A Dinner Party for the Birds

We hosted a potluck dinner with some friends on Saturday. Hosting a dinner party can be fun and enjoyable when your guests are just as enthusiastic about eating as they are about cooking. It was so much more fun to plan the menu as a group and to divide up the cooking. Since DC/SC were going to Turkey for Thanksgiving, we thought a Thanksgiving theme was apropos.IMG_6428

We all agreed to pass on roasting a colossal Turkey, but were unanimous on having stuffing–a must. For the protein, DC prepared Pretzel Chicken, which was also the first meal he cooked for SC when they were dating. SC made a delicious cranberry relish that added just the perfect touch of zing to our meal. I made a chanterelle and lemon parsley stuffing which was based on Eric Ripert’s grandmother’s recipe. For starters, DC made a savory red lentil soup that not only tasted good, but was beautiful to behold, with its golden hue and flecks of orange from the carrots.

For the sides, I made a sweet corn souffle that was airy, custard-like, and creamy. To add a fresh raw element to the mix, we served a hearts of romaine salad interspersed with parsley leaves with a Buttermilk Dressing (recipe below). Last but not least, SC baked a decadent Italian chocolate nut tart.

Last week I made fresh goats milk cheese successfully for the first time, so I was excited to make it again for the party. As the chicken was baking, we nibbled on the herb infused cheese and olive oil crackers and sipped on a lovely 2007 Gewurztraminer Grape Juice that DC/SC picked up from Navarro Vineyards after tasting it at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse. All in all it was a memorable feast!

Here are some of the recipes from the potluck. Hope you enjoy making them as much as we did. Bon Appetit!

Red Lentil Soup

Makes 4 servings


3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large Onion, chopped

2 Garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1 tsp. Cumin

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chili powder or cayenne, to taste

1 quart chicken stock

1 cup Red Lentils

1 large Carrot, peeled and diced

Lemon juice, to taste

3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Special Equipment: immersion/stick blender or food processor

1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over high, add onions, garlic, and saute until golden.

2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, chili/cayenne, and saute for 2 minutes.

3. Add stock, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Cook to a simmer and turn to medium-low heat. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.

4. Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree half the soup and then add it back to the pot. The consistency should be coarse and chunky.

5. Add lemon juice to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley.


Pretzel Chicken with Mustard Sauce

(original recipe from Food & Wine)

Makes 6 servings


4 c. hard pretzels, crushed (Martin’s Pretzels from the Union Square Farmer’s Market)

1/2 c. whole-grain mustard

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 c. water

3 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pulse pretzels in food processor until coursley ground, and transfer to a large shallow bowl.

2. Wipe clean the food processor. Add the oil, mustards, water and vinegar and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour half of the mustard dressing into a large shallow bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Dredge the chicken in the pretzel crumbs and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through. Slice chicken and serve warm with the remaining mustard dressing.


Creamy Corn Souffle

(original recipe from Saveur)

Makes 6-8 servings


6 Tbsp. butter

1/3 cup Panko (or dried bread crumbs)

2 bags of frozen sweet and white corn (or 8 ears of freshly shucked corn)

1 – 1 1/2 cups whole milk

6 Tbsp. AP flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 egg yolks

10 egg whites

1 c. grated cheddar cheese

Special Equipment: 10″ cast-iron pot, large souffle dish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter souffle dish with 1 Tbsp. butter. Sprinkle with bread crumbs to coat bottom and sides. Tap out excess and set aside. If using fresh corn, cut corn kernels from the ears and scrape cobs with side of a spoon to release corn milk. Transfer corn and corn milk to a strainer set over a bowl and press to release corn milk, and set aside. Transfer corn milk to a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 2 cups of liquid. If using frozen corn, just measure out 2 cups of milk.

2. Melt remaining butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and slowly whisk in milk mixture, then return to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2-3 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and season generously with salt and pepper. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Add reserved corn, mix well, and set aside.

4. Put egg whites in a clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, add a pinch of salt, and beat until stiff but not dry peaks form. Add 1/3 of egg whites into corn mixture, gently folding with a rubber spatula, then fold remaining egg whites, adding cheese in alternating folds.

5. Spoon mixture into prepared souffle pan. Bake until puffed and deep golden, 30-40 minutes. Serve while hot!


Thomas Keller’s Buttermilk Salad Dressing

(from his latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home)

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup Aioli
1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced chives
1 teaspoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced mint
Kosher salt

Put the aioli in a large bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup buttermilk and all the remaining ingredients. The dressing can be used now or refrigerated. Before serving, lift up a spoonful of dressing and pour it back into the bowl — it should run freely. If it is too thick, add additional buttermilk as necessary. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week (the herbs may darken after 1 day).


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