Last Friday, I hosted a small dinner party with two of our closest friends. It was a much-needed date-night-in considering we really can’t get out.
- Cocktail: Candy Apple Whiskey Sour
- Appetizer: Loaded Sweet Potato Skins
- Salad: Pear, Maple Pecans, and Arugula Salad with Fig Vinaigrette
- Main: Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon over Pureed Sweet Potato and Roasted Broccolini
- Dessert: Ricotta Apple Fritters
Menu planning has become one of my most favorite things to do.
I’ve always loved cooking, but pulling together a fancy-ish menu inspired by the season, cooking it, and eating it (the best part, of course) is helping me cope with a pretty nasty case of cabin fever. It’s taken me all week to muster the energy to post this.
Anyway, enough of the blah. Let’s get to the food!
See, it’s already cheering me up.
Candy Apple Whiskey Sour
So, cocktails have become a new hobby of mine during the quarantine. I used to love trying fun cocktails when I went out to dinner, but since that’s a no-no, I started making my own.
This is my twist on a classic whiskey sour using apple cider and butterscotch schnapps for a candy apple-ish taste. I’ve already shared the recipe on FB, and a few people tried it, giving me some awesome feedback.
This has been my go-to cocktail since apple cider appeared in my local grocery store for the season.
Loaded Sweet Potato Skins
This idea came to me after I decided to make sweet potato puree for my main course. I love including appetizers on the menu, so why not use the skins here? This way, there’s no waste.
Well, best idea ever! These were fantastic. I loaded them with bacon, scallions, cubes of smoked gouda and then baked until the cheese was ooey and gooey.
My friend Dennis came up with the best wine pairing, Chateau Ste. Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling. If you like sweet white wines, this is a great choice, and it really went well with the sweet-salty-smokey potatoes.
I will be making these again, for sure!
Pear, Maple Pecans, and Arugula Salad with Fig Vinaigrette
Salads are secretly my favorite part of the dinner party menu. I love letting the season really inspire me. There are so many options and flavors to be inspired by, and they can be simple yet complex –if that makes sense.
I first dressed baby arugula with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper for this salad. Then I topped it with Bartlet pear slices, pecans that I candied with maple syrup, and sharp cheddar to balance everything out.
Next time I may use an even sharper cheese. I think blue or gorgonzola would be good too, but I’m just not a fan.
Oh, and our wine pick for this one was Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay. Another good choice!
Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon over Pureed Sweet Potato and Roasted Broccolini
First things first, you may notice there is no broccolini in that photo, and that’s because when I went shopping on the day of the party, my local grocery store was out. This always seems to happen to me!
Anyway, I decided to use regular broccoli and call it a day, but I think broccolini would have made the plate a bit more elegant.
I don’t have any official recipes for this but let me tell you how I prepared everything because it was all a hit. Everyone was raving about the steak, and the sweet potatoes were my favorite.
Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon
I have never been prouder of a cooked piece of meat.
First, I heated my cast iron pan and par-cooked some bacon slices. The biggest complaint I read online about bacon-wrapped filet was that the bacon doesn’t fully cook. So I remedied that. Plus, I figured the fat from the rendered bacon would be perfect for searing the steaks with.
I wrapped the filets with the par-cooked bacon and secured them with some cooking twine. Then I added some smashed garlic and rosemary to the remaining bacon fat in the cast iron and seared the steaks for about two minutes aside. Transferring them to a cookie sheet with a rack, I finished them in the oven until medium-rare.
My foodie friend said it was one of the best steaks he’s ever eaten, and I accepted that compliment. I was super proud of them!
Pureed Sweet Potatoes
These were my favorite, and honestly, nothing could be easier. Roast some sweet potatoes until soft, scoop out the flesh, and puree! All I added was a touch of chicken broth to get them started and a couple of cubes of smoked gouda for flavor. Oh! And salt. You need a pinch of salt.
Roasted Broccoli (That Should Have Been Broccolini)
Simple as well. I tossed the broccoli in some good olive oil with salt, pepper, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Classic and yummy!
Our pairing for this course was Buttonwood Marnie Ann Blend. It’s from my guest’s favorite winery. It was also perfect!
Ricotta Apple Fritters
On to dessert! I love using seasonal fruit to inspire dessert for my menus, and it’s apple time up in the northeast. I didn’t want to go traditional with an apple pie or cobbler. Instead, I went with something fun, indulgent, and easy to make.
Well, these were perfect! I made a batter with some eggs, ricotta, flour, sugar, and added two grated apples, skin and all. Then simply dolloped the batter into hot oil in my cast iron skillet. Once cooled a sprinkling of powder sugar for presentation.
Our wine selection for this was Stella Rosa Black Lux. It has a strong berry flavor and went really well with the fritters. I would buy that wine again in a heartbeat.
Next Months Menu?
My goal is to come up with a menu each month based on seasonal ingredients. Let me warn you straight away –I probably won’t post detailed recipes for these. I know. I know. I’m sorry, but I’m starting to enjoy perfecting a recipe over time. I’ve been keeping notes, and getting feedback is fun. Plus, I’m thinking about writing a new book. Truth be told, I’m deciding the best way to share my food passion and ideas.
Do I just keep blogging, hoping to make some ad income to offset the costs? Or do I use the blog as a sounding board and outlet while keeping it ad-free and connect with those who share my interest in cooking and food?
Ugh. These are the questions a retired blogger asks herself, and I don’t know what the answers are right now. However, I know that I had an absolute BLAST planning and executing this dinner, and I can’t wait to do it again.