Last weekend, my husband and I hosted a dinner party for 8 of our friends. Thirty minutes before the guests were scheduled to arrive, I was still figuring out what to wear. Now, you may be thinking this story is about how stressed out I was trying to host a dinner party while panicking over all the last minute party details. However, the exact opposite was true. I was actually totally relaxed while casually considering my wardrobe options because I knew everything for dinner was handled. How? Had I spent days pre-cooking everything? Had I ordered from a favorite restaurant and hidden the take-out boxes? No and No. My secret weapon was that I had the talented (and ultra efficient) team of chef Jason Kerr and Becca Reyanga in my kitchen.
My husband and I met Jason and Becca at a farm dinner last May. They had been hired by the farm to prepare a dinner celebrating the farm’s anniversary using fresh ingredients from the farm. We were so impressed with the meal that we attended the next pop-up dinner Jason and Becca hosted. And the next and the next. We would visit with them at the dinners and run into them at the Eastside Farmers Market where Becca had a booth selling her handmade pralines. We discovered that not only can Jason and Becca cook a killer meal, they are also two of the nicest people you will ever meet. We watched their business grow from a small pop-up to a full service catering company called Little Kitchen HTX. And we became huge fans.
So, when we had an opportunity to bid on an auction item at The Butchers Ball that was for a private dinner for 10 catered by Jason and Becca, we jumped on it. We were thrilled when we heard we had won!
When you have someone you trust handling the really important and very huge tasks of menu planning, wine pairing, shopping, prepping, cooking, and serving, you are free to focus on all the small details that make a dinner party at your house personal and fun. I had time to think about place settings and flowers and make printed menus. They are seemingly minor but they make dinner feel special.
The menu for the evening was –
- Charred octopus on watermelon radish with preserved lemon aioli
- Fried Texas quail with onions & Parmesan
- South Texas citrus salad with avocado, pickled red onions, yogurt and chilies
- Short rib with marrow, beef tongue and ricotta ravioli
- Chocolate mousse with pralines
Jason and Becca sourced as many of the ingredients as they could locally which is something they always strive to do. They also worked with local master sommelier, Cat Nguyen, for the wine pairings and chose three beautiful wines from Rioja, Spain.
While guests enjoyed the first wine and passed appetizer of the charred octopus on watermelon radish, I was able to slip away for a few minutes to take pictures. Early in the planning stages for this dinner, I had put out the idea of wanting to photograph the dishes in hopes of writing a blog post. Jason and Becca were happy to help. I set up a makeshift studio with artificial lights and faux tablescape in a bedroom and they were kind enough to plate each course for me. I quickly snapped some pictures of each dish and returned to the party because I had no intentions of missing out on any of the courses for the sake of photos.
The charred octopus for the appetizer was cooked to perfection and the watermelon radish had been sliced super thin so we could pick up the whole thing and eat it like a soft taco. It was an absolutely fun way to kick off the evening. High gourmet that is fun and approachable is chef Jason’s typical style and why I like his cooking so much.
The next course was a citrus salad with avocado, pickled red onions, fried beet chips, yogurt and chilies. This was no boring standard salad. It was a riot of colors, flavors, and textures. And it ensured we got a side of healthy before moving on to the more indulgent courses.
My feeling on fried foods is if you’re going to indulge, make sure it’s worth the calories. This fried quail with caramelized onions was definitely worth it. The quail was coated in cornmeal and cornstarch to keep it gluten-free while still having a fabulous crunch. Besides accommodating my crazy photography request, Jason and Becca easily accommodated one guest with celiac disease and another guest with a nut allergy.
Then came my favorite course of the night. It was my red meat dreams come true – braised short ribs with bone marrow. The short ribs were melt-in-your-mouth tender and the bone marrow was luxurious. They were served on top of some thinly sliced beef tongue and ravioli filled with fresh ricotta made by chef Jason. It was a stellar combination. For the gluten-free option, the ravioli was replaced with roasted cauliflower steaks.
The last course was chocolate mousse topped with some of Becca’s pralines. It was decadently rich and chocolatey. I wanted to curl up on the couch with it.
This dinner was probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I can’t say enough good things about working with Jason and Becca. Everything about the entire experience was amazing but the absolute best part had to be walking into a clean kitchen at the end of the evening.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. I was in no way compensated by Little Kitchen HTX, The Butchers Ball, or Rioja Wines. I paid for the dinner and created this post because I truly love the work that Jason and Becca are doing.
For the quail
- 4 boneless quail
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 garlic cloves
- Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper
For the onions
- 2–3 medium sweet onions
- 2 tablespoons canola, peanut or grape seed oil
- 6 cups cornmeal
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 32 ounces canola, peanut or grape seed oil
- 8 ounces shaved Parmesan
- Thinly sliced green onion
For the quail
- Split the quail from head to tail and chop the garlic.
- In a large bowl, mix together the buttermilk, chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the quail and let soak while caramelizing the onions.
For the onions
- Slice the onions thin and season with salt and pepper. Cook the onions with the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions are medium to dark in color (30-45 minutes).
- In a shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal, cornstarch, paprika, Kosher salt and garlic salt together. Set aside.
- In a deep fryer or a pan with high sides (or deep cast iron skillet), heat oil to 365 degrees.
- Remove quail from the marinade and dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off excess, and gently place in hot oil. Cook quail until golden brown. Remove from hot oil and place on paper towels to drain.
- Assemble by spreading the onions on a large serving platter. Place halved quail on top of the onion shmear and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and green onion.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Jason Kerr and Little Kitchen HTX.