Posted by Bonita
My family is a pretty quiet one, so we don't often entertain guests. However, I've been itching to host a dinner party the last couple of weeks, and we finally had some time in our schedule to invite our neighbours and old family friends over for dinner last night. It was definitely an enjoyable evening, not only for me, who's always delighted to cook for others, but a great way to catch up with old friends once more. I've known them ever since I was born, so they're more like a family than anything else.
I spent the last week and a half contemplating last evening's dinner menu. I poured over my many culinary books, searched high and low on many internet sites, and after much deliberation with my mom, finally planned out the menu. The evening started off with Poached Pear Salad with Baby Greens and Prosciutto, and simply drizzled with some good-quality balsamic vinegar and lemon-infused olive oil. Freshly baked bread was also served at the table, along with some lemon & herb butter: Olive Oil & Herbes de Provence Bread and Fig & Walnut Boule. The picture at the top of the page is the Fig & Walnut Boule. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of my pretty Herbes de Provence loaf before I sliced it.
The hardest part of the menu was coming up with the main course. We deliberated on several options over the course of the past week. Would it be beef? Chicken? Veal? Duck? Fish? We had eventually narrowed it down to poultry and fish by some point last week, but eventually opted for cornish hens. I ended up making Stuffed Cornish Hens with Port Sauce, the stuffing made from a medley of wild and brown rice, turkey sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, dried cranberries and fresh herbs. The port sauce that accompanied the hens was also very delicious; the use of Tawny Port gave the sauce a perfect hint of sweetness without making it too heavy or overwhelming. We served Roasted Beets drizzeld with some balsamic vinegar and Steamed Broccoli as side dishes.
Dessert was a simple affair. I had some extra cookies (Shortbread, Pistachio White Chocolate Thumbprints and Rugelach) from last week which I threw into the freezer. I merely pulled them out of the freezer yesterday morning to thaw, and they were still absolutely delicious. I also made Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies after reading so much about it on other foodblogs. Made the dough the day before and baked half of them yesterday morning. However, I found the dough impossible to work with; maybe it's just me? The dough kept crumbling on me when I tried to cut it, and it was impossible to get some nicely-cut cookies. Needless to say, the melt-in-your-mouth shortbread was a huge hit, along with the coconut-laced pistachio white chocolate thumbprints.
The main dessert, however, was a Peach and Blueberry Crostata (adapted from this recipe), showcasing the beautiful, seasonal fruits. I absolutely love this recipe; I made this once before last year, and it went off well with the family, so I thought it would be a perfect ending to our evening. As you know, I'm not a huge fan of working with pastry since it can be tricky to work with, but what's great about a crostata is that it's very forgiving because it is a free-form pie. It hides any blemishes very well, and even if it doesn't work out perfectly, mistakes only add to the rustic look of this pie. The dough of this particular crostata is also a breeze to work with; it has a beautiful consistency to it and doesn't (and I swear it doesn't!) crack on you at all. It also contains a bit of cornmeal in it, which adds an extra crunch and an interesting texture to the crust. Absolutely delicious warm, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Regardless of the food, it was the company that was the highlight of the evening. Indeed, there was good food and good wine, but most importantly, we were in good company, and nothing can beat that!