A few weeks ago, I announced a new collaboration with a dear friend of mine. After that announcement, Katie Ann and I spent hours and hours of planning and testing and DIYing and scheduling and tasting and note taking and wine sipping. And then everything came together for one glorious dinner.
It. Was. So. Much. Fun. Katie Ann planned all of the gorgeous decor and hostessing details of the night while I planned and cooked the menu. PLUS, she took ALL of these killer photos.
After we finished all the photos, we poured a few generous glasses of wine, took a deep breath, and drank in the fragrant, candle-lit scene. The slow and intimate feel of the night made me want to break out the candles for every dinner.
According to Katie, when you’re invited to a dinner party, you should always bring the hostess a gift. So she put together this gorgeous gift basket for our dinner party, sweet soul that she is.
We started off with roasted brussels sprouts wrapped in bacon and homemade bread + infused oil. Excuuuuuse me, but I may have filled up on appetizers.
I am absolutely obsessed with brussels sprouts and simply don’t understand how anyone couldn’t love these little babies packed with tons of flavor. Plus bread. I mean c’mon! That’s a meal in and of itself. (Side note – Katie copper foiled those plates herself. Aren’t they gorgeous??)
After we munched our way through the fatty, carby appetizers, we dove into the main course of cast iron roast chicken, fingerling potatoes with roasted garlic aioli, and honey glazed carrots.
Side note, I snack A LOT when I’m cooking, so by the time we actually sat down to the meal, my stomach decided, nahhhh we’re already full. K, thanks. Not to mention the wine was flowing, and when there’s wine on the table, that’s my preferred main course (mostly joking).
BUT, no matter what, I always leave room for dessert. And that night, we each got our own little ramekins of pumpkin pudding with a buttery sweet graham cracker crust.
AND a cinnamony, tart apple galette.
When we sat down to literally enjoy the fruits of our labor, all the stress of planning and execution slowly faded, and the joy that spread through my heart was so deep and delightful. Finally everything accumulated to a dinner that I once only dreamed about. It was something so simple – just one meal – and yet something so profound for me, because pursuing your passions and developing your skills, no matter what they might be, is a fulfilling quest unlike any other.
So now it’s your turn. Host a dinner, invite your friends over, take a day to cook and bake, and most of all, find a little joy.
FALL 2016 DINNER GUIDE
My personal goal with these dinners is to be able to give you the tools, resources, and tips to create your own beautiful dinner party with the people that you love. This dinner guide includes all the recipes and wine pairing advice to help you create the food part of the night. To get hostessing tips and DIY ideas, check out Katie Ann’s half of the collab.
Lastly, remember that the best dinners are those that are created with love. If you are able to find some kind of joy or peace while you’re cooking, the food will show it and your guests will feel it. Most of all, have fun! Sometimes the worst accidents create the best recipes. So be flexible, be willing to adjust, take time to adapt and HAVE FUN.
Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts
This might be the easiest and yummiest appetizer to pull off in the history of ever. The maple syrup brings all of the flavors together for one sweet fall bite.
Preheat oven to 400. Rinse and trim the brussels sprouts. Pat dry. Cut your bacon strips in half or in thirds if your sprouts are relatively small. Wrap the bacon strips around the sprouts and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes and then place sheet on top shelf and broil for another 3-5 minutes. This will get the bacon perfectly crispy. After cooling for about five minutes, drizzle the bacon sprouts with maple syrup and dive in. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.
No Knead Bread
This is probably one of my favorite breads to make. It’s so simple and perfect for dipping and scraping and snacking just solo.
3 cups of flour
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 ½ cup water
Mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Add water to it and mix until incorporated. Let sit, covered with a tea towel for at least 12 hours (can sit for up to 20 hours, I haven’t let it sit longer than that). At the 12 hour mark, sprinkle some flour over it and transfer onto parchment paper. Gently shape into a ball and transfer dough with parchment paper to a round dutch oven or round baking pan. Let rise for another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400. Bake covered for 15 minutes, to keep the bread from browning too much. After 15 minutes, remove lid and cook for another 25-30 minutes. Once done, pull out and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Then…go crazy and dive in.
You know that gloriously silky oil that you dip warm bread into at Italian restaurants? You can make that at home with just a simple hop, skip, and a few herbs. Of course, it goes PERFECTLY with the warm no-knead bread. I could live off of this stuff.
½ cup of oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 fresh sage leaves
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
Mince the garlic and add it, along with the oil and herbs, to a pan over low heat. Let sit and infuse for 15 minutes. Transfer to a low bowl and dip your way to happiness with the hot bread.
Honey Glazed Carrots
I have tried substituting the honey for maple syrup because IT’S FALL, but it was with no success. The maple syrup burns so quickly compared to honey— so I opted to stick with the true and tried way. Another note, I try to stay away from baby carrots as much as possible, because so much of the carrot gets wasted in the whittling down of real carrots to create the little baby guys. SO, if you can, get the real deal. Plus, they just have so much richer of a flavor.
2-3 pounds of carrots
Fresh ground pepper
Slice the carrots lengthwise. For a really thick carrot, I usually slice it lengthwise four ways instead of just in half. Next combine equal parts honey and olive oil. For two to three pounds of carrots, use about three tablespoons of each. Mix the two together well and spread over the carrots with a pastry brush. Next, sprinkle the carrots with a healthy dose of salt and parsley. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, turning halfway. The thinner you slice the carrots, the faster they will roast, so adjust roasting time accordingly. When the carrots are finished, they should be tender but not mushy.
Fingerling Potatoes With Garlic Aioli
I adore fingerling potatoes. They are the absolute perfect potato for roasting, finishing perfectly tender, yet holding shape and carrying any flavor you dare pour onto them. For the dinner, we paired these with dressed greens, topped with the most delightful aioli—the kind that you want to dive into head first and swim around in.
2 pounds fingerling potatoes
Roasted Garlic Aioli Ingredients
¼ cup of organic mayonnaise
6 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp salt
Dressed Greens Ingredients
2 cups arugula
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
First preheat the oven to 400. I like to rinse the potatoes, pat them dry and then drop them whole into a big bowl with a healthy glug of olive oil. Shake the bowl around like you would a bowl of popcorn, mixing the oil over them evenly. Sprinkle a huge dose of salt over them and shake to coat evenly once more. You want to use at least twice as much salt as you deem necessary. When you think you’ve ruined them with too much salt, that is when they are most perfect. These lovely potatoes get cooked whole, so arrange them whole on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 20 minutes. If the potatoes are fatter, they’ll take longer. I usually start testing them around 20 minutes and if they aren’t quite tender enough, I wait another five minutes. I know they’re done when I can stick a fork through them with very little effort.
While the potatoes are baking, make the aioli. This aioli relies heavily on the roasted garlic to make and perfect its flavor. If you use fresh garlic, it will be much too bitter. But roasted garlic, which I eat by the clove, is fragrant with a hint of sweetness—a deep, glorious garlicky flavor. Because the mayo is the largest single ingredient, it’s important to get top-the-line mayo. Don’t just settle for a bottom shelf, generic mayo. Splurge and get the good stuff.
If you’ve never roasted garlic on your own before, check out this hilarious guide from The Pioneer Woman. Combine all ingredients in a food processor (I use my small ninja blender for this) and blend until well combined. Season with more salt as needed. Note: You can make this aioli the day before and let it soak up even more of the flavors overnight.
Dress the greens right before serving to avoid the arugula turning out wilted and soggy. To assemble, simply arrange a few potatoes on the plate, top off with some dressed greens and drizzle aioli over the top. Voila!
The thought of roasting a chicken seemed like such a huge undertaking that I never tried it, at least not until I started reading Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat book. She made it sound so simple and, in her opinion (and now mine too), everyone should know how to roast a chicken. I have learned so much about food and cooking from just that one book, and if I am so lucky to meet this lady one day, I will fangirl SO hard.
I’ve tried both fresh, never frozen organic birds, AND non-organic thawed birds. The difference is remarkable. If you’re going to undertake such a task as roasting your own bird, you should splurge and get a fresh organic bird. Check the labels–most will say whether or not the bird has been frozen or is fresh. Better yet, go see a local butcher.
Half of a lemon
I roast all my chickens in a cast iron for even heating. A dutch oven will have the same effect. If you don’t have either of those, just use your normal roasting pan of choice. Before you start dolling up the bird, preheat the oven to 400.
To start, I put a little bit of oil in the bottom of my cast iron and then spread about another 2-3 tablespoons of oil over the entire bird and salt it generously. I then place it breast side down in the pan and slice a few tabs of butter over the top. I take half of a lemon, salt the cut side generously, and slide it up the chicken’s rear along with a few sage leaves and some rosemary. Don’t worry about the lemon overpowering the flavor—I promise it doesn’t. Instead it makes the bird luxuriously tender and juicy.
For determining the roast time of the bird, I follow Nigella’s rules to a T. She instructs to roast your bird for 15 minutes per pound + 10 minutes. So for my 5 pound bird, I roasted it for 1 hour and 25 minutes. I always double check with a thermometer JUST to make sure (mostly because I am paranoid). After removing from the oven, let it sit for at least 20 minutes to settle in all the juices in and cool off slightly. Friends, when this baby comes out of the oven, it’s a beautiful golden picture. The skin is crispy, the meat juicy and sage-y all throughout, and all you want to do is forget about the sides and fill your entire stomach with chicken. SO good.
I tried this pudding with both fresh roasted pie pumpkins puree and with canned puree. I like the canned version better (sorry not sorry) because it was so much more smooth. If you’re roasting your own pumpkins, I would recommend pushing the puree through a fine sieve to make sure you have the smoothest pudding possible.
Ingredients for pudding
1¾ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1½ cup milk of choice (works with dairy and nondairy)
Ingredients for crust
1 ½ cup crushed graham crackers or gingersnap cookies
⅓ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Crush graham crackers very finely, then add sugar and melted butter to the crushed crackers and mix well. Press into the bottom of the ramekins, enough so you have about ¼ inch crust in each one. Bake for 5 minutes–just enough to help the crust caramelize a little. Remove and let cool.
Heat pumpkin puree over medium heat and stir in honey and maple syrup. (For a really sweet pudding, use all honey. For a less sweet pudding, use all maple syrup.) Stir until incorporated and warm. Next, add the eggs. BUT make sure your pudding is not too hot (should not be boiling) or the eggs will cook before they’re incorporated. Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch into ½ cup of the milk and whisk together until no lumps remain. Add that mixture, along with the rest of the milk and the seasonings, to the warm pumpkin puree. Stir until the pudding boils and begins to thicken. (Make sure you are stirring the whole time so you don’t burn it!) Remove from heat and pour into the ramekins. The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools, so let it cool for at least 30 minutes and then transfer to refrigerator to cool completely for at least another hour.
What’s easier than pie and almost tastes the same? Galettes—they are the aspiring baker and pie lover’s saving grace. Whenever I am craving pie but don’t want to put in the work to make an actual pie, I make a galette instead, complete with a pastry dough so flaked with butter that you can feel the pounds accumulating on your hips with each bit that you take. We were so full after the dinner and the pudding that the galette only saw a few fingers picking at it here and there. So instead, we kept the galette in the fridge for a few days and nibbled away at for breakfast and afternoon snacks and midnight cheats— basically whenever the mood was right for a cold and buttery yet sweet and tart treat.
2 ½ cups of flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 ½ sticks of cold butter
4 tbsp cold water
Apple Filling Ingredients
4 cups of baking apples (Not all apples were created equal, I prefer Honeycrisp or Jonathon’s.)
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
For the crust, I used a food processor, but if you have a pastry cutter, you can create the same effect—it just might take you a little longer. Food processors save lives, friend. Also, for this pastry crust, COLD is key. If your butter or water is not COLD, then it won’t work.
First, pulse flour, sugar, and salt together in a processor. Next, cut the butter up into half inch tabs and layer on top of flour. Pulse until butter tabs are incorporated in the flour and no larger than rice kernels. Next add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, just until dough comes together. If your dough comes together with just three tablespoons, stop there. If there is still too much loose flour after four, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. When incorporated, plop the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for an hour. While you’re waiting on the dough, cube the apples and then toss with remaining apple filling ingredients.
After an hour, preheat oven to 350 and retrieve dough from refrigerator to roll out on a floured surface. After you have a nice circle of dough, transfer it to parchment paper and pile the apple filling in the middle. Leave about an inch border and carefully curl those edges up around the filing to complete the galette. Brush the edges with butter and sprinkle a few more rounds of brown sugar over the top of the galette. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Depending on how thin you roll out your dough, it will cook faster. So keep an eye on this one. If it looks like your crust is browning too much but it underdone, cover with tin foil for the remainder of the baking time to prevent the crust from burning.