Rainy Day Dinner (February 8, 2014)

Now I *know* that I’m not the best when it comes to regularly blogging, but have we really not had people over for dinner since July 2012? That can’t be right. I’m going to have search my memory archives and post at least one dinner event I know happened in 2013, but right now, this dinner is fresh in my mind so here you go.

The Event

For the first time in a while, we hosted a dinner for 8 people. That means we extended our table to seat everyone and used every piece of dinnerware, flatware and drinkware we had. It was fun, organizing all that! For the first dinner of the year, it was a terrific success.

Menu

  • Appetizers: mixed nuts (my old standby), Kalamata olives and Rosemary-Pink Salt Savory Shortbread (found at the store)
  • Winter Squash soup with homemade croutons (Barefoot Contessa)
  • Hungarian Goulash (Cook’s Illustrated)
  • Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (Cook’s Illustrated)
  • Grandma Jeanette’s Amazing German Red Cabbage (found on the internet)
  • Stouffer’s Harvest Apples
  • Green beans
  • Make-Ahead Molten Chocolate Cake with whipped cream (Cook’s Illustrated)

Guests

  • Red Fred Johanson & Mary Sandner
  • Paul & Deb Anderson
  • Sharon Renshaw
  • Les Baker

Food Notes

  • Wow, those savory shortbread are good! Maybe I need to find a recipe for that somewhere.
  • Most of my menu was make-ahead, so that I only had to heat things up before dinner. What a godsend!
  • The winter squash soup was very, very good. The recipe calls for using a food mill or a blender to smooth the broth into a silky soup. I chose the blender, because I wanted it to be really smooth and the food mill makes it more grainy. The croutons were very good, but then those are just toasted bread-and-butter … can’t go wrong with that!
  • Because I’d organized around the idea of make-ahead, I made the Hungarian Goulash a few days before our party. Glad I did, because I used the wrong paprika. You need to use a sweet paprika and I used a smoked paprika. Who knew it would make such a difference? The whole dish tasted bitter. So, I had to go get ingredients to make another batch. On the plus side, making the smoked version showed me the quantity made and when I made the sweet paprika version, I doubled the recipe. I did not want to run short.
  • Mashed potatoes — no words. Always a hit. I’m sure the heavy cream and butter have nothing to do with its deliciousness.
  • I really liked the red cabbage recipe, but I had adjusted the recipe for 8 servings (the website where I got the recipe does that for you automatically). That really upped the vinegar quantity and I felt it was too much (discovered after the dish was done, though). I ended up adding more sugar at the end (just a teaspoon at a time) to try and combat that vinegar. Next time, I’ll go easy on the vinegar.
  • I could have made my own scalloped apples, but I’d cooked just about everything else, so I chose to go with Stouffer’s Harvest Apples. Delicious side dish to go with the tartness of the red cabbage and the richness of the goulash.
  • I had what I think was a pretty great idea on the keeping things warm. Since I used the oven to cook the apples, I just used the residual heat to warm up my serving dishes. I placed a cookie sheet with my soup serving dishes (the coffee cups from my dinnerware) in the oven while I was preparing the rest of the meal. They warmed in just a few minutes and so the hot soup didn’t lose any temperature when I placed it in the mugs (someone even commented on how amazing it was that the soup stayed hot!). While we had our soup (this was our starter), I placed my serving dishes in the oven. When I dished up the goulash, mashed potatoes, etc., they all went into hot serving bowls and didn’t immediately cool down, like they normally would have. Great idea, if I say so myself!
  • The molten chocolate cake (basically a lava cake) was a hit, even though they came out of the ramekins more like hot pudding with some cake edges. It was very delicious, though, and everyone liked it.
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