Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Let's Get Cooking Together! An Elegant Party Menu

I'm posting our "Cooking Together" feature a little later than intended this week, but I hope you'll agree that it was worth the wait.  It is a complete menu for an elegant dinner party, from the main course through dessert.  It may look complicated, but with two cooks and a little time management, it's not difficult (see checklist and tips at bottom).  We served this to celebrate my mom's birthday, but it would also be nice for an anniversary or engagement dinner.  It has a lovely presentation.  You can expect to serve 8 - 10 guests generously.

Here is the menu: 
Click to enlarge.

Grab a partner (because the whole point is to have fun cooking with someone you love), pour a few glasses of your favorite beverage and turn on some great music. Let's get cooking!

Herb Roasted Pork Loin

For the pork:

1 4 lb. boneless pork loin, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
6 rosemary sprigs
8 large thyme sprigs
8 sage sprigs
8 savory sprigs
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

For the sauce:

1/3 cup dry vermouth
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°.  Season pork with salt and pepper. Place roasting pan over burner (if your roasting pan is large, you may need to straddle it over two burners), then heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Brown pork on all sides, then transfer to a large plate.  Insert roasting rack in roasting pan and place half of herbs down the middle of the rack. 

In a small bowl, stir together shallots, garlic, mustard, and 1 tablespoon oil.   Using the back side of a spoon, rub over top and sides of roast (careful, roast will be hot), then place roast, fat side up, on top of herbs. Roast 1 hour. Toss remaining herbs with remaining teaspoon oil and arrange on top of roast.

Continue roasting 5 to 15 minutes more, until internal temperature reaches 140° to 145° (temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees as it rests). Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 15 to 25 minutes.

While the pork is resting,  remove rack from pan and discard herbs. Place pan across 1 or 2 burners on medium heat. Add vermouth and mustard and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Add broth and simmer 3 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup measure. If you have more than 1 1/2 cups, boil to reduce; if less, add water.

Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Whisk in vermouth mixture and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Serve on the side.

Caramelized Shallot Mashed Potatoes

6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 shallots, sliced thin
3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add sliced shallots and cook until tender and brown, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Transfer shallots to small bowl. Add milk to skillet. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place peeled and cubed potatoes in large saucepan. Add enough cold water to pan to cover potatoes by 2 inches. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Return potatoes to pan and stir over medium heat until dry, about 1 minute. Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Bring milk in skillet to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Add hot milk to potatoes and mash. Stir in caramelized shallots and season with salt and pepper.

Parslied Carrots

1 lb. baby carrots
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Place steamer basket in large saucepan and add water until it reaches bottom of steamer.  Place carrots in basket and cover.  Steam over medium high heat until carrots are tender, 20 - 25 minutes.

Using slotted spoon, remove carrots to a large bowl.  Add butter, chopped parsley and lemon zest.  Toss until butter melts.

Chocolate Cobbler

This will look runny when you place it in the oven.  As it bakes, a layer of brownie will rise to the top and a layer of gooey chocolate sauce will form on the bottom. 

1/2 cup butter
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups boiling water

Vanilla gelato (or ice cream)
candied walnuts (available next to ice cream toppings in supermarket)
Fresh, whole strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt butter in an 9x13 inch baking dish while the oven preheats.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, 1 cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons cocoa. Stir in milk and vanilla until smooth. Spoon batter over melted butter in the baking dish.

In small bowl, stir together the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Sprinkle evenly over the batter. Slowly pour boiling water over the top of the mixture, do not stir (mixture will be runny).

Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until top is set.  Let cool slightly.  Cut into squares, but do not remove from pan. 

To serve, place a square of cobbler with chocolate sauce in a margarita glass (or bowl if you prefer).  Add a small scoop of vanilla gelato and top with two or three candied walnuts and a fresh strawberry.  Serve immediately.


Wash, peel, and cube potatoes.  Place in pan with cold water, cover and set aside.
Prep steamer with water and carrots.  Cover and set aside.
Rinse all herbs with cool water and set on tea towel to dry.
Have one cook rinse, dry and season the pork while the other cook preps shallots (2 finely chopped, 4 thinly sliced), garlic, parsley and lemon zest.
While one cook browns the pork, the other cook can mix together the ingredients to spread on the roast.
When the roast has been in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, start boiling the potatoes, caramelizing the shallots and steaming the carrots.
Once the roast has finished cooking is has been set aside to rest, one cook can prepare the sauce while the other cook finishes the mashed potatoes.
One cook can add the butter, parsley and lemon to the carrots while the other slices and plates the roast.
The Chocolate Cobbler can be made ahead of time and warmed slightly before serving.


  • If your guests are late, or you need to keep the roast warm for a while, do not leave it in the oven in the roasting pan or the drippings you need for the sauce will cook away.  Instead, transfer to a different baking dish and cover with foil.  Reduce oven temperature to 250°.  Prepare sauce according to recipe, transfer to a covered oven proof dish and keep warm in oven.
  • We made the cloverleaf rolls from scratch, but I did not include the recipe here.  You can use your favorite white bread recipe or purchase premade rolls.  If you choose to make them from scratch, get your dough made and set aside to rise before beginning the checklist tasks. 
  • If you plan to serve coffee with dinner and/or dessert, don't forget to set up your coffee maker ahead of time so you can just flip the switch when you're ready for it.
  • We printed copies of the menu on white card stock and gave them to each guest as they arrived.  It makes a nice keepsake.
Questions?  Comments?  Let me know.

Have you entered my Novica giveaway today?  Click here for more information.



5thsister said...

I was told at the dentist, yesterday, that I have a probable blocked salivary gland...I think drooling over your menu and recipes may have cured that! Love it!

Attila The Mom said...

Wow---that looks fantastic!!