Back in the day when I was just a kid my parents would host dinner parties and gatherings. I was a child of the 70's and grew up in the 80's but I always thought they were so sophisticated for hosting dinner parties. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't the 50's when guests would come over in black tie and gown but it might as well have been. I looked up to them and, when I first started playing around in the kitchen, dreamed of having my own dinner get together. I was a kid with a big imagination and I would sit in my room and imagine the future and all of the Saturday night events at my very own place.
It's been a long time since those days but I still have the same affinity for creating a dinner party menu and executing it. There's something special and rewarding about having people over and giving them an escape from their daily life and a night away from the responsibility of being a parent. It's a chance for some luxe in our everyday lives. It's a chance to be sophisticated from time to time.
I woke up yesterday and, for the first time, didn't have a clue what I was going to make for dinner. We were hosting dinner for the first people who welcomed us to the neighbourhood. Over these last 6 months they've become good friends and we thought this was the perfect chance to say thank you. So without a menu planned I grabbed a piece of paper, scrolled through my 70 odd recipes and started putting the pieces together. A few old favourites and some new ideas where the flavours just fit. It took a bit of time but before I knew it the menu was:
The Fall of Luxury
Crostini with Goat Cheese, Fig Jam and Prosciutto
Two Potato Bisque with Lime-Infused Sour Cream and Parmesan Crisp
Beef Tenderloin Steak with Cabernet Shallot Sauce, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes,
Steamed Asparagus with Brown Butter Sauce
Pumpkin Loaf Bars with Cream Cheese Icing
After I returned from the market and picked up the goods I was straight at it in the kitchen. The more that can be done beforehand, the better. I try and do everything I can so that the time can be spent with my guests. The more time you spend doing the work before, the more time you have to spend with your guests during the night. I try to stay busy and, just as importantly, organized.
I start the appetizer minutes before they arrive. I cut the baguette into thin slices on the bias and brush each one with oil and season with sea salt and pepper. At a low temperature, about 325 degrees, I put them in the oven on a baking sheet and cook until they begin to brown. At the same temperature I add the goat cheese to the oven and wait until it gets soft so that it's easier to spread. I take out the crostini and spread the goat cheese over top. I then spoon on a small dollop of fig jam and top with a sliver of prosciutto with a one turn of my pepper mill. The result is fantastic and a must-do in the future.
|Goat Cheese Crostini with Fig Jam and Prosciutto|
I always make my soup up early in the afternoon so that the only thing left to do when they arrive and we're ready to eat is put the pot on the stove and warm it up. This time I made my soup recipe with a pinch of cayenne pepper which followed through to the bowl with the slightest bit of heat. I find that the buttermilk and heavy cream tone it down just enough to be noticeable. I also made Parmesan crisps early in the day by grating fresh Parmesan onto a baking sheet in rounds and baking them in a 325 degree oven for 8 minutes. It's just enough time to get them bubbly and not enough time for them to burn. I take them out and, using a spatula, immediately transfer them to paper towels. When they begin to harden up I shape them and store them so that I can use the Parmesan crisps as a garnish with my lime-infused sour cream.
|Two Potato Bisque with Parmesan Crisp|
I picked up four great looking tenderloin steaks at the market. Each one had some nice marbling to it and because the cut is so good I like to keep it as simple as possible. I rub on some olive oil and rub in some fresh sea salt and pepper. That's it. I sear it in a pan over high heat and then continue the cooking process in the oven. I take the pan the steaks were seared in and create a sauce using the brown bits on the pan. I prefer beef broth, wine and shallots and cook the liquid over high heat until it reduces by half . I add some butter off the heat and I'm left with a nice syrupy consistency for my steak.
|Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus|
For the dessert I wanted to make something that screamed Autumn and honed in on pumpkin. I've made the pie countless times before so I went down a different alley altogether. I decided to go with a loaf/cake that I could slather an icing on and cut up into manageable size pieces. So I made a Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing and cut it up into bars. This was the process.
This was my dinner party. The food was great but the company made the evening what it was.