……………………………………………………. Baking our mark

Summer Dinner Party July 5, 2012

Filed under: Dinner — krandle @ 8:45 pm
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To me, a dinner party is basically any dinner I cook for extra people and that takes more time than usual. (For example, if you showed up at my house and I fed you a stir fry that I was reheating, that isn’t a dinner party. But, if you showed up and it took more than an hour to cook, that’s a dinner party.)

I’ve run through this menu twice in dinner party-like scenarios now, and I’m convinced it’s a keeper. It’s not very often I find a chicken recipe that people rave about – and this one earned rave reviews even from people who don’t care too much about food!

Other great parts of this menu include:

  • The vegetable side can be varied based on the vegetables you have on hand; the general cooking principles and dressing transfer even to what I had in my garden (zucchini, green beans and radishes)
  • If prep is done properly, this meal takes only about an hour to assemble. (This was easier the second time around.)
  • Because of the way this is put together, it’s really easy to have everything come out hot at the same time. (This is a huge boon to me, since I struggle with end timing.)

So, I give you this summer’s dinner party menu:

Goat cheese-wrapped grapes (as an appetizer)

Pecan-crusted chicken with fresh raspberry sauce

Asparagus, pea and radish salad

Mustard-roasted potatoes

Basil French 75

Simple dessert (a skillet cookie and a fresh fruit crumble both worked nicely)


Tips on preparation:

  • Do the sauces/dips earlier that day or the day before, but add the citrus juices and fresh herbs right before you cook. This works for the dressing for the vegetables, mustard stuff for the potatoes, raspberry sauce for the chicken, mustard dip for the chicken and breadcrumb/nut mixture for the chicken. For one dinner I made with this menu, I made the sauces/etc. ahead of time, then packed everything up and made dinner in an unfamiliar kitchen in another state; it worked remarkably well, and everything transported quite nicely.
  • The grape appetizer can be made a few hours ahead of time, but it’s not great to leave the grapes overnight. The nuts get soggy if they sit for too long near the cheese.
  • When it’s time to cook, prep the veggies first. While you’ll cook them last, they can be chopped and readied first. (You can do the asparagus a few hours ahead of time as well; blanch it beforehand to save time later.)
  • The potatoes need to start cooking first. And, although the chicken should ideally be roasted at a lower oven temperature, roasting them at the higher temp after browning them is totally fine. The chicken does not dry out or burn, and you ensure that you can have everything come out on time when the potatoes and chicken are in the oven at the same time.
  • Get someone else to help make the drinks; basil french 75s are easy, so someone else can take that off your plate.


Goodbye Spring Dinner: Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Berries June 21, 2011

I know everyone else wants June 21 to be the first days of summer…but I think of it as a farewell to spring. Not that I love spring or anything, but I just really don’t like summer. (For everyone with a vision of beaches dancing in their heads, I now want you to think about walking 3 miles in business attire every day. I also want you to think about how you didn’t actually do all the pushups you intended to do, so you don’t look any better in your summer outfits this summer than you did last summer.)

Anyways – to say farewell to the cool(er) days of spring (and to accommodate the busy schedules of our socializing compatriots), I had a little weekday dinner with some lovely friends who were brave enough to try whatever the heck I wanted to serve and nice enough to bring some really delicious beer.

Goodbye Spring Dinner Menu

Burrata, Strawberry and Basil Salad  [in case you haven’t heard, burrata is quite the “in” thing right now–this was my excuse to serve one]

Squash Salad

Apricot Chicken over Ginger Rice

-Summer cupcakes: Chocolate cupcakes with fresh berries

Summer cupcakes

Starting with your favorite chocolate cake base (homemade or from a box, whatever suits you), whip up a batch of mini-cupcakes. Mini-cupcakes are best since it allows you to stack more berries on top…without making the desserts so large that no one can bite them. Plus, as I’ve pointed out before, where a girl won’t eat a full cupcake, she’ll eat a mini-cupcake or two since they’re small.

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pint fresh berries of your choice (Raspberries and blackberries are lovely)
And if you’re feeling fancy:
3 oz. chocolate
1/2 Tbs. butter

If you’re doing the fancy version, first melt the chocolate and butter, blending well and being careful not to burn or otherwise destroy the chocolate. Spread this nice, shiny mixture on top of each cupcake and let it cool. It doesn’t need to be pretty, since you’re just going to cover it up with whipped cream.

In a large bowl using a handmixer, or in the bowl of your large mixer using the whisk attachment, combine whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla. Whip the cream until it becomes fluffy. Be careful not to over-blend, or you’ll make butter. The amount of time needed will vary largely based on the tool you’re using.

Scoop the whipped cream into a large ziploc bag, close the top, then cut off one corner of the bag to make a handy piping bag. (If you have a piping bag, go ahead and use that.) Pipe the whipped cream onto each cupcake, putting enough on to allow the berries to stick to something.

Top with as many berries as will fit on the top of each cupcake.

[Ok, ok, it’s not really a recipe – you know how to do all this stuff already – but maybe you just needed a new idea for an easy summer dessert that looks much more elegant than the effort warrants.]