Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dinner Party

Henry and I love to entertain, however, I am not one to throw a formal dinner party.  If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you probably know that my style is low-key and casual, as in wear your shorts or blue jeans, I'll throw something on the grill and we'll most likely eat outside on the patio.  It won't be fancy but we promise we will feed you well and there will be no shortage of beer, wine or alcohol!

When autumn arrives though, my preferences change.  Grilling gives way to slow-simmered aromatic braises, salads go from juicy ripe tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and home-grown basil to lettuces adorned with warm goat cheese, desserts morph from light and fruity concoctions to things like apple-studded spice cake or gingerbread, Stilton and port make their re-appearance and we might, just might even serve dinner at the dining room table.  Nonetheless, it won't be stilted or stuffy.  Not in my house!

So when we invited friends over for dinner recently, I had visions of a lovely leg of lamb upon a bed of white beans fragrant with rosemary, set smack dab in the middle of the table so that everyone could help thenselves.  Repeatedly.

Fortunately (to my great dismay), I discovered ahead of time that one of my guests could not eat red meat, pork or seafood.  Crap.  That meant chicken.  I ate enough grilled chicken with lemon-pepper-shallot butter over the summer to last a lifetime.  Lamb, I wanted lamb!

Once I got over myself, I turned to the task of creating a menu.  I decided upon that old fave, "Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic."  Well, until I consulted my handwritten menu files.  (Yep, I keep a record of everything I've served to guests in my home for the last 15 years or so.  How sick is that??  Haha, if you've ever had a meal here, I'll bet I can tell you what you ate!)  But in this case, it served me well because I discovered I had made this dish for these same guests a couple years ago.  Crap again.  Back to the drawing board....

Then I remembered "Donna Siebert's Roman Chicken" that I used to make.  It comes from Nathalie Dupree (remember her?) and I got it from a cooking class I took from her back in the late eighties (yikes).  This dish is packed with flavor and I have never served it without a request for the recipe.  It is also better if made ahead which is a big plus if you ask me.

Here is my menu:

Radishes with European Butter
Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt, Australian Flake Sea Salt,
Ocean Smoked Sea Salt, Truffle Salt

Rosemary-Pine Nut Popcorn


Donna Siebert's Roman Chicken

Dick Simpson's Polenta
Pecans, Gruyere, Rosemary

Grape Tomato and Red Onion Skewers


Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cottas
Strawberry/Rose Wine Sauce
Oatmeal Lace Cookies


English Toffee with Fleur de Sel

Now, you already have three of these recipes.  Here are the links, so you can reference them again:

Rosemary-Pine Nut Popcorn

Oatmeal Lace Cookies

English Toffeee with Fleuer de Sel

For the radishes, just clean them well and set them out with the softened (unsalted) butter and small ramekins of the assorted salts.  The idea is to douse them with a little butter then dip into the salt.  People love this and it always inspires debate about which salt reigns supreme.  Great convo starter, too!

DONNA SIEBERT'S ROMAN CHICKEN (adapted from Nathalie Dupree)

For the chicken:
3 tablespoons olive oil (may need more if doing chicken in batches)
3 lbs. chicken pieces, bone-in with skin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh rosemary, divided
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 small jar of capers
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 cup good red wine vinegar

For the garnish:
1/2 cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 2 lemons, minced

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan.  Season chicken well with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan, skin side down.  When golden brown, turn and brown on the other side.  Do not crowd the pan; you may need to do this in several batches.  Remove chicken from pan when browned; reserve.

Increase heat to high and add garlic, 1/4 cup of the rosemary and wine to the pan.  Bring to a boil and reduce by half.  Add the chicken stock and red pepper flakes to taste and reduce slightly; about 10 minutes.  Add reserved chicken and capers, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until chicken is tender and falling off the bone, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine the anchovy paste, oregano, remaining rosemary and red wine vinegar.  When chicken is done, remove to a platter and cover with foil.  Add the red wine vinegar mixture to the pan, increase heat to high and boil until reduced by half.  Taste to adjust seasoning.  Return chicken (and accumulated juices) to pan to heat through.  Place on a serving platter, pour pan juices over and sprinkle with the garnish.

For the garnish:
Combine chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest.  Sprinkle evenly over chicken.

Serves 4 - 6


(Dick Simpson is my dear friend in Tampa whose birthday party we attended last June. He prefers to be called Richard, but I've known him way too long for that.   He's a fabulous cook and this is his recipe for polenta.  It rocks.  His recipe calls for walnuts, but I use pecans.  Either will work.  Once you make this, you will never make plain old polenta again.  Oh, and you get to make this in advance also.  Way to go, Dick Richard!)

4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Using a whisk, slowly add cornmeal, whisking constantly until dissolved.  Add the 1 teaspoon of salt, lower heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 10 - 15 minutes, whisking frequently until mixture is thickened and all liquid is absorbed.  Add the butter, pecans, rosemary and Gruyere.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then spread mixture into a greased 9-inch pie plate.  Cover and chill.

When ready to serve, cut into eighths.  Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Places wedges on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until just warmed through.

Serves 8 (or 6 if you cut really big wedges)


For each skewer:
4 cherry or grape tomatoes
2 pieces red onion
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Thread tomatoes and onions onto each skewer.  Brush each one with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.

Fire up your grill and place a few wood chips over the coals.  Grill skewers, turning once until tomatoes are just cooked through but not bursting, about 5 minutes.

VANILLA BUTTERMILK PANNA COTTAS (adapted from Claudia Fleming's "The Last Course")

For the panna cottas:
1 tablespoon cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
7 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

For the sauce:
1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled'
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 bottle rose wine

For the panna cottas, place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin.  Let soften for 5 minutes.

In  saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the cream with the sugar and vanilla paste, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Turn off the heat and add the softened gelatin.  Stir until dissolved then whisk in the buttermilk.  Strain into a measuring cup with a spout then pour into six 8-oz. ramekins.  Chill until firm, at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

For the sauce, combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl and let stand for 30 minutes to let juices develop.  Place this into a saucepan, add the wine and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until most of the alcohol is cooked off, about 1 hour.

Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve.  Do not press on the solids; allow the liquid to drain slowly.  Discard the berries and use the sauce to serve with the unmolded panna cottas.

Serves 6

Couldn't decide what size to make.  In the end I served the larger.
More to enjoy!

Maybe I have just a few too many of these things!

Note:  in the interest of full disclosure, I added gelatin to the sauce.  I unmolded the panna cottas into wide serving glasses (those would be my margarita glasses!) then poured the sauce around it and set in the fridge to solidify.  It made a gorgeous presentation but personally, I didn't like the texture.  Next time I'll just stick with the sauce.

I think this is the longest blog I have ever posted.  Sorry, everyone!  That said, I hope you make and enjoy some of these recipes.  Here's to your next dinner party!

1 comment:

  1. Liz,
    Thank you for the kind mention, and you can call me anything you wish, (well anything that is publishable.) The menu sounds delightful. As always, thank you for sharing.
    Hmmm, Nathalie Dupree, that goes back a few years, eh? Yikes is right.