Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Feast for Special Friends by the Hoffer Brothers with a Spectacular Flaming Grand Finale

Bananas Foster

As you know from my last post, we attended an authentic Cajun crawfish boil at a blogger get-together at Almost Heaven South on Tellico Lake over Memorial Day weekend. Our host, Larry of Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings, and his wife Bev, invited Meakin and myself, along with my brother-in-law Stuart and his wife Sandy, to spend an extra night with them at their home. I’d bragged to Larry about what wonderful cooks Meakin and Stuart are and how well they work together in the kitchen and with that he challenged them to prepare dinner for him in his kitchen on our last night together. Of course the Hoffer brothers, always up for a challenge, immediately said yes. Here is their menu.

Dinner at Almost Heaven South 
Monday, May 28, 2012
Guests Chefs – Stuart & Meakin Hoffer


Savory Bleu Cheese Popovers

First Course

Chilled Spanish Gazpacho Soup with  Crispy Croutons


Roasted Tenderloin of Beef
Napped with a Peppery Port Wine & Fig Reduction  
Garnished with Caper Berries

Mediterranean Style Ratatouille

Truffle Infused Mashed Potatoes

Crispy Fried Shallots

Cheese Course

Four cheeses with Honey Rosemary Glaze


New Orleans Style Bananas Foster over Vanilla Ice Cream


After the crawfish boil and a cruise around the lake on Larry’s party boat, before we went to bed Meakin laid the beautifully trimmed beef tenderloin on a rack on a sheet pan, salted it heavily, and put in the refrigerator to rest overnight.

Photo courtesy of Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings
beef tenderloin resting overnight
The next morning we got up and started our day with a big “Larry style breakfast.” If you read Larry’s blog, you know Larry is the king of breakfast.  As a special treat, he had prepared homemade scrapple. Read more and see the amazing breakfast Larry prepared here. It was, needless to say, out of this world and you won’t find better anywhere on the planet. In fact we were so stuffed that we lazed around the remainder of the morning and everyone took a nap in the afternoon in anticipation of the evening meal.

Around five, we all gathered in Larry’s kitchen to watch Meakin & Stuart start their prep work for dinner. Stuart passed around his savory mini blue cheese popovers and we nibbled on them while Larry poured a glass of wine for everyone.

Photo courtesy of Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings
Stuart & Meakin
As you might imagine, the challenge of this dinner came, not in planning the menu, but the logistics of preparing a 5 course dinner in someone else’s kitchen. It turns out that Larry & Bev have one of the finest kitchens known to man and stocked with everything conceivable a cook would want. They’ve thought of everything – a fancy six burner stove, every utensil imaginable, double dishwashers, huge built-in oven with a convection microwave above, a large pantry with more spices than one could dream of, and tons of chef quality sharp knives. Why even the food processor is built in – open a door below the island and out it pops, ready to go to work on any project.

Here everyone enjoys Stuart’s Spanish gazpacho for our first course.

L to R - Stuart, Bev, Larry, Sandy, Pat, me
The entrée was Meakin’s roasted tenderloin of beef napped with a peppery port & fig reduction garnished with caper berries, truffle infused mashed potatoes, crispy fried shallots, and Stuart’s Mediterranean style ratatouille.

Fig & Port Wine Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light – serves 8

1 1/2 cups tawny port
½ cup beef broth
2 ½ tablespoons finely chopped shallots
12 small dried figs, quartered
1 - 6” sprig of fresh rosemary
2 tablespoon drained small capers
1 tablespoon of caper juice
Kosher salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
2 oz brandy
2 oz slurry of arrow root and water
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 -5 caper berries

Combine all of the ingredients down to the brandy, in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 15 minutes or until reduced to 1 cup. Remove rosemary sprig. Strain and return to the pan. Taste for seasonings, add the slurry and heat over a moderate flame. When thickened, add the brandy and flame. When the flame has died down, swirl in a knob of butter and then spoon sauce over steak and garnish with caper berries.

Some people, including Meakin, are never too sure they like eggplant, which just happens to be the main ingredient in ratatouille. Stuart’s recipe is the only one that has ever pleased Meakin. Even Larry was a bit leery, but said afterwards, “I even liked the ratatouille, which was a first.” Way to go Stuart.

Ratatouille Mediterranean
Adapted from the New York Times Cookbook and the Joy of Cooking

2 ½ cups diced eggplant (2 small ones)
1/3 cup olive oil
¾ cup thinly sliced onions
2 clove garlic chopped
½ cup black pitted olives
2 green or red peppers julienned
3 cups zucchini in ½ inch slices
2 cups skinned, seeded, quartered tomatoes
3 tablespoons capers
Italian Herbs (dried) or oregano
Salt & pepper to taste

Peel and slice the eggplant into rounds, then salt and place the slices on a rack to drain over the sink for 30 minutes.  At the end of the 30 minutes, wipe off the salt and dice.

In a deep skillet sauté the onions and garlic until lightly brown, add the olives, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and drained & diced eggplant in olive and sprinkle with the herbs. Simmer the mixture, covered, over low heat for about 45 minutes, then uncover and continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes to reduce the liquid. Taste and season to taste with additional salt & pepper if needed and serve.

The cheese course was an assortment of four cheeses, saga blue, brie, Irish cheddar, and limburger accompanied by a smear of rosemary infused honey on individual cheese boards.

The finale of the dinner party was the dessert - Bananas Foster. If you’ve ever been to Brennan’s Restaurant and they’ve prepared their fabulous Bananas Foster for you tableside, then you know what a special dessert it is. It happens to be one of Meakin’s specialties and he prepared it often when we lived in the Bahamas with tiny fingerling bananas that grew in our garden. We weren’t able to find the fingerling bananas, but keep your eyes out for them. They are petite, sweet bananas with bright yellow flesh and are normally sold by a bunch with small “hands” that contain ten to twelve “fingers.”  Children love them. You can sometimes find them in Asian markets and I have, on occasion, even seen them in our supermarket. Here’s a photo I found on the web.

To make the flame sparkle when you’re flambéing that will remind you of fireworks on the 4th of July, don’t miss the tip about sprinkling the flames with a little ground cinnamon held high.

Bananas Foster
Adapted from Brennan’s of Houston in Your Kitchen by Chef Carl Walker – serves 4

½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon banana vodka or other banana flavored liquor
6 tablespoons dark rum, divided
4 ripe bananas, peeled, sliced lengthwise, and halved again into quarters
½ teaspoon cinnamon plus more for sprinkling into the flame
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

In a flat sauté pan or medium skillet, add butter, sugar and, banana vodka, and 2 tablespoons rum. Cook over medium-high heat while stirring to melt. Add bananas. Use a table fork to lightly prick bananas while they cook. Sauté about 1 minutes, or until bananas began to soften.

Carefully tilt the pan towards you to get top half of the pan hot, then remove the pan from the heat. (Removing the pan from the heat is an important step, because it is not safe to ever pour liquor straight from the bottle into a hot pan.) With the pan off of the heat, pour remaining rum over the bananas.

To flambé bananas, carefully ignite rum by either tilting pan towards flame on a gas range or cautiously lighting with a long taper match.

Tip: Gently shake flaming pan with one hand and hold a shaker of cinnamon high above the flame and sprinkle some over the flame with the other hand. By sprinkling the cinnamon directly into the flame, it creates a Fourth of July effect that is pure food magic!

When the flames die out, immediately spoon bananas and their sauce over ice cream.

Cinnamon being sprinkled into the flames to make sparkles
A big thank you Larry & Bev for your gracious hospitality and allowing us to prepare dinner as a thank you from us for hosting your 3rd annual world famous Tennessee blogger get-together on your dock on Tellico Lake. Since my photographer was busy cooking, I also want to thank Larry for allowing me to use some of his photos from the dinner party.

Don’t you just love this photo that Larry took of the two chefs sitting down to a bowl of Stuart’s gazpacho?

Photo courtesy of Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings
L to R - Sandy, Pat, me, Meakin, Stuart, Bev

* * *

This will be linked to Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Foodie Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable. Stop by and join in the fun.


  1. Consider this an open invitation to the Hoffer brothers, and you, to don their aprons in my kitchen at any time. The guests look deliciously happy!


  2. Oh my goodness, Sam, such joyful abundance! And there I thought the Cajun Crawfish can't be topped. ;-)

    Thank you, Sam, and your hosts, for sharing these delights, what a joy to read about it,

  3. What a spectacular meal!!!!!! Wow!
    Thanks for sharing it with us. I am interested in the Ratatouille.

  4. MY OH MY... I am just stuffed reading about this! Love all the work that went into the "after party" meal. The cheese course is a terrific touch (and great idea).

    But mostly just love the idea of hanging out like you all did. Sounds like a delight!


  5. Wow can those boys cook!!!!

  6. Oh, my, my! What a feast. Beautiful and I bet they had lots of fun doing it.

  7. Unmistakable brothers:) You can be tip I got here..was the rosemary infused smear of time..I love that idea..

    What a feast.So evident the fun you had.

  8. Oh god, the first picture looks so good and am drooling over the bananas foster right away. And of coz, the whole meal sounds fantastic as well. I'm sure you guys had a great fun.

  9. Oh Yummy! What a wonderful dinner. I love the tip about the cinnamon!

  10. Great write up Sam and thanks for all of the flattering comments. I love your opening shot and you posted just the recipes I wanted - that's the first ratatouille I ever really cared for and I liked it a lot and my eggplants are blooming. I thought the Hoffer boys provided an awesome meal and we can't thank them enough for this special evening. I suggest they begin working on next years menu :-)

  11. wow what fun and amazing food love it

  12. I feel angst over missing this beautiful meal and experience. What a special treat for the diners. And everyone got their own individual cheese boards. Love that idea.

  13. What a grand feast and amazing menu! Everything sounds marvelous.



  14. Wow what a great meal, I am sooooo jealous. Diane

  15. oh if only i could have been there for that amazing meal and grand finale! It all looks AMAZING

  16. A Foodie Paradise!!!.. great pics too.

  17. That's a whole of foodie fun and fire for one weekend! Looks like a great time!

  18. I want it all (of course) but I will start with the fig and wine sauce - perfect for the tenderloin. I love all the photos - friends enjoying food and friends always draws me in - but the photo of the two guys cooking in the kitchen - yeah! Good for them!

    Or maybe I'll start with the Bananas Foster...

  19. What an amazing meal! I want flambé bananas! Meakin CAN cook!

  20. Love your photos, Sam. What a wonderful dinner. I have had bananas foster at Brennan's and think your presentation surpasses theirs. Everything is so beautifully presented and everyone looks like they are having a grand time. Oh my goodness, does that tenderloin look delicious.

  21. Sam, thanks for stopping by A Tale of Two Cities to say hello this week. I've enjoyed getting to know a bit about you through your blog. Definitely should not be reading it while hungry. Geez! I see the Bananas Foster recipe came from Brennan's in Houston. Have you ever been there?

  22. What a feast! Meakin and Stuart served a topshelf shows in all of the smiles and in all of your eyes.

  23. Wow what a fantastic meal! great menu and the food looks SO delicious - a great time looks to have been had by all!
    Mary x

  24. The menu is to die for. Do the boys do a road show? The drama and delicious excitement in the flambé photos has got my heart pumping at this early hour!

  25. This of course is what eating is all about great food, good company and conversation!

  26. What a feast. The looks on the faces of the diners says it all :-)I've bookmarked Meakin's sauce to use next time I serve beef that is worthy of it. Have a wonderful weekend, Sam. Blessings...Mary

  27. Wow! The Hoffer brothers sure know how to throw a party! I expect to be invited next time! :)
    The beef is perfectly cooked, love the idea of the popovers (just made some similar I'll post soon) and bananas Foster?? Deeevine!

  28. There's nothing that motivates people more than a competition of pride. I only learned about scrapple this year and I'm curious about it. What feast unveiled! Everyone looks so happy.

  29. I love bananas foster, but then I love any flambe dish!

  30. Okay, I'm moving back to the east coast! I read about this feast on Larry's blog. What a wonderful event, Sam, and those men can cook up a storm. Tell you what, you and Meakin, Stuart and Sandy, Larry and Bev, come on out to the PNW. :) The food all looks divine and I love the photos!

  31. What an amazing meal, Sam! It shined from first course to last.

    I've been fortunate enough to have had the Bananas Foster at Brennan's in New Orleans, and Meakins look as elegant and sublime!

    I'd love to cook in a kitchen as well equiped as Larry's and Bev's! This was such an enjoyable post...thank you for all the wonderful recipes!

  32. I love this!! What a fantastic evening and what an amazing meal! Boy, if I was married into that family I'd have them do this often! The food and the recipes are fabulous, Sam! Thanks for sharing such a great time!

  33. What a delightful meal the Hoffer men made while you were at Larry and Bev's place! The shot of the bananas being flambeed is gorgeous. The port and fig sauce sounds really delicious and I'm grabbing a copy to try with grilled tenderloin next time we make it.

    Kudos to your hubby and his brother!

  34. Brilliant menu and how clever of Meakin and Stuart to cook up such a sumptuous meal... I am so impressed...
    everything looks delicious... and what fun it must have been too... xv

  35. It all looks just right, a perfect meal to share with friends. Actually everything looks amazing, and better if you don't have to fix it! Meakin is nice to have around. :)

  36. Who needs to go to a restaurant when you have the Hoffer brothers! What an incredible menu... and to have it be cooked at home... FABULOUS!!!
    I know that you are an extraordinary cook, but I would let my hubby in the kitchen very very often if mine could cook like Meakan!
    Thanks for the Fig And Port Wine Sauce and the Banana Foster recipe. Ever since my son Christopher was a little boy her loved Banana Foster.

    I can't wait to make this for him the next time he is home.
    I am so thankful that you are a faithful participant in ON THE MENU MONDAY! You are a dear friend!

  37. Dinner sounds wonderful and dessert amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  38. Oh, my! I just finished supper and here I'm drooling. Those brothers can hang out in my kitchen any time.

  39. Brennan's Bananas Foster was always the dessert my Dad made "when company came." What a spectacular meal you shared together. Now living in Turkey, your Mediterranean recipes also look incredibly delicious to me. It all looks fabulous.

  40. The whole event must have been great. Too bad there are so many miles between us and your wonderful group. The guys have to be very proud of their meal and I know that everyone must have really enjoyed the evening. Great job!

  41. This post and the last one almost make me willing to leave Northern California. It all looks so delicious, and the photography only enhances what I imagine the tastes must have been.

  42. Sam, I think that it is absolutely so fantastic that Meakin and you have made such nice friends with Larry and Bev . . . .and through food blogging at that! It's nice that you are so close to each other to be able to visit and share your culinary talents with each other!!

  43. Newest follower! Excited to find your yummy blog! Hope you'll visit me too.

  44. This is fabulous, Sam! The tip about the cinnamon is new too me and looks very exciting (and a little edgy) I would have loved to share that meal with you!


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