An Intimate Gathering: Holiday Dinner Party Menu


Since the holidays are rapidly approaching, I’m planning an intimate dinner party with friends featuring some of my favorite recipes to make a delicious, warming and elegant meal. Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce for the entree, Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese as a side, Pear, Arugula and Pancetta as an accompanying winter salad, and rich, decadent Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce

Filet Mignon has always been one of my favorites, and it is one of the most elegant cuts of steak, and served medium rare is juicy, tender, and succulent. Top it off with a Mushroom wine sauce, serve it with a Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut salad with Vinaigrette and a Cheesy Pasta side dish with a kick, and you’ve got an elegant dinner party menu for a small group of friends. I saw this recipe on Giada DeLaurentis’ show Giada at Home, and it caught my eye as the perfect dish for an intimate dinner party with friends around the holidays.

steak with mushroom sauce

Ingredients

Steaks:

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Gravy:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large or 4 small shallots, minced

2 cups (about 5 ounces) assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake and button, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry Marsala wine

1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preparation:

Steak: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a small baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board.

Gravy: In the same skillet used for the steak, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beef broth and rosemary. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until half of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cutting across the grain, slice the steak into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and serve alongside the meat.

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Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is a classic comfort food and every year I go on a search for a new recipe and this one caught my eye. (Bon Appetit magazine Dec 2010 issue). This recipe originates from the popular Seattle restaurant, Roaring Fork by Chef Robert McGrath. It’s made with roasted poblano chile peppers which gives it a nice kick and extra texture and flavor to the cheesy goodness. The recipe calls for macaroni and red onion but I decided to substitute penne for the macaroni and shallots for the onion, and added a teaspoon of smoked paprika, extra cheddar cheese and a few slices of crumbled pancetta on top to dress it up a bit. You can also toss the pasta in a cast iron pan and top it off with some buttery panko bread crumbs and throw it in the oven for 30-40 minutes on 350 degrees for a crunchy delicious topping. It makes 6 appetizer or side-dish servings.

green chile mac and cheese

Ingredients:

1 whole fresh poblano chile plus 1/4 c. chopped fresh poblano chiles

1 tbsp corn oil

1/4 c. chopped red bell pepper

1/4 c. chopped red onion (or shallots)

1 garlic clove, minced

4-5 slices of pancetta, diced and cooked

1/2 c. fresh or frozen thawed corn kernels

3/4 c. whipping cream

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 c. fresh cooked macaroni (2/3 c. dried) or penne (or any tubular shaped pasta)

1/2 c. grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Topping: Melted butter and Panko bread crumbs, put entire dish in a cast iron pan, top

with buttered crumbs and bake in oven until topping is crunchy and golden

Preparation:

Char whole chile directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer to paper bag, seal. Let stand 15 mins. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chile. Transfer to processor, puree until smooth.

Chop the pancetta and cook until crisp in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove bacon and drain on a small plate with paper towels and reserve some of the bacon drippings and add the oil back in to the pan.

Add 1/4 c. chopped chile, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Saute until soft, about 4 mins. Add corn; stir 1 minute. Add cream and chile puree; bring to boil. Add macaroni and cheese; stir until cheese melts and mixture is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with pancetta crumbles.

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Pear, Arugula and Pancetta Salad

This is one of my favorite winter salads made with peppery arugula, fresh sliced pears, pancetta and a crisp Champagne Vinaigrette. It goes perfect with the steak and pasta and gives a fresh flavor to the meal.

pear and arugula salad

For vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon mild honey

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

For salad:

2 oz thinly sliced pancetta (4 to 5 slices)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 firm-ripe pears

4 cups baby arugula or torn larger arugula (1 1/4 lb)

3 oz ricotta salata, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler

Toasted Walnuts for topping

Make vinaigrette: Whisk together vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.

Make salad:
 Cook pancetta in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning frequently, until just crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain (pancetta will crisp as it cools). Tear into bite-size pieces.

Halve pears lengthwise, core, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add pears to dressing along with arugula, cheese, and pancetta, tossing to coat. Top with a handful of toasted walnuts for some crunchy texture.

Read More: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pear-Arugula-and-Pancetta-Salad-235734#ixzz16appSya9

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Chocolate Mousse

I can’t think anything else on the planet that I love more than chocolate. Whip up this delicious ingredient with brandy and cream and you’ve got the perfect French dessert – chocolate mousse. Dark and rich, creamy and decadent – it’s the perfect ending for a special dinner party with friends during the holidays. I found this recipe on Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette (she’s one of my favorite Bon Appetit food writers, ever!). This recipe is adapted from the original recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, 2006.

chocolate mousse

Ingredients:

8 oz. Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate, 60% cacao, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

5 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. brandy

2 large eggs, separated

1 Tbsp. sugar, divided

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cold heavy cream

For serving:

Very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings

Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, water, and whiskey in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of gently simmering water, and stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.

In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, and salt. Whisk until the mixture lightens to a pale yellow color and thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk until combined. Set aside for about 5 minutes, until just warmer than room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Add the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Detach the whisk and bowl from the mixer, and whisk the last few strokes by hand, making sure to scrape up any unbeaten whites from the bottom of the bowl. Using the whisk, stir about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, to lighten it. Then, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites until only a few white streaks remain.

In the now-empty mixer bowl, whip the heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase the speed to high, and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mousse until no white streaks remain. Spoon into 6 to 8 individual serving dishes – I like to use teacups – or, if you’re feeling casual, mound it up in a single serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

For best texture, let the mousse sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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