Saturday, January 22, 2011

a WAC dinner party

Now that the kitchen is done and full functional, and the blog had been on hiatus for at least a month, it was time to spread the wealth and have some friends over for dinner!

Of course, that seemed easy... my college friends, EW and RG, were happy to volunteer. They offered to bring drinks and dessert, and I happily accepted, and was eager to see them.

The only problem, they both read the blog at least once a week, and what the heck was I going to make them and our significant others?!  The pressure was on...

It took me days to figure out the menu, and to be honest, it was still pending at 3pm that very day... but I had an idea. I knew I was going to make the Butternut Squash soup. I think I was making chicken, but wasn't sure how, and I was leaning towards mushroom risotto, homemade bread, a vegetable and a salad.  At least I didn't have to plan dessert!

And then I started thinking about previous dinner parties. I'm always stuck in the kitchen, and don't get to socialize. Poor JW has to entertain my friends while I pretend to hear what is going on while chopping and cooking away... so not this time! I decided I needed recipes that could be made in advance and I preferred baking to stove top.

Ok, well, baked chicken. Now what? I searched and searched for a marinade. Every single baked chicken recipe I found was smothered in calories. We were already having a "creamy" risotto, I didn't want creamy chicken. I also wasn't interested in bread crumbs for some reason. I figured we were already eating bread.

I knew what flavors I wanted, but why wasn't I finding a marinade like it? Is there a reason for that?!  So, finally I just decided: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and rosemary. I marinaded the chicken while I prepared the bread and the soup.

I swear I have posted the modified version of the Butternut Squash soup recipe, but I guess not, so here it goes: 

Add butter and diced onion to pan, saute. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler (and a pairing knife if the squash is too curvy), peel the entire squash.  Use a chef's knife (see I swear I wrote this before), to slice the squash, and then chop into chunks.  Add to the pan, and cook for a minute.

Then add 3 cups of stock, dried marjoram, cayenne pepper, and black pepper and let is simmer until the squash is soft.  I left the soup simmering while I did everything else, and a little while before serving I finished it up. Use a potato masher to mash the chunks and add in 4-6 oz of cream cheese (I used fat free- I don't like eating in on my bagel, but good in the soup). 

While the squash was getting soft, I prepared the bread dough, making it with oregano in the bread (sometimes I choose to lay rosemary on top, but we were already having rosemary on the chicken).  When the bread increased to 425 degrees, I threw the chicken in an earthenware pan, and put it in the oven too.

Probably a mistake.  The chicken cooked too long, and probably too hot. My friends went to New Jersey, instead of exiting to Philadelphia, so that didn't help the matters. I think the marinade was tasty, but the chicken was a little dry for my taste. Ah well...

The risotto was a hit, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating the next night, on the sofa, out of Tupperware... with a spoon.

I can't seem to find my mushroom risotto recipe on here either, so here it is again...

Gourmet Mushroom Risotto:
Butter and olive oil
1 -2 diced Shallots
1/2 c white wine
1 c Abrorio rice
3 c stock
10 oz mushrooms
1/2 c Parmesan cheese

Add 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil to a pan and diced shallot (or onion or garlic, whatever). Let it cook 1 minute. Then add 1 cup of rice and stir to coat in the oils.  Let it cook 1 minute.  Add white wine over medium heat, and stir occasionally to allow rice to absorb. Once the liquid is absorbed, add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time. Meanwhile, I sauteed the mushrooms with butter.

I don't listen to measurements, so I added probably 1 - 1 1/2 cups stirred it a few times, and ran to the "dining room" to set the table.  We pushed our regular table together with a folding table from Lowe's and covered it with a square white linen cloth. I added periwinkle napkins, silverware, WAC water glasses, and stemless wine glasses. I added bread plates and the candlesticks.

Well, of course, I had to run back to the kitchen a few times in between to stir the risotto and add more liquid, but not many. My friends should be here any minute, so I started to plate the cheese (thank RowHomeEats for the tray!) and took the bread out of the oven.

I began to prep the salad: spring mix, diced granny smith apple, walnuts, goat cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  I forgot the red onion! (dang! that's what was wrong.  wow. that took a few days to realize!)

I turned off the oven, as my friends arrived. We began with drinks and cheese.  Since we were having an early dinner, to get them home at a reasonable hour, we shortly started with our soup and bread! It was delightful. I could have stopped there. I love this freakin soup! JW2 even tried it, and said it tasted like mashed potatoes! sweet!

Well, we all cleaned our plates and bowls- and we starred around the table- did we want to switch out our bread plates for dinner plates? No one seemed to care... what was I thinking?! We have a dishwasher, Martha would never have served dinner on bread plates.

But I did. I plated up the chicken, asparagus (made in the pan after the mushrooms with olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper-- wow... lots of the same flavors!), risotto and we passed everything around. Ok. I lie. I didn't feel like making the chicken look pretty, so I served everyone from the pan out of the oven!

The bread plates would have worked, if we had slices of chicken and no asparagus. The veggies draped over the sides. oh well. I ate my with my fingers. Just like Julia Child.

We had great company, and great dessert: Striped Delight! RBG made it- graham cracker crust with a chocolate pudding and whipped cream.  I'll see if I can track down the recipe, as I'd like to make it. It's all I had for dinner last night, with the risotto leftovers!  The best part, or the nice surprise, was the chocolate chunks on top!

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