Good Day everyone! The first month of 2012 is trucking towards an end...already! I mentioned just over a week ago, my goal for 2012. A dinner party each month...and a blog post about it. So here goes.
The January Dinner Party.
Planning: Planning started before Thanksgiving on this one. A friend of ours wanted to introduce us to two friends of hers. They happened to have just moved to our town and were getting settled in and our friend thought it would be nice to introduce us. I jumped, at the time, at the opportunity to host, something I do love to do. But, the problem was, Thanksgiving was in the middle, plus a trip to Italy for the spouse and I!!!! (AH-MAZE-ING!) So the soonest we'd be able to host was January. That gave me plenty of time to think about what to make, even though I didn't get myself all the time.
I like my guests to feel comfortable with the food, so I always ask if there are any major dietary restrictions. If I have vegetarians coming for dinner, I'm not going to make a huge beef roast. No major restrictions this time around, but there was a preference for chicken, which I'm supper cool with.
Menu: Having just come back from 10 days in Italy, I knew I wanted to make something with an Italian spin to it. After flipping through several of my cookbooks, I settled on a chicken saltimbocca. Traditional saltimbocca is veal. I'm not fond of veal, so this chicken variation was perfectly awesome. For side options, I went with basil risotto and roasted green beans. Dessert would be something we had in Italy and it was incredible; Crema di Mascarpone.
I would also put out a few small nibbles to get us started and I made a great focaccia. Plus plenty of wine!
The focaccia was a standard recipe I've made before, but topped with caramelized onions and rosemary. It's awesome. The dough is pretty simple to pull together and it doesn't take a full day to make.
The table set for our guests. Not much will change over the coarse of the year. This is what we have. If we have more than four people, the table needs to be opened up and the tablecloth doesn't really fit. And with one main set of plates, this is it. That being said, I like to have the table ready to go before people arrive. Have as much stuff as you can ready. When your guests arrive, you want to talk with them, not say hello and have to run away.
I mentioned small nibbles. Any small nibble for me will include some cheese, nuts and cracker. These little crackers were awesome. They had black pepper in them, but they were wafers, not crackers. Fun. Also, I love marcona almonds. Also included, but not seen, I sliced a pear to go with it all. The guests brought more cheese! One thing I've learned over the years, don't over do the nibbles. I have been known to make so many nibbles, we don't really need to eat dinner! So, only a little bit of nibble per person, just hold off the stomach rumbling while we wait for dinner.
The main plate. It was pretty darn delicious! Risotto can be found here. Don't miss read the recipe and make twice as much as you intend! SO MUCH RISOTTO. The green beans were washed and dried. Tossed with olive oil and put on a rimmed baking sheet and into a hot oven, I think 400-425. Roast until they are al dente, about 15-20 minutes. Toss them half way through. When they are done, toss with caramelized shallots for more goodness.
The chicken. Super simple. Take a boneless/skinless chicken breast. Make sure it's cleaned up of any excess fat and then kind of manipulate it into a uniform shape, with the other pieces. Season with salt & pepper. Lay 1-2 leaves of fresh sage on the chicken, then wrap with 1-2 slices of prosciutto, tucking the ends under the cutlet. I then put the cutlets back in the fridge, until I was ready to cook. The extra cool allowed them to firm up a bit.
When you are ready to cook, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, get 2 TB of olive oil nice and hot. Quickly and lightly dust the wrapped cutlets with flour and place in the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes per side, or until cooked thru. This will depend on the thickness of the cutlets. If things start to burn, lower the heat.
When the chicken is done, remove to a clean plate and deglaze the pan with 3/4 cup of dry white wine and 1/4 cup of chicken broth, reduce by half. Season with salt, pepper and a few chopped sage leaves. Swirl in one to two TB of butter. Add any accumulated juice from the cooked chicken, back into the pan. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, when you serve it.
A note on dinner. I prepped everything in advance. 30 minutes before we were ready to eat, I started cooking the risotto, beans and chicken. Everything, miraculously, was done at the same time +/- a minute of two! It was awesome.
Enjoy dinner and your company!
Dessert! Dessert was something special! Here, you're getting the actual recipe:
Creme di Mascarpone
3 eggs, separated
3 TB fine white sugar* (fine texture, not classy ohh la la)
1 1/3 cups mascarpone cheese
1 tsp orange zest
2-3 TB rum
Beat egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold the mascarpone into the yolks, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the orange zest and rum.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into the yolk mixture. Fold whites into the yolk/cheese mixture. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Garnish with shaved dark chocolate, fresh berries and light, crisp cookies!
*The sugar...my sugar does have a vanilla bean split and stored in it...so the sugar does have some vanilla essence. If you want, feel free to add a drop or two of vanilla extra for further awesome flavor.
There we go folks. My first proper blog posts in 10+ months. My first proper dinner party of 2012! Cin cin!