Entertaining Dinners - for the Veggies and the Meaties
Last night I made a fairly simple but delicious meal that would be perfect for entertaining. I had found some small sugar pie pumpkins as well as extremely inexpensive shitake and crimini mushrooms at Trader Joe's on Friday (while shopping for Friday night pizza supplies), so was inspired to make something to stuff in the pumpkins. I decided that my "faux risotto" would be perfect. I discovered the recipe for that in Oprah's magazine a year or so ago. Basically, you cook brown rice in the rice cooker using broth (I use chicken, but if serving vegetarians, I'd use veggie) instead of water with a little butter, then toss the rice with a lot of shredded parm and some veggies (I've used sauteed mushrooms and steamed asparagus). The brown rice cooks up tender, but chewy, a perfect risotto texture, but without the stirring and risk of mushiness. For the pumpkins, I borrowed from an Emeril recipe
for pumpkins stuffed with mushroom risotto and roasted duck. Obviously, no duck roasting was happening (I was looking for simple), and I used my own easy-peasy faux-risotto (with tons of the aforementioned sauteed 'shrooms), but I used Emeril's instructions for roasting the pumpkins. I used about 1/4 of the butter he called for, but in retrospect, I should have used even less. I also decided to half the pumpkins so that 2 small pumpkins made 4 meals (2 for dinner, 2 for Monday lunch), and I added a clove of garlic to every pumpkin half so that I could mush roasted garlic into the risotto. The risotto piled into the pumpkin halves made for dramatic and elegant plating, and when drizzled with truffle oil, absolutely delicious.
Today, we had the usual Seahawk suspects over for the game. We've been watching the Superbowl with the same group for years and this fall have been watching most of the games with these friends. The away games have turned into serious meat cook-offs, so we wanted to impress on our first time hosting. Belgium beef carbonade fit the bill perfectly. We got the recipe from the Nov-Dec 04 issue of Cook's Illustrated and have made this amazing stew an annual tradition. It's essentially beef, beer, and onions, a magic combination that defies my descriptive abilities. I served it over smashed potatoes with a blue cheese / cherry / fennel / walnut salad on the side (potatoes and salad recipes also from that Cook's issue). It was a huge success.
Now, the fridge is full of leftovers, so I can send Jeff to work with lunches and dinners for a few days. If this week is anything like last (which I think it will be), he'll need something hearty to get him through some long days that stretch into longer evenings.
Here's to tasty meals to warm up those cold and dark autumn nights!