Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I "love" love dinner party

Valentine's Day may be a week behind us, but celebrating love is something you can do 365 days a year - especially when you gather good friends, good food, and good wine. It's no secret I'm a Julia Child fan, so after reading My Life in France, I was inspired to host another Julia dinner party. I loved the way she entertained, relishing in good company and good prep so that she could enjoy herself. With this dinner, I could too!

The dishes
  • Cheese plate (featuring aged English cheddar, Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor, 1 year aged Manchego, creamy buffalo milk cheese, quince paste)
  • Potato, Leek and Broccoli Soup with Pancetta Breadcrumbs from Food & Wine
  • Julia Child's Coq au Vin, served with egg noodles (note, I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks and omitted cognac)
  • Spring greens salad with walnuts, goat cheese and dates (recipe below)
  • Mexican chocolate ice cream from Cuisinart
  • Banana walnut chip ice cream from Cuisinart (recipe not online, typed below)
  • Heart shaped brownies with ganache filling from Williams Sonoma (recipe not online, typed below)

The prep
1 week prior
  • Prepare ice cream. Store in freezer with wax paper on top to prevent freezer burn
1 day prior
  • Prepare soup and breadcrumbs. Cool both and store separately
  • Make brownies. Cool and store in a sealed container
  • Make French bread, cool and store wrapped tightly in foil
  • Create place cards and cheese labels
Day of
  • 3 hours before dinner, make the coq au vin. When done, store in a just-warm oven.
  • While coq au vin cooks, set table
  • 2 hours prior, assemble salad and place in fridge covered with plastic wrap.
  • Set out cheese about one hour prior to guests arriving to cheese will be at optimal room temperature.
  • 30 minutes prior, slice french bread into thin pieces. Place cheese on tray and place labels.
During dinner
  • When guests arrive, warm soup in oven (I used individual Le Creuset pots, so I placed all pots on a baking sheet for easy transferring in and out of the oven then to people's plates. I topped soup with pancetta breadcrumbs before placing in the oven)
  • When sitting down to soup, boil water for egg noodles, make sure coq au vin is heated through
  • When finished soup, cook egg noodles and drain, dress salad
  • When finishing dinner, warm brownies, remove ice cream from freezer 10 minutes prior to eating for easy scooping

Spring Greens Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Dates

8 ounces spring greens
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
6 dates, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Toss greens, walnuts, goat cheese and dates in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Store in fridge until ready to eat. When serving, drizzle with vinegar and oil and toss.

Banana Walnut Chip Ice Cream (from Cuisinart)

1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons butter
2 large, ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, bring milk, cream, vanilla and slat just to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes.

While setting, heat sugar and water in a large skillet until it begins to sizzle. Stir in butter and melt. Add bananas and cook 2 minutes, until fragrant and softened. Carefully stir in rum and cook 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and remove bananas with a slotted spoon. Reserve bananas and rum mixture in separate bowls.

Stir lemon juice into bananas then mix bananas into cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.

Pour mixture into ice cream maker and let mix until thickened, about 15 minutes. While churning, melt chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. When ice cream is fully churned, gradually add reserved sugar mixture and let mix until combined. Now add walnuts and let mix until combined. Right before ice cream is done, drizzle in melted chocolate and let swirl in. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze.

Chocolate Ganache Heart Cakes, courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Cocoa powder for dusting pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter, cubed and softened
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease your 6-well heart shaped baking pan (or 6 muffin cups) and dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium heatproof bowl, combine 2 ounces chocolate and cream. Set bowl over (not touching) simmering water in a small saucepan and melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth and blended. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until firm, 20-30 minutes.

Next, in another heatproof bowl, combine remaining 4 ounces chocolate and butter and melt, stirring constantly, until smooth. Remove and cool 10 minutes. In a standing mixer or medium bowl, combine eggs, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla and salt. With wisk attachment, beat 5-6 minutes until nearly triple in volume.

Sift flower over bowl and gently fold until blended. Add chocolate and gently fold again until smooth and blended. Divide batter amongst 6 hearts or muffin tins. Remove chocolate from fridge (now ganache) and roll into 6 small balls. Place into each heart and press in gently. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes, then carefully remove cakes from pan.


Bun Baker said...

Looks fun and the dinner sounds delicious - I wish we could have enjoyed with you all!!

Jodi said...

Mmmm looks beautiful and sounds delicious! I love the way you included the step-by-step info. Also, adorable felt heart pins!

Luke Robison said...

What a lovely dinner party that was. You are an amazing host. I love to love you!!

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