Thursday, August 7, 2008

Italian Dinner Party

I know lots of people like to save big meals and dinner parties for special occasions, but I'll find any excuse to cook for friends. Last night was the new episode of Project Runway, so I had to invite the girls over to enjoy a hearty Italian meal while we bashed the designers, and so they could see my new house!

Since we wouldn't be eating dinner until somewhat late, I decided to prepare my go-to appetizer, Baguettes with fig jam and brie cheese. This is inspired by my favorite panini at Whole Foods which features fig jam, brie cheese, turkey deli meat and a spring mix. My appetizer is so easy to prepare- just cut the bread, slather on about a tablespoon of fig jam, and then add a slice of brie cheese. Toast in the broiler for about 2-3 minutes until the cheese starts to melt and serve hot!

The main course, Herbed Chicken Parmesan, comes from the Cooking Light Italian cookbook, which I tried once this spring and absolutely loved. The two different cheeses add dimension, and I love the idea of adding balsalmic vinegar to pasta sauce to jass it up. I also sauteed 4 or 5 garlic cloves to add to the sauce.


1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 pound chicken breast tenders
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups bottled fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce (I used Central Market brand Basil and herb)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) shredded provolone cheese
*Note, I doubled this recipe as I was serving 8 people, not 4


Preheat broiler.

Combine 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Place egg white in a shallow dish. Dip each chicken tender in egg white; dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Set aside.

Combine 1/8 teaspoon salt, pasta sauce, vinegar, and pepper in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; vent. Microwave sauce mixture at HIGH 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Pour the sauce over chicken in pan. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining Parmesan and provolone cheese. Wrap handle of pan with foil, and broil 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.

I know it's cliche, but I served this with a big pot of spaghetti with plenty of the extra balsalmic pasta sauce to go around. To add some greenery, I created a fun new Italian salad to go with it:

Balsalmic Italian Salad
8 oz. romaine lettuce
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into disks on the diagonal
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup grapes, cut in half
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 lemon, zested then juiced
3 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine in a large bowl and toss to combine dressing. Note that the amount of vinegar and olive oil can vary depending on your tastes. I love using the citrus to brighten the flavors and add some zest!

The final product, served of course with champagne in honor of Project Runway. What a great first dinner party!

What's your go-to appetizer for simple, but impressive, entertainment?


Brittney said...

Ohh the Barton Springs!! I still like the Mopac from WFM the best, but both are delicious!

Obviously everyone on here who knows me knows that my go-to appetizer is queso...I may or may not be famous for it! Need I remind you of the Super Bowl 2007 incident, including drop cloths and death threats for those who threatened to come between you and the queso?

Good times :)

And NO, you people will NOT be getting the secret, famous queso recipe--it's the only reason I get invited to social events!

Meg said...

the whole dinner was delicious, but that salad dressing surprised me the most. it was so sweet and tasty!

Jodi said...

Anything with melted cheese is great for an appetizer. My go-to would be a plate of assorted cheeses, olives, and spreads with various breads and crudite though.

Kway said...

Thanks for the awesome dinner Coke. I'm gonna have to back up Jodi here on the go-to appetizer. Cheeses and tampenade with little slices of sourdough good.