Our First Classy Dinner Party

As promised, here it is, the first dinner party in our house. In January, we had only lived here a matter of months, when I was talking with a good friend about his upcoming birthday. He requested something small and simple, so I offered to host a few folks at our new place. When he agreed, Bear and I got to plannin’. Now… We are out in the ‘burbs and most of our friends are still city dwellers (and I must admit, I miss it terribly) so we assured all of them that they could spend the night if needed. Everyone quickly agreed and that’s how the simple dinner became a legit slumber party. (Seriously, if you knew my friend, you would know why that is just hysterical.)

Once it was settled, I got right into the MOST IMPORTANT PART: The music. I wanted the party to feel like a movie food montage, because I’m weird and that’s what I was picturing so I didn’t want to deviate from what I had in mind. (For references, see these movies: Big Night, Chocolat, Babette’s Feast, Julie & Julia, and Fried Green Tomatoes.) So… I knew the vibe I wanted, and I knew just who to ask to put together a playlist: Big D. He put something similar together for Goose a few years back when she was hosting a culinary convention/trade show for her office. (She has a very cool job. Let’s all take a moment and be envious… OK that’s enough.) Anyway, he put together a fabulously kitschy mix CD that had everything from Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” to Shirley Temple singing “Animal Crackers in My Soup.” It was whimsical and fun and kitschy and everything that I consider myself to be. Just fabulous. Anyway, we listened to that while cooking, and while eating, and then changed the music as the night progressed.

Now the important stuff was out of the way it was finally time to plan the menu. This proved a little tricky because there was going to be a total of seven of us and everyone wanted to bring something different. On their end, they brought bruschetta, buffalo chicken dip, a pony keg (yeah!), and italian meatball sliders. All were awesome. Once I knew what they were doing, I got to work with my stuff. Bear and decided on kabobs (steak and veggies), a tomato tart, a spinach salad with apples and pancetta, simple angel hair pasta, and almond crusted chicken stuffed with goat cheese and topped with a cherry red wine reduction.  Here is the appetizer table. I wish I had taken individual pictures of the dishes, but I didn’t. (The tomato tart, specifically, was just beautiful. GREAT colors!)

appetizer spread          pancetta and apple salad with balsamic and almond-crusted chicken stuffed with goat cheese and topped with cherry-red wine reduction

Once the menu was taken care of, it was time to get cookin’. Here we go.

TOMATO TART: This is a take on a dish from a book called Poor Girl Gourmet. It’s for cooking on a budget and Goose got it for me in college I think.

The Stuff:

– savory pie crust

– 2 medium tomatoes, cut length-wise into beautiful circles

– tbsp EVOO

– salt

– 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

– 2 oz goat cheese in 1/2 in thick pieces (This is what the recipe called for, but if you’ve ever tried to “cut” goat cheese, you know this is ridiculous. Just buy the crumbles. That’s what I did, which kept my hands free from goat cheese glop.)

– 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (Don’t cook them all the way to the desired crispness before crumbling. They’re going to get baked after all.)

– 6-8 fresh basil leaves, torn

The Process:

– Preheat your oven to 400. Grease up a pie pan with a little buttah, baby. (If you have a tart pan with a removable bottom, I’d recommend that, but you don’t NEED it. I didn’t have one.) Place the pie crust in the pan and sprinkle the Pecorino over it. Place your sliced tomatoes as beautifully as possible on top. (I placed mine in a circular pattern, like how pepperoni looks on pizza commercials.)

– Then sprinkle the goat cheese on top and place your torn basil on top of that. (I cut my basil in shreds so it was thin and easy to eat.) Bacon goes on top of all of it and then the whole thing goes in the oven for just about 15 minutes. (Long enough to cook the crust and brown the goat cheese.) When it’s done, it’s just the most beautiful little plate of goodness you’ll ever see. I just LOVE a colorful dish. I sliced it like a pie in triangles and everyone loved it! SO EASY!

Now for the chicken…

ALMOND-CRUSTED CHICKEN BEASTS WITH CHERRY-RED WINE REDUCTION: Also from Poor Girl Gourmet. (It’s a great book!)

The Stuff:

Chicken

– 1 c Panko breadcrumbs

– 1 c finely chopped almonds

– salt and pepper

– 1/2 c all-purpose flour

– 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

– 7 chicken breasts

– 4 oz goat cheese

– EVOO

Sauce

– 3 tbsp EVOO

– 1 medium shallot, finely chopped

– 1 1/2 c red wine

– 2 tbsp honey

– 8 oz cherries

– 1 tbsp unsalted butter

– salt and pepper

The Process:

– Get ready for dredging. Prepare a bowl with breadcrumb and almond mixture. Prepare a bowl with eggs. Prepare a plate with flour. Season the breadcrumb-almond mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Slice you chicken breasts down the middle and stuff with goat cheese. Close breast tightly and cover entirely with flour before dredging through egg. Let any excess egg-i-ness drip off. Then it gets tossed into the breadcrumb-almond mixture. Set on a baking sheet and continue with the other breasts.

– Once all the breasts are done and on your sheet, place in fridge while you work on the sauce. Start with a saute pan, and the 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until translucent. (About 3 minutes.) Then the wine, honey, and cherries go in together. (Make sure you drain the cherries, if you bought canned.) Stirring often, cook until its syrupy. It should take about 25 minutes. Add in your glorious buttah and stir throughout. Now the sauce is ready. Set it aside and get back to the chicken.

–  Preheat the oven to 375 and get ready with another sauce pan. Pan fry each breast for about 3 minutes on each side and transfer back to the baking dish. Once they’re all complete, put the baking tray in the oven for 15 minutes. Once that’s done out they come and they’re topped with the sauce. It is BEAUTIFUL!

SPINACH, PANCETTA, APPLE SALAD: This was all me.

– Toss up fresh spinach with a thinly sliced apples and pancetta. Drizzle with balsamic. Top with shaved Parm. Done. So refreshing!

SIMPLE PASTA: Also all me.

– Cook the angel hair per package instructions. Drain and add to serving platter. Toss in fresh basil strips, EVOO, and halved roma tomates. Cover with shaved Parm. Very French simplicity.

Slumber Party

There we are, all having the grandest time ever! See all those happy faces? That means they just ate a bunch of delicious food. The night continued until all hours of the evening for about half of us. We played card games, and Crimes Against Humanity (I think that’s what the game was called), and talked all night long. It was great. The next morning, we all rose from relaxing slumbers slugglishly poured down the stairs and I got started on brunch. We had a Bloody Mary bar, mimosas, french toast, waffles, scrambled eggs, coffee, fruit, and more bacon. (Duh.)

Dinner Party Becomes Breakfast Club

Dinner Party Becomes Breakfast Club

Everyone stuck around after brunch to watch some football and visit. It was honestly a wonderful weekend. I LOVE LOVE LOVE hosting and would seriously do it all the time if I could. I got to live out every movie food montage ever. (I have a thing about food montages in movies.) Next time, we’ll spend more time outside when it’s warmer. It’s so much fun! And here’s how great my besties are, in case you were wondering… This was a party for our friend, and an excuse to let everyone see the house, but all of our super sweet friends chipped in and bought us an AWESOME fire pit (and some board games) as a house-warming gift! You can even cook on it! Now those are some good friends. If all goes according to plan, the birthday boy and I are planning a double date outing to a cooking class. Shh, don’t tell Bear. He doesn’t know yet! (Sneaky, sneaky.)

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