Having Eight for Dinner...
Last night we had some new friends over to meet more new friends in town. I wanted to keep it simple enough to have fun but be delicious and I had one person who does not eat red meat, and another who does not love fish, so I wanted to come up with a way to have any items that had either be side dishes with alternatives - here is the menu.
Raw Oysters with a Spicy Cocktail Sauce
A Cheese/ Antipasto Platter of Robusto, Fromagier D'Affinois, Ak-Mak, Crostini, Soppressetta, marinated olives, thinly sliced proscuitto and red grapes
Butternut Squash Soup with Saffron
Grilled Meatball Salad with Scallions and Arugula Topped with Shaved Parmesan
Homemade Parpadelle Carbonara - (see July 1, 2009 recipe)
Roasted Pears and Red Onions in Oregano
Dark Chocolate Truffles (made with reduced fat milk rather than cream!)
and my neighbor and baking aficionado is bringing: Coconut Cake - adapting a recipe from Epicurious
Thursday: make the base for the Butternut Squash Soup in the evening, freeze
Friday: Make the truffles with the kids - one of their favorite activities
make and Pre-poach the meatballs during their nap time and refrigerate.
Saturday AM: cut the pears, onions and oregano, toss with olive oil and refrigerate
make the homemade pasta and let dry
Precut the pancetta for the carbonara and put in a side bowl in the fridge
Make the bread dough, let rise and bake
PM: Before everyone arrives, prepare the antipasto platter, shuck oysters
Set the table
Butternut Squash Soup with Saffron
2 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup apple cider
2 vidalia onions, chopped
1 cup Chicken Broth or water for soup
2 cups chicken broth or water for roasting squash
1 cup Heavy Cream
Saffron - 2 large pinches
Crostinis and Sour Cream for topping
Cut in half and seed the two squash. Put it in a pan skin side up with an inch of water - or even better - chicken broth- (about 2 cups in my pan) and place in the oven, turning on to convection or just bake at 400 for about 40 minutes or just until the squash is soft and easily pierced with a fork.
While the squash is cooking, melt the butter and heat with oil in a saucepan. When the oil is hot, put in your onions chopped and cook on medium low for about 20 minutes stirring frequently. Turn off and let the onions cool.
When the squash is done, let cool in the pan and peel. In a blender ( I find it works to a finer level than the cuisinart on this one) blend the cool squash and 1/2 cup of the remaining water in the pan until it is completely smooth. Then blend the onions and oil from the pan in the blender. Combine all that is blended. If you are cooking in advance, this is a great place to stop and when all are cool, freeze in a ziploc freezer bag for up to five days in advance. If not...
Put the mixture - now at room temp - in a soup pot and reheat to a simmer. Add 1 cup of apple cider and 1 cup of chicken broth and let come to a simmer again, adding saffron and lightly salting. Reduce heat to low and add cream until heat through. Serve with a piece of crostini on top that is topped with a dollop of sour cream.
Grilled Meatball Salad
This is my adaptation from a Lachian Mackinnon-Patterson recipe served by the owners of Frasca in Boulder Colorado at a dinner party photographed for Food and Wine magazine in 2008. I do a few things differently in terms of the ratio of the meats, the substitution of pancetta for bacon and the addition of more greens (the scallions alone never seem enough at dinner parties). Check out the original at Food and Wine's website. I use 50% veal and 50% lamb, pancetta diced finely instead of bacon, and 2 cups of arugula as the base to the salad, drizzled with olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Finally - a trick from my grandmother, I always add diced sultanas or yellow raisins to my meatballs as they soak up the juice of the meat as it loosens, rather than loosing them and having dry meatballs. My husband is a great winter griller (must be Vermont blood in there) and its a great way for him to help out on one of the dishes! One of my guests - and new friends- last night said, "meatball salad - I think that is going to be my favorite kind of salad," and I think I agree and now I am certain we will become old friends.