Do you have dinner parties? For me, every dinner is a party—since it revolves around FOOD. Every evening, my family and I have dinner together the same way I had dinner with my parents—gathered around the table, set with a tablecloth and attractive dishes, with everyone talking over each other while enjoying amazing food. And when you cook a chef-level meal every single night, no one special meal stands out (say I with modesty).
But I digress. The focus here is on dinner parties—are you having any? In days gone by, new brides would focus on developing one perfect “Company Meal” from start to finish: special food (maybe a roast or a whole chicken, homemade desserts, interesting appetizer), setting a sparkling table (tablecloth, crystal, china and silver), and looking her absolute best. This was her signature meal, prepared over and over again as she began hostessing her own dinner parties. Having one perfected menu meant that she could serve the meal for her parents, then his parents, then the wedding officiant, then the grandparents, then the wedding guests, and on and on and on. She’d be highlighting the precious wedding gifts (china, crystal, silver and beautiful linens), serving a delicious meal, and not stressing about the menu. Once she perfected a single menu, she could serve it endlessly. My own mother-in-law had a ‘company’ dessert—served at her first dinner party—which she carried on with to the point that her children referred to that pound cake (either homemade or purchased) as Old Faithful.
So what does this mean to you? Especially if you’re not a new bride and it’s no longer the 1950s? Has the Company Meal gone the way of the milk delivery truck, the typewriter and the sexism you want to accuse me of? NO! Every single one of you—whether you’re a bride or not—should have one meal you can make without stressing. And, no, I don’t mean that meal you call Dominos or a Chinese takeout to deliver. You should be able to master one appetizer, one entrée, a couple of side dishes—I’m even willing to cut you some slack and let you buy dessert (serve fancy ice cream or imported chocolates—everyone loves those). Seriously, you never know when you might want to actually invite someone over for a dinner you actually cook. Nothing is more impressive today—nor shows how much you’re sharing the love—than to cook for someone.
Here’s a fairly easy and delicious recipe to get you started.
Chef Bill’s Chicken Supreme with Leek & Mushroom Ragout
• 1 ounce butter, plus one knob for finishing
• 1 ounce canola oil
• 1/2 ounce dried porcini
• 6 strips bacon, lardons
• 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, wedges
• 2 leeks, small dice
• 2 shallots, julienned
• 1/2 cup celery, small dice
• 1/4 cup carrots, small dice
• 1 Bouquet Garni
• 1 small lemon, juiced
• 3 ounces white wine
• 4 ounces chicken broth
• 4 bone-in chicken breasts, cut in half
• Coriander & ginger as needed
• Salt & pepper to taste
1. Rehydrate porcini mushrooms in 2 cups simmering water. Simmer five minutes. Let steep until needed.
2. Season chicken breasts with coriander, ginger, salt and pepper.
3. Heat half the butter and canola oil in a large sauteuse on medium heat. Brown chicken on all sides, remove and roast in a 350˚F oven about 25 minutes.
4. Add bacon lardons to the pan and brown. Reduce heat, add remaining butter and oil.
5. Sweat leeks until they begin to melt. Add celery and carrots; continue to sweat until softened.