Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Cooking

Menu for an elegant dinner party

The goal

This is special occasion territory, ideal for birthday celebrations or other milestones, and fancy holiday gatherings. Consider inviting guests in a more formal way than a text message or word of mouth; websites like Paperless Post allow you to send snazzy email invitations, if you don't want to go the snail mail route. Casually suggesting a dress code wouldn't be entirely out of line.

The method

Trot out your best plates and silverware, and turn your eye toward ingredients that read a bit more sophisticated than they actually are, like beef tenderloin. Start the meal with an indulgent, cream-based soup, like cream of potato, then stick to vegetable-based sides (tied together with shallots, prepared two ways) to even things out. And for dessert: coconut cake, an unexpected flavor that becomes downright dainty when cut into mini servings.

The menu

A nice bottle of red

This is the time to opt for a slightly nicer bottle of wine than you normally would. Try a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot from California to go with the beef tenderloin.

Brussels Sprout Hash with Crispy Shallots

First, crisp up some shallots. Cut about 3 shallots into small rings, until you have between ½ and ¾ cup. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat ¼ cup coconut or canola oil. Add shallots and fry for about 10 minutes, until brown but not burned. Remove from oil, place on a paper towel, and season with salt. Rinse and pat dry 2 pounds Brussels sprouts. Using either a grater or a sharp knife, shred or cut the sprouts into thin slices, so they become slaw-like. Add to a skillet set over medium-high heat along with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook about 10 minutes, until Brussels begin to brown on the edges and soften. Add 1 tablespoon maple syrup and the juice of 1 lemon, and stir. Remove from heat and scoop Brussels into a bowl. Just before serving, sprinkle shallots over each serving of Brussels sprouts.

Braised Radishes

Radishes, especially when roasted, are an unexpected yet sumptuous side dish. To make, dice 2 slices raw bacon and 2 large shallots. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large, heavy skillet, then add bacon and cook for about 5 minutes. Add 1 pound trimmed and halved radishes, and cook without stirring to let them brown. Season with salt and pepper, then add shallots and cook for another minute or so. Add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and ¼ cup water, and cook for about 10 minutes covered, or until the radishes are tender. Uncover and cook until liquid is reduced to a syrup, then add ⅔ cup chopped parsley and serve.

Roast Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary Butter

In terms of preparation, it's no more complicated than making a pork tenderloin. A compound butter sounds fancy but isn't really, just the mixing of softened butter with, in this case, a fresh herb. Nothing like a fresh pat of butter dripping onto your plate to signify an indulgent meal.

Mini Coconut Cakes

Carve out some time the morning of a day or two before the party to make this cake from food blogger Molly Yeh, which comes together easily. Refrigerate until the evening of your party, then get to work with the finishing touches while your roast bakes. To make, add the following to a large bowl: 1 cup sugar, 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¾ teaspoon baking powder and ¾ teaspoon baking soda. Mix to combine. In another bowl, whisk together 1 large egg, 1 cup coconut milk, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and ¼ cup melted (but cooled) coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the batter into an 8 or 9-inch cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Let cool in pan, then turn out onto a rack. Refrigerate for an hour, then frost with your favorite vanilla frosting and cover cake completely with shredded unsweetened coconut. Just before serving, use a small circular cookie cutter to cut the cake into mini cakes.

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