(and a guide to help you pull off the night perfectly!)
There are those dinner rituals reserved for winter, the ones that involve an extra-stuffed grilled cheese sandwich, chowder, hot chocolate–sometimes all in the same night. I’m all for those. This menu, however, is nothing like those dinners. Even more indulgent, melted in butter, tossed around in cream, topped with crispy caramelized things, this menu, rather than embracing and cozying up to winter, is about defying winter with a dinner party. It’s about setting a fabulous table with the holidays long past, dragging your friends out of their homes 3 hours after the sun’s set, putting on nice shoes and rewarding yourself for not letting winter beat you down. It’s celebration just for the sake of it, and a justifiable rich balance to flat, grey February.
This work-back is tried and tested.It’s exactly how I tackled this menu without stress, ensured that I could get dinner on the table when planned and still have time to get dressed and hang with guests almost the entire time. This is new for me. After years of hosting dinners, I finally am getting pretty good at that. Too bad I have a reputation for the complete opposite to work off. I basically have to have everyone I’ve ever had over for dinner before back again to prove myself. Check your mail for invitations.
I hope this guide, which is just taking the organizing and timing off of your plate (pun actually not intended), will let you pull this dinner party menu off like a pro your first time.
guests arrive: around 6.45/7ish? cocktails and light nibbles since this dinner is rich (suggestions: cava, a warming house cocktail, spiced nuts, your favourite pickles or seedy crackers with a strong cheese that doesn’t encourage over-indulging–although who can resist, it’s cheese, it’s true…)
dinner: 8 sharp
1. First: the non-cooking part, which is perhaps the most critical! Clean, shop, launder and set your table, get your serving pieces ready the day before. There’s no reason to stress yourself out with extra tasks on the day of your party unless you need to get one ingredient or two absolutely fresh, and that isn’t the case here. Tip: buy ice, do not forget about sugar and something decaf for after dinner drinks, and definitely have interesting non-alcoholic drinks and fun waters chilled. Also, don’t forget about place settings for dessert–I always do. If you have them, have them cleaned and at hand too. Also, get everything you don’t need in your fridge OUT, to store that wine, beer, water and also because…
2. The risotto for the chard bundles and the pie crust and filling will actually benefit from being made the day before. Clear enough room in your fridge and make those a day or even two before your party.
3. On the morning of your party make and fill pie crust and refrigerate. Prep all of your ingredients except for the bananas for the top of the pie. Around 3pm, remove your risotto from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. Put any drinks in the fridge that need to be chilled.
4. Around 4pm, start cooking: Set water to boil for steaming chard leaves and cauliflower. Meanwhile, toast almonds and fry shallots, set aside.
5. Fry Brussels sprouts, reserve in the pan.
6. While you’re sauteeing the sprouts, steam chard leaves, set aside. Steam cauliflower over same water. Reserve in steamer.
7. Next, peel and slice potatoes, dress and assemble in an oven-to-table dish.
8. Assemble your chard bundles and set next to the stove.
(time check: it should be around 5.30. quickly tidy up the kitchen washing any pans that are not housing ingredients for later and make as much of the kitchen as presentable as possible. now go make yourself presentable and be back in the kitchen, apron donned (if you’re smart–i don’t think i own one) by 6.30.
9. Put out your pre-made or purchased snacks and cocktails for guests. Pre-heat oven for the potatoes. Greet guests, hang, drink, and relax for a bit–just remember to put your potatoes in the oven around 6.45 or 7.
10. At 7.30 step away to bring this dinner together! Gently fry the leeks, add cream, then cauliflower and hold in pan to keep warm.
11. Melt the butter and make the browned butter sauce, fry the mushrooms and chard bundles, reserve in pan if not too hot, otherwise, plate.
12. Have someone open the wine for dinner and pour drinks, let everyone know dinner is minutes away while you reheat the sprouts in the pan they were in, then plate them and top with the almonds and shallots.
13. Lastly, plate the chard bundles, top with the mushrooms and browned butter; plate the cauliflower, remove your potatoes from the oven and serve.
15. Dessert: while you’re waiting for water to heat for tea or while everyone is sitting back and contemplating life after that great meal, slice and layer your pie with bananas, torch or broil them and enjoy dessert and a fabulous dinner party well-hosted.