Cooking for Wister Gardens

Okay, so this post is LONG overdue.

In mid-November, I went to a place in Belzoni, MS, called Wister Gardens, where I was the "guest chef," I guess you could call it, for about 20 people. Basically, I just cooked a few dishes and talked to them while doing it, but let me just say, my speaking skills are not great, haha! It's probably best that being a Food Network Star one day isn't still a dream of mine.

I had a lot of fun, but it was a little chaotic. First, I had to practice all the dishes over and over again to make sure the recipes were solid. Some of them are straight from my blog, and some of them I made up just for the event. After testing all of the recipes, I realized that every single one of them included a different kind of cheese, so my mom and I decided to make the theme of the menu all about cheese. But yeah, it was a total accident... The menu was:

Brown Sugar Brûléed Goat Cheese Crostini + Crispy Proscuitto + Thyme

Shaved Asparagus and Parmesan Salad

Campanelle + Meatballs + Fresh Tomato Basil Mascarpone Cream Sauce 

"Cannoli Sundae"
Ricotta Orange Ice Cream + Dark Chocolate Chips + Pistachio Pizelles

The first recipe is adapted from my Brown Sugar Brûléed Goat Cheese Crostini + Bacon + Tamarind Jam. They both have the same base of brown sugar and goat cheese, but with slightly different toppings. 
This is where the first semi-traumatic event took place. Everyone started to file in, get drinks, and sit down. It was time to plate the first course and my plan was to torch the crostini in front of them. I go to torch one of them and it's perfect. I go in to do the rest of them, and I found that the torch was out of propane. So the rest of them were very lightly brûléed, you could say. 

The salad was perfect-- no mishaps. I'll post the recipe shortly in another post. I'm sure a lot of the people were skeptic about eating raw asparagus, but it's one of my favorite ways to eat it now! 

Now on to the meatballs...
Most of my trouble took place days before the event actually happened. As I was testing this recipe earlier, the meatballs tasted amazing, and while the texture was so incredibly soft, they were more like meat "mounds" that balls. I tested it so many different times, using more eggs, less liquid, more meat, drier breadcrumbs, etc., and for some reason, I could not get them to form like normal meatballs. So, I re-edited the recipe in my post linked above to the best meatball I came up with, but the outcome still wasn't as pretty as I wanted it to be for the event. Finally, after making like 5 or 6 batches of meatballs, I just told my mom to use the spices in my recipe, but use my Grandmother's base recipe for her meatballs, which turn out perfect every time. I'll put that recipe down below! 
The recipe in my original post is still my original recipe, but I adapted it to make the meatballs more... meatball-y... I guess. 

Okay... so this is where my worst trouble with this menu comes in. I tested this ice cream recipe a couple weeks before, and it turned out perfect (it will be in an upcoming post too!). I brought my ice cream machine to Wister Gardens and made a batch before all the people got there so it would be ready after dinner-- My ice cream machine only takes about 20 minutes to freeze the ice cream completely. Well, it had been over 30 minutes and it was still straight liquid. I didn't want it to overchurn, so I took it out and started over with a different ice cream machine... Same thing happened... So we turned them into "milkshakes" on the spot, which were honestly probably better than ice cream would've been! So it all worked out, but trust me when I say it was stressful. 

Despite all of the chaos, it was a super fun experience and I really enjoyed meeting and cooking for everyone.


Also, I can't believe this, but I didn't get any pictures of the food! It just totally slipt my mind during all the chaos and cooking. Anway, here is my grandmother's meatball recipe I used:

Mae Mae's Meatballs:

  • 1 Tube Saltine crackers
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs. dried onion flakes
  • 2 Tbs. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 lbs. ground round beef
Combine crackers, cheese, onion, salt, pepper, and parsley in a food processor and pulse until fine. Add to meat and eggs and combine until just mixed in (do not over-mix). Roll into balls and bake in a 375º oven for about 30-45 minutes depending on size. They will be slightly undercooked and will need to continue to cook in simmering sauce for 15-20 minutes, or until light pink/brown in the center.

Cecilia A.


Sandra Schwan said…
Wow! Your menu sounds delish, Cecelia! Nicely done! HNY-Miss Sandy

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