Monday, June 2, 2014

Dinner Party: Italian

Sit down dinner parties make me really happy. So when I host a small group of people, I try to use them as guinea pigs for new recipes that I've been eyeing.
But before all the fancy forks and knives, there's appetizers. Since we were hosting all day, we decided to put out a spread that people can casually snack on.

The biggest part of the appetizers was clearly the meat charcuterie platter. We served prosciutto, coppa, finnochiona, and homemade chicken liver pate. The accoutrements are dijon mustard, cornichons, and olives.
If you serve meat, you have to serve some cheese too. From left to right, I have triple creme brie, a mild English blue cheese, and a very sharp English cheddar. I bought all these from Murray's Cheese which was very helpful with my questions. They had very good recommendations.
To serve with all that meat and cheese, we had buttery crackers, petite toast, bacon peanuts, and pistachios.
And to add a bit of healthiness to the snacks, I always like to serve a vegetable crudite. Here, I have julienned red bell peppers, carrots, yellow bell peppers, and celery. The dip is a homemade ranch sauce which has a very nice punch from raw garlic and onion.
After we devoured the appetizers, I served dinner. This time, I decided to do an Italian dinner. I tried to make a well balanced meal with meat, pasta, vegetables, and seafood. Some things I have made before, others no. Like I said, I like to use my friends as guinea pigs.
The main course was oxtail ragu with pasta. I slow cooked oxtail in tomato sauce until it melted off the bone. I mixed the meat thoroughly in the sauce then added pasta to the mix. I had cooked the pasta on the side which the sauce finished. I decided to use imported pasta suggested by my specialty Italian grocer and man was this damn good pasta. It held up to the sauce nicely and it just tasted much better. I really enjoyed this dish. It was hearty, flavorful, and satisfying. Everything about it just worked.
As a side dish, I made stuffed calamari with pesto sauce. The calamari was stuffed with bread crumbs, pine cuts, and a variety of herbs and spices. I forgot to taste the filling before I stuffed the calamari so it was a bit underseasoned. Personally, I liked my first version of this dish (Feast of the Seven Fishes) better. It was in a tomato white wine sauce. It just had much more flavor overall. The pesto really wasn't that fragrant enough for everything.
With the shrimp, I made a simple citrus cilantro sauce. I first sauteed the shrimp until cooked then I tossed it in an orange, lime, and lemon sauce. Then I lightly tossed in cilantro for more freshness. Overall, this was just okay. This dish is much better if the shrimp were to be grilled on a bbq.
And now the greens. I decided to make a classic hot sausage with broccoli rabe. And garlic. Lots of garlic. I took normal sausage meat and formed it into meatballs. Then I seared them on the stove until cooked through. For the broccoli rabe, I blanched it in salted water first before I sauteed it in oil and garlic. The blanching removes a lot of bitterness that may be unappetizing to some people. This dish was really good and I could just toss this over pasta next time.
And finally some asparagus. I trimmed the ends then blanched them in salted water. After that, I shocked them in iced water to stop the cooking. This helps with timing everything. Right before I was to serve everything, I quickly sauteed the asparagus in oil. The garnish on top is a healthy grating of parmigiana cheese.
After all this food, there's still dessert. Most people will eat and eat and not have much room for dessert. So I decided to make a very light but satisfying one: chocolate mousse. Rich chocolate flavor but whipped until airy and light. This is a really satisfying dessert especially if you use good quality chocolate.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man this all looks awesome. I want to lick the bowl.

    I think I'm hungry. Yay for dinner!


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