A Dinner at Casa Marcela...


Some people need medication to deal with anxiety, but I just need something to plan to calm my nerves. I know. I wish I was joking, too, but I’m not. The truth is, when my head gets a little too crazy, all I need to do is to lie down, close my eyes, and imagine the menu, the flowers, and the party favors or tablescape for whatever we’re hosting next. That’s what takes me to my REALLY happy and calm place. I mean, after all, those events usually involve my home, my family, and a very close group of friends. But you know what the best part is? After I’ve spent some time thinking about it at night before bed, I’ll text Philip in LA and he’ll humor me by helping me plan the event from a distance. He’s always on wine and the grill. We discuss music, schedule, appetizers, childcare, and sometimes I’ll even send him a photo of what the kids will be wearing. You know, just in case he wants to match.

I know; it’s insane. It’s obsessive. And just like any other addiction, I think it’s my way to try and control the uncontrollable: life! So I’m addicted to dinner parties. The wise one (if you recall, this is how my sister will be referred to from now on) once told me that we are all addicted to something… for some it is drugs, for others phones. Some are addicted to religion, some food, some Instagram (or a whole range of things we can hardly imagine!). The truth is, we all go somewhere when we need to calm the brain. And no, I’m not enlightened yet, so I can’t do it on my own… I need to plan a party!

So you can imagine my delight when I learned that my co-host and dear friend Katie Lee, my producers Beth Burke and Blake Swerdloff, and my compadres Sara and Josue (along with their kids) were all coming for dinner. I almost died with happiness! You see, I’ve been flying out to do The Kitchen for 3 years, and these people are like family. To have them here: in my home, at my table, with my kids, with my friends… it meant everything to me.

We grilled steaks, marinated chicken with herbs from the garden, made a kale salad with cashew-cream dressing especially for Katie, roasted rosemary potatoes, enjoyed some seriously delicious wines, and I made my most-requested and commented-on recipe ever, my poblano lasagna. Heck, I even hired a waiter - I really just wanted to sit and enjoy these people - and with 3 kids and one nanny, I really loved having that extra help in the kitchen.

And by all means, ask them as well… but if you ask me, I think it was a huge success. Great food, of course (if I do say so myself), but the real magic was in how everything just flowed. The food was warm at the table, the wine paired perfectly with the rib-eyes, the kids ate everything, we laughed, we drank, I showed them the house, they held my babies, my New York friends became friends with my childhood friends… it was what I live for! Katie, at one point, mentioned how nice it was that the whole night was simply filled with kids and family coming and going, and that’s how we roll! Because I need good people here. I need the activity, I need the food, and I need the love. I need it to make the magic.

So thank you, Katie, Beth, Blake, Sara, and Josue for joining us for dinner and giving me a whole bunch of content to replay in my head when I’m feeling a little anxious. Please come back. Bring your kids and loved ones. Drink more and stay longer. I know we had to cut it short because we were shooting Katie Lee’s Cooking Channel show, Beach Bites, the next morning, but next time, let’s stay all night.


Now that the big dinner has come and gone, it’s time to move on… to the next event, whatever it may be! Perhaps Fau’s birthday party…? But in the meantime, here is the menu we enjoyed (complete with wines!) and my recipe for Corn and Poblano Lasagna.

And to my friends… see you next time!


Xo, M


Menu:

- Grilled Brie Stuffed with Caramelized Apples and Crusty Baguette Slices

- Shredded Kale Salad with Jalapeno-Cilantro Cashew Dressing Sprinkled with Pepitas

- Grilled Pounded Chicken Breasts Marinated with Herbs from the Garden (Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Mint, and Parsley, along with some Garlic and Shallots)

- Rosemary Roasted Thinly Sliced Russet Potatoes

- Giant Grilled Rib-Eyes

- Corn and Poblano Lasagna (recipe follows)

- Chocolate Ice Cream and Seasonal Berries


The Wine? An old friend and a new favorite: 1996 Tignanello and a 2005 Barolo Bricollo Delle Viole

And here’s the recipe, my friends…


Corn and Poblano Lasagna


Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, divided

  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears), or frozen and thawed

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ cup thinly sliced white onion

  • 1 large zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

  • 4 poblano chiles, charred, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips

  • 12 (7 by 3-inch) no-boil lasagna sheets

  • 2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese, or mozzarella


Directions


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add 2/3 of the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Mix in the corn and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and thyme. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the zucchini and poblano strips and cook for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.


Spread about ¼ of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 11 by 8-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread ¼ of the poblano mixture and ¼ of the cheese over the pasta. Repeat the layering 3 more times. Cover with foil.


Bake until the pasta is cooked and tender, about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to broil. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.



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