I’m here, with your help – writing a post for challenge #3 for Project Food Blog. Thank you!! Every challenge has been exciting and complex for its own reasons. This one required to “host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors.” I’ve had a good share of high end meals out but what a luxurious meal at home meant was obviously up for interpretation. At the end, I decided that a luxury meal to me meant that it had to be plated, consist of fresh ingredients and flavors and involve several courses. I wanted to make sure that this was the best, most luxurious meal I’ve ever cooked… I was ambitious. I cooked everything from scratch, which included freshly baked bread and homemade ice cream (I bought some back-ups just in case… you never know ). Ever since getting back from vacation, I’ve had plans every night this week so I ended up taking Friday off work (that’s when the meal took place) since I had no time to prep any other night beforehand. This was going to be an involved meal and I needed time to make it happen! Without further adieu, THE MENU:
Sounds luxurious enough?
I planned the meal the night before and hit up 4 grocery stores the morning of (it was supposed to be just 2, but they didn’t have pork tenderloin at Whole Foods and I ended up driving around to 2 other stores until finally changing the menu to pork chops – you have to be flexible sometimes. I should have made this decision right away but sometimes you get married to the menu and it’s hard to let go. It actually ended up being better at the end. )
The night before I also made a detailed list of everything that needs to be done, including specific times for certain steps (like “churn ice cream at 4:30″, “bake bread at 7″). This schedule was essential to smooth prep work since there were so many components to every item! Scenes from the day:
Don’t forget to stop for lunch! I was going at 100 miles/hour; my stomach growled around 3 and I realized I haven’t eaten since breakfast. You need fuel, even if you’re having a little too much fun in the kitchen.
Finally the guests arrived a little after 8. I had fresh bread ready (kept warm in the oven until they got there). The recipe for the hummus bread comes from my newly acquired King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook. I made the hummus myself, substituting white beans for chickpeas, and served the rest of the dip alongside the bread. This was my first attempt at making bread and I found the dough difficult to work with and very sticky. It turned out well though. The guests had no idea about my struggles earlier in the day.
I also decided to be a little more fancy (you may say “luxurious” lol) by making some roasted garlic and thyme butter (recipe here). I think flavored butter is always a little more special and it’s definitely a very easy way to impress your guests.
Since I was responsible for making all the dishes, timing was key. I knew the amuse bouche and the entrees will take a bit of time (I needed them fresh out of the oven!) so I plated the salad when the guests arrived but didn’t serve it right away. About 15 minutes into dinner, everyone got their own pre-portioned salad.
My inspiration for the salad was the one we had at Zuzu just days prior. I actually had Anne Burrelle’s raw artichoke salad recipe saved for months and thought it would be a great base for the salad. Unfortunately, baby artichokes and me just don’t get along (they didn’t shave properly – I was getting tiny flakes that just looked messy) so I gave up on them pretty early on. The shaved artichokes were pretty much a garnish in the salad at the end (each person maybe got 1 artichoke’s worth – if that). The salad was very well balanced, though – peppery arugula, sharp cheese, nutty pine nuts and a rich finish of truffle oil. I was pretty happy to see everyone clearing their plates (including veggie haters). [She pats herself on the back ]
While Adam was being a good host, I had to get back to business. I prepped the amuse bouche prior to everyone’s arrival but the little cups still needed to bake. The pork chops were also stuffed and wrapped but needed to bake.
The side dishes were made while everyone else was chatting up. I was all business (and yes, the kitchen was quite the mess at this point).
Hey, look what just came out of the oven!
Puff pastry cups with creamy mushrooms, thyme and peas. The stuffing recipe was based on this one (I subbed ham for peas). I made my own “cups” by slicing a sheet of puff pastry dough into 9 squares, rolling it out and stuffing it into the muffin pan. So rich and buttery. A nice segway from salad to the main course if I do say so myself.
In 15 minutes or so, everything else came together (and the chocolate cakes were ready to go in the oven). I served the stuffed pork chops to each guest individually (the recipe is exactly like this one but I used pork chops instead of pork tenderloin, baking the chops covered with wet parchment paper for 15 minutes and then uncovered for 10). The sides were served family-style.
Haricots verts with wild mushrooms and hazelnuts (recipe from The best of Cooking Light 9, special edition)
… and roasted cauliflower (recipe here)
A little more wine, please. Thank you.
Check out the pork cross-section. Mmm, goat cheese and pecans. Yum!
I especially loved the wild mushrooms soaked in the delicious red wine vinegar and EVOO dressing. Liz and I were picking them out of the large dish towards the end of the night. Hey, we’re still at home and we’re all friends (no need to be too fancy)!
No meal is complete without a fantastic dessert. This one definitely fit the bill!
The cake was based on this recipe (I baked them in my popover pan) and was just seriously mind-blowing. It tasted rich and decadent – the way a chocolate dessert should be. The butter pecan ice cream with candied bacon had the perfect cooling effect (ice cream base was a Ben & Jerry’s recipe, candied bacon recipe came from here). I decided to do the bacon twist to make this dessert just a little different. It added a nice sweet-salty component to the ice cream and was delicious although I think Ben & Jerry’s butter pecan ice cream is perfect on its own (so I actually wouldn’t mess with it next time).
What a meal! Happy bellies always makes for happy guests!
This was definitely the most involved, most luxurious meal I’ve ever made. My feet were burning by the end of the night (I was literally going non-stop for 12 hours!) but I wouldn’t change a thing. Being in the kitchen makes me happy and once in a while it’s fun to take it up a notch and make it fancy (yet still mostly healthy!).
What does a luxury dinner mean to you?