Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dinner Party 2 - Let's Try Again

A few weeks after Baby's First Dinner Party, I threw my next soiree. I invited 7 friends which was just enough people to make me feel overwhelmed and realize that my studio apartment is NOT THAT BIG.

I tried a more ambitious menu - no more popping things in the oven. This was full-on cooking and timing courses.

I started with an appy to keep my guests happy while I scrambled around in my dirty kitchen (which is clearly not made for dinner parties with more than 4 people involved) ... I choose Warm Camembert with Wild Mushroom Fricasse from my beloved Food and Wine magazine. This recipe was made famous by Chef Daniel Boulud and was actually pretty simple. It involved walnut oil, which I didn't know existed but am happy to discover. It really gave the cheese an amazing nutty flavor and went nicely with the mushrooms I picked out at Whole Foods. For those of you who don't know, Camembert is the best cheese - a lot like brie, but with a little less creamy and more flavorful. Side note, I did not take any photos of this since I was going insane so I'll just post the F&W pics so you can get an idea of what it looked like:

Total Time : 30 minutes Serves: 4

1/2 cup Walnut Pieces
One 8-ounce wheel of ripe Camembert in it's wooden box, room temperature
1 teaspoon Walnut Oil
3/4 lb Wild Mushrooms, thinly sliced
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the walnut pieces on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 7 minutes, until lightly browned. Lower the oven temperature to 300°.
  2. Remove the Camembert from the box and unwrap it. Put the cheese back in the bottom half of the box and set it on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the walnut oil. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 3 minutes longer. Add the shallot and cook until softened, 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and sage; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Invert the Camembert onto a platter. Stir the walnuts into the mushrooms and spoon over the cheese. Serve with the toasts.
For the Main Entree and side dish, I decided to make an Amazon Fried Chicken. Now I know, Fried Chicken, big whoop. Also, what makes this dish Amazonian (real word? Spell Check seems to think so)? Well my friends, now is as good time as any to declare my undying love for Cilantro. This dish has an AMAZING cilantro sauce - the dinner party goers were absolutely raving about this one. The only tip I have for this recipe is definitely do not disregard the thinly sliced chicken aspect... I got regular chicken breasts and didn't have a meat mallet (later I realized I could have used a pan) - so I couldn't break up the protein to cook the chicken faster. OH! Also, I redeclared my love for my Cuisinart when it made crushing my potato chips a snap. Here we go:

Serves 4

2 cups of cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup mayonnaise
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
One 5-ounce bag potato chips, finely crushed
Four 6-ounce boneless chicken breast halves, pounded 1/2 inch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. In a blender, combine the cilantro, garlic, jalapeƱo, vinegar and water and puree. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs. In another shallow bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Spread the potato chips in a third bowl. Lightly coat the chicken with the flour, shaking off any excess, then dip in the beaten eggs. Coat the chicken with the potato chips.
  3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook over moderately high heat until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plates. Serve at once with the cilantro sauce.
Since the recipe said to pair it with a tomato salad, and since we were already being adventurous and exotic, I chose to do a tomato mango salad that was really simple and tasted like a million bucks. This recipe is compliments of Jean-George Vongerichten of Mercer Kitchen, Spice Market, and of course, Jean-Georges:

Total Time: 25 minutes Serves 10

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large shallots, thinly sliced (1 cup)
2 thinly sliced basil leaves
10 medium tomatoes (3 lbs), sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 large ripe mangoes - sliced, pitted, and sliced 1/4 inch thick


In a small bowl, combine the vinegar with the olive oil; season with salt. Add the shallots and 1 cup of the basil and toss well. Arrange the tomatoes on a platter and top with the mango slices. Drizzle with the dressing, garnish with the remaining 1 cup of basil and serve.

And of course, my favorite part of any meal - the dessert! Mini-Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecakes to be specific. This was so tasty and if you like nutella, you will love these bad boys. Easy to prepare ahead and store for the next day, and super cute... especially if you are having a cocktail party and need little mini-foods for your guests. I served this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream:

Total Times: 40 minutes Serves 12

15 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (i.e Oreos)
2 tablespoons raw or roasted hazelnuts, skinned ( I couldn't find hazelnuts so I skipped this)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup hazelnut chocolate spread, preferably Nutella
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons mini-chocolate chips (I used Dark Chocolate)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Spray the liners with vegetable oil spray.
  2. In a food processor, combine the cookies, hazelnuts and butter and process to very fine crumbs. Divide the crumbs among the cups and, using a flat-bottomed glass, press on the crumbs to compact them. Bake for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, wipe out the food processor bowl. Add the cream cheese, Nutella, sour cream, eggs and sugar and puree until smooth. Spoon the filling into the cups until it nearly reaches the top; there may be a few tablespoons of leftover batter. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheesecakes have risen and the surfaces are lightly cracked. Let the cheesecakes cool slightly, then transfer the muffin tin to a rack and freeze for 10 minutes, until the cheesecakes are slightly cooled. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
And there you have it my friends -dinner party edition II. I'll be having another one shortly - any suggestions? I was going to do a shabu-shabu type dinner, breakfast for dinner, or all appetizer dinner. Let me know if you have any suggestions for recipes or meals!

No comments: