Fancy Dress Dinner in the New Normal

If you’ve been living in your Lulumons, this Fancy Dress Dinner Party is for you! Prepare a feast for your “bubble friends” or family this Social-distance Summer.

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When was the last time that you dressed up? 

For that matter, when was the last time that you got out of your sweats? 

We discussed this during my walking group’s morning trek the other day. The answers were startling. No one had dressed up in months!

I mean, “fancy- dressed-up”, like sparkles and heels and ties and pocket squares. 

The occasions that we dress for have all gone away.

No more business dinners, charity events, or milestone birthday parties. Weddings are postponed and black tie events are canceled. I’m not even sure that this year’s fall fashions haven’t been hanging in my closet since last spring!

I decided to change things up a bit in my bubble.

I’m planning a fancy dress party that fits with the new normal.

I’ll host a smaller group of friends, maintain a socially-distanced table in an open-air space and absolutely, expressly forbid hugging and kissing.

But there will be place cards and flowers on the table. We’ll be served on real china plates and crystal. Places will be set with linen napkins and a printed menu.

And yes…There will be FOOD.

Really, really good food.

Here’s my fancy-dressed dinner menu:

 

Spinach Salad Topped with Heirloom Tomatoes and Salt and Pepper Fruit

Beef Wellington with Red Wine Demi Glaze

Pommes de Terre Chantilly

Chocolate French Silk Pie

 

Sounds daunting, yes! Well, it’s not. Let me tell you how.

You can make the pie the day before. I’ll tell you a secret. 

I use Ina Garten’s pie crust recipe.

And Ree Drummond’s recipe for the filling. 

I topped the pie with whipped cream and dust with salted caramel sugar from Spice and Tea Exchange.

It’s not only yummy, but it’s also pretty!

 

The salad is created by tossing baby spinach leaves and thin slices of onion with a bit of vinaigrette. I top this with slices of ripe tomato with a dribble of olive oil.

What makes this salad so special is the fruit. I dice watermelon into very small cubes which I spritz with kosher salt. 

Next, I cut strawberries into the same size pieces and sprinkle with pepper. I scatter the “salt and peppered” fruit cubes on top of the tomatoes and chill the salad.

 The bite is crunchy, sweet, and surprisingly refreshing.

 

The Beef Wellington recipe is right out of my book, Fresh Traditions

Seared tenderloin filets are topped with a slice of pate and a spoonful of creamy, sherried mushrooms. Then they are wrapped in pastry and chilled until you are ready to bake. 

Twenty minutes in the oven creates an over-the-top main course, especially when served with a red wine reduction.

But my favorite dish on the menu is the potatoes.

Imagine a mashed potato souffle and you will get your mouth watering for these Chantilly potatoes. Named for a region in France that creates wonderous cream, these potatoes can be prepared in the morning and baked off in the same oven as the beef. Success!

My party is coming soon, and I hope it inspires you to get out of those pj’s and back into the worldAt least a little step towards getting back into the world!

Pommes de Terre Chantilly

Breakfast Skillet with Glazed Eggs

Ingredients

Whipped potatoes meet whipped cream in this most delicious version of mashed potatoes. It’s a fussy presentation which requires a bit of work but is really worth the effort.

4 (1 ½ to 2-inch thick) beef tournedos (center cut fillet of beef)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

Course ground pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 large shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

8 ounces Baby portobello mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons cup sherry

1/3 cup cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 (1-pound) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

4 to 6 ounces pate, preferably duck mousse, cut into 4 slices

Serves:   4

Time:  30-minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Peel the potatoes and cut them into ½-inch cubes. Place the potato cubes into salted, boiling water. Cook until the potatoes are very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Use a colander to drain the potatoes. Place 3 tablespoons butter and milk into a large bowl. Use a potato ricer to smoosh the potatoes into the bowl. Stir the potatoes into a smooth puree.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Divide 1 tablespoon butter into four individual baking dishes. Place these onto a baking sheet. Place the dishes into the oven and let the butter melt onto the bottom of each one.

Use an electric mixer to whip the cream into soft peaks. Place about ⅓ of the whipped cream into the center of the potatoes. Gently stir the cream into the potatoes. The potatoes will be soft and light. Scrape the remaining whipped cream into the bowl. Gently fold this cream into the potatoes. You don’t need to overwork the potatoes. You want these to be light and airy. 

Spoon the potatoes into the baking dishes. Sprinkle each dish with Parmesan cheese. Bake until the potatoes are warmed through and the tops begin to turn golden brown on the edges, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Beef Wellington

Ingredients

This renowned dish is easy to make and a super way to show off in front of your guests. The good news is the beef packages can be prepared in advance and baked 30 minutes before you seat your guests. Talk about “fast food”!

4 (1 ½ to 2-inch thick) beef tournedos (center cut fillet of beef)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

Course ground pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 large shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

8 ounces Baby portobello mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons cup sherry

1/3 cup cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 (1-pound) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

4 to 6 ounces pate, preferably duck mousse, cut into 4 slices

Serves:   4

Time:  60-minute Cuisine (Plus chilling)

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush the beef with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat a skillet over high heat.  Place the steaks into the skillet and sear until well browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn until both sides are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes more.  Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature.  

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the shallots in the pan until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the sherry, cream, and tarragon to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes more.  Cool this mixture to room temperature.

Roll out the puff pastry sheets to about ¼-inch thickness.  Cut into 4 rectangles.  Coat a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.  Place a beef slice onto a pastry rectangle.  Brush the edges of the dough with a beaten egg. Place a slice of pate on top of the beef.  Top with sautéed mushrooms and the tarragon cream sauce.  Wrap the layered beef with the pastry.  Crimp the top ends together to seal the package.  (Form the bundle into a purse, trimming off the excess pastry.)  Repeat with all the filet slices.  Place each bundle onto the prepared baking sheet.  Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush each package with a beaten egg.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 375°.  Bake until the pastry is golden, about 20 minutes more.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with red wine sauce.

Overboard Tip

To make red wine sauce heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook 2 large minced shallots until soft.  Pour in 1 cup dry red wine.  Reduce until ½ cup remains.  Pour in 1 cup beef broth.  Reduce until 1 cup remains, about 15 minutes.  Stir in 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh

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