently (careful--don't tear dough) and seal all edges completely. Crimp with a fork. Continue with the rest of the dough.
Put lard in a steep-sided, wide skillet and heat until a tiny ball of dough sizzles mightily when tested in it. Gently lay the pies in, without crowding, a few at a time. Fry in batches until golden, then turn gently and fry the other side. You may have to stand them upright, too, to get an all-over gold (add more lard as necessary). Take pies up and immediately place them on a plate of sugar, turning quickly to coat all sides. Remove to rack to cool.
These are good at room temperature, but I encourage you to organize your life around having at least one while still warm. Or kind of wreck the first one, so you'll be forced to eat it, lest you serve something unsightly to a guest. Hospitality requires it, you know. wink
*it's for a tea party, after all
CHEESE AND BACON GRITS
2 c. stone-ground grits
6 c. water
1 t. salt
4 T. butter
1/2 lb. shredded cheese (I used Beecher's Flagship and Estrella Valentina*)
12 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled (I used Skagit River Ranch)
1 c. milk
3 large eggs
1/2-1 tsp. Louisiana Hot Sauce or similar (heck, we're in Seattle, maybe Sriracha!)
1 t. fresh thyme leaves
cracked black pepper and additional salt to taste (depends on saltiness of your bacon and cheese)
Bring water and salt to boil and add grits in a steady stream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Lower heat and cook, stirring often, until water has been absorbed. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and transfer to large mixing bowl. Beat eggs and milk and hot sauce together, then stir into grits. Add cheese (reserve 1/2 cup), bacon and thyme; season with pepper and (if needed) salt. Pour into ungreased, shallow dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top and bake for an additional 1/2 hour or so. The grits should not jiggle when they're done and the top should be golden. [Note: today, 12/6/09, I actually DID use Sriracha. I liked it even better than Louisiana Hot Sauce, as chagrined as I am to say it.]
*A reader on Shauna and Dan Ahern's "pork, knife & spoon" blog's re-printing of this recipe reminded me that these are Puget Sound cheeses. For those in other regions, just choose a hard cheese that is bold and flavorful and sharp enough to cut your tongue! http://porkknifeandspoon.com/2009/12/08/cheese-and-bacon-grits/