Who doesn’t love to throw a dinner party, but some just do it with a little less stress.
Here are a few of my fave entertaining tips:
•Write out your menu and plan out your prep day by day, preparing as much as you can in advance and picking recipes that can be finished at the last minute.
•Have each one of your guests help with a different dish when it comes time to serve it. They’ll have fun and it will take some stress off of you!
Here’s an example of my favorite fall menu:
Start with Creamy Roasted Parsnip Soup with Chevre and Walnut Crostini. The soup can be made ahead and then just finished off before you serve. Next, a salad of arugula and brilliant radicchio tossed simply with balsamic and olive oil sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.
Then move on to an entrée of oven-roasted Spiced Chicken with Pears and Port. It slow cooks while you are mingling with guests.
Then finish with Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Holiday Ale Caramel – this can be made a week before. Gotta love that!
Mini Pumpkin Panna Cottas with Holiday Ale Caramel Sauce – d’lish to the last spoonful!
So, I’ve supplied the menu, now, all you have to do is invite a delightful group of friends! –Kathy
Creamy Roasted Parsnip Soup with Chevre & Walnut Crostini
Makes 6 servings
4 cups 1/2-inch-sliced peeled parsnips (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 stalk celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth (I used packaged organic broth)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 1/4-inch-thick slices baguette or French bread
3 ounces chevre (goat cheese)
3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
Garnish: thinly sliced fresh chives and/or celery leaves
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
First, toast the bread for the croutons: Lay the bread on a baking sheet, brush slices lightly with oil, and toast in the preheated oven for about 3 – 5 minutes, or until just lightly golden. Remove and let cool. (You can do this the day before and keep croutons in a tightly closed container after they cool.)
Toss parsnips and olive oil together in a bowl to coat evenly. Spread out on a baking sheet (you can reuse the one used for the bread), and roast till golden and totally tender, about 30 minutes.
Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots and celery until very tender, about 3 minutes; do not brown. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds more. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add chicken broth, cream and roasted parsnips and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium or low, to maintain a slow simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add salt and cayenne. In small batches, puree mixture in a blender. (Be careful; it’s hot!)
Return soup to pan and adjust seasoning if needed. Cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days before serving.
To serve the soup and finish the crostini:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Spread the cheese on the croutons, then top each one with a half-tablespoon of nuts. Press in slightly and bake for about 4 minutes or until cheese is warmed.
Meanwhile, heat the soup, stirring often, over medium heat till hot, making sure it does not stick on the bottom. Serve the hot soup in warm bowls. Top with chives or celery leaf and serve a warm goat cheese crouton on the side.
Recipe© Kathy Casey Food Studios®. – www.KathyCasey.com
Spiced Chicken with Pears and Port
This is a great entrée for a dinner party. I also love it sprinkled with blue cheese right before serving for a delicious twist.
Makes 6 servings
3 firm ripe fresh pears
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
6 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast halves
2 shallots, thinly sliced
6 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
1 unpeeled lemon, sliced (about 9 slices)
1 cup port wine
1 tsp. cornstarch (optional)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnishing
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut pears in half and core. Cut each half in half and then in half again—to make large chunks. Reserve.
In a small bowl, mix the spices and salt. Lay the chicken on a baking sheet or piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap, and sprinkle each piece liberally on both sides with the spice mixture.
In a large nonstick skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Sauté half of the chicken for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the skin is deep golden brown and crispy. As the pieces are browned, place them, skin side up, in a 10-by-15-inch baking pan or small roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
Pour off any excess oil, then sauté the pears, shallots, garlic, and lemon for about 1 minute. Add the port and stir to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring just to a boil, and then add the hot mixture, with all the goodies, to the roasting pan, pouring it around, not over, the chicken to keep the browned crust intact.
Roast for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the chicken is opaque throughout and nicely browned on the outside, with an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (chicken will gain another 5 degrees on standing).
Transfer the chicken to a platter or individual plates and keep warm. Using a slotted spoon, retrieve the pears, shallots, garlic, and lemon slices from the sauce and distribute them over the chicken. Place the roasting pan on a burner on high heat and cook to reduce the sauce to about 3/4 cup. (If you like your sauce to have a bit more body, mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of water until smooth and whisk into the reducing sauce. Cook till lightly thickened.) Taste the sauce for seasoning, adjust if needed, then drizzle the sauce over the chicken and goodies. Scatter with parsley leaves for garnish.
Recipe© Kathy Casey Food Studios®.
Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Ale Caramel & Sea Salt
You can make the panna cotta up to 5 days in advance—just keep tightly wrapped with plastic. The caramel sauce can also be prepared up to a week beforehand, making it the perfect dessert for a busy holiday schedule.
Makes 8 regular (4-oz) servings or 16 mini (2-oz) servings
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
2 Tbsp. water
1 cup cream
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mascarpone
1 cup pumpkin puree (pure pumpkin, not pre-seasoned pie filling)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup Holiday Ale Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
Sea salt for sprinkling (sea salt)
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Soak until the gelatin is soft, then microwave on high power for only about 2 seconds, or until the gelatin is melted but not foaming up.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream, sugar, sour cream, mascarpone, pumpkin, vanilla, and spices. Add the gelatin and whisk together well.
Place the mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth and hot (150 to 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer).
Remove from the heat and divide the mixture evenly among 8 regular or 16 mini martini glasses (or 8 custard or 16 espresso cups). Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not touch the panna cotta. Refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours to set.
To serve: Drizzle each panna cotta with ale caramel sauce (1 tablespoon for the minis or 2 for the larger portions), and then sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
Chef’s note: If making the ale caramel sauce is too much for your schedule, then substitute with a speed scratch sea salt caramel sauce; mix 1/2 cup purchased high-quality caramel sauce with 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, depending upon how salty you like it.
Holiday Ale Caramel Sauce
If made ahead, cool completely and store refrigerated. Bring to room temperature to serve. The recipe makes more than you’ll need for the panna cotta; extra sauce can be drizzled on ice cream, pound cake or other desserts.
Makes 2 cups
1 (12-ounce) bottle pumpkin ale or other seasonal beer, such as Pike Brewing Co. Auld Acquaintance Hoppy Holiday Ale
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. salted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium-large saucepan, bring the ale to a low boil. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat, add the brown sugar and stir to dissolve.
Bring mixture to a boil and cook without stirring (stir or swirl the pan only if necessary to prevent boiling over) for about 10 to 15 minutes, until thick and syrupy (about 230 degrees F on a candy thermometer).
Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream and butter (it may splatter!), and then cook for 5 to 6 minutes more, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. If serving right away, cool until just warm; it will thicken up more as it cools. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Recipe© Kathy Casey Food Studios®.