I’m not comfortable having “dinner parties”. They’re too formal for me and I don’t have the class to pull it off. My dear aunt gave me an Entertaining book when I got married and I’ve barely cracked it. Its contents are extremely intimidating with seating arrangement and formal place setting charts, followed by hundreds of gold trimmed pages designed to keep track of your dinner parties’ guest lists and menus. An entertaining journal, I suppose. My cousin is all over this sort of thing and does it with ease, making each of her guests feel completely comfortable and satisfied, as any proper southerner would do. Not to mention, she’s a fabulous gourmet chef. I can only aspire to even compete with her (and you better believe I up my game when she’s on the guest list!) I simply like having people over for dinner and showing off my skills in the kitchen, even though there is usually some sort of disaster that ensues. I barely have a matching place setting and my silverware is down right embarrassing, but I don’t care. I love working on a wine buzz and chatting with girlfriends while preparing a meal in my favorite room of the house.
My latest “dinner party” was this past Friday when my bff Janette came to visit me from Charlotte on her way to see family in Northern Virginia. Her friends Jack and Katie, whom I recently met at Janette’s pre-wedding festivities, live in Fredericksburg. I took the opportunity to invite them over for dinner, for one, to see Janette, and for two, to make some friends! What better way to make friends than to feed them? The company was great, not a single awkward moment and there was lots of laughter. See what good food can do? While I was cooking, Katie asked me what I was making. Not having a name for my main dish I said “Well, I’m rolling chicken with prosciutto, spinach and goat cheese then frying it in Captain Crunch.” “It’s like a fancy cordon bleu!” she said. YES! It is! And so it shall be named! Overall, dinner was a success, despite my catching a wine buzz too early and burning the oil, making half of my chicken rolls less than perfect. AND not buying enough prosciutto and making my husband go to the store, which delayed dinner by an hour and a half. And since I’m criticizing my work, I also think there was a little too much oil on the menu. I didn’t need to roast everything! If I had to do it over again, I’d probably prepare a nice fresh salad instead of the broccolini. See the menu below.
Here are a few of my tips for throwing a “dinner party”: #1) When it comes to the main course, serve something you’ve served before that you know is fantastic. Feeding guests is never the time to experiment. HOWEVER, there’s no harm in experimenting with a small side dish. As long as it’s not the main focus, it really won’t matter too much if it’s a disaster. #2) Appetizers are key, even if it’s chips and dip. You never know when you’ll get delayed in the kitchen. I just feel that it’s polite. I completely overlooked this for my last party and felt terrible! #3) Use your stuff! That’s what it’s there for! Don’t worry if it’s old or new or not part of a set. It will look great on your table anyway. I buy all of my serving dishes separately and I stick to all white or glass pieces (check out this bowl from Target, it’s one of my favorites). Paired with the awesome crystal pieces my grandmother gave to me, my serving ware collection is a lot of fun to use.
Janette, Jack and Katie’s menu for 7/2/10
Fancy Chicken Cordon Bleu
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Fancy Chicken Cordon Bleu (for 4)
TIP: If you can’t find thinly sliced chicken, do it yourself. Lay the chicken between two pieces of parchment paper and smash with a meat mallet or a frying pan until desired result.
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Captain Crunch, smashed into crumbs
4 thinly sliced chicken breasts
4 slices prosciutto
small bowl fresh spinach leaves
2 oz goat cheese
vegetable oil for frying
Pre-heat oven to 350. Lay flat 1 piece of prosciutto on top of each chicken breast. Place enough spinach leaves on top of the prosciutto to cover. Take a 1/2 oz slice (or more if you like!) of the goat cheese and place in the center of the chicken. Take the end of each chicken breast and make a roll, securing with a toothpick. Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. Mix the flour and Captain Crunch crumbs together in a bowl. Dip the chicken rolls in the egg, then roll in the Captain Crunch mixture. Fry on all sides until golden brown. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
1 box of fingerling potatoes
1/2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1 tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 for dried)
1 tsp fresh thyme (1/2 for dried)
Pre-heat oven to 450. Wash potatoes and cut the larger ones in half, leaving the small potatoes whole. Put potatoes, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs in a bowl and mix with your hands until potatoes are evenly coated. Place in casserole dish and bake for about an hour. Potatoes will be golden brown and crisp. Yum!
1 bunch broccolini
1 (or more, to taste) tsp balsamic vinegar
Pre-heat oven to 450. Lightly coat the broccolini with olive oil. Spread evenly on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for ten minutes. Place in bowl and toss with balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.