The key to success is delicious food that you are able to sit and enjoy with your guests.
My Dad turned 84 this week and I decided to host a small dinner for him at my apartment. We usually travel or go out to a restaurant for his birthday but given the times we decided it would be best to dine at home. My Dad loves his birthday so it was important to me to pick a special menu to serve for the occasion. Preparation and timing are the two most important factors in hosting a great dinner party. You want to be able to enjoy the dinner not only prepare it. It is also very uncomfortable for your guests if you keep getting up and look like you are working too hard. It is essential to choose a menu that can be prepped ahead of time. I chose to serve Fresh Perigord Black Truffles Shaved Over Pasta as the appetizer followed by Chorizo and Panko Crusted Black Cod with Beurre Blanc served with Individual Potato Gratin, Spinach Rounds and Blistered Tomatoes. The potato gratin was made 2 hours ahead of time and covered with foil so I could reheat them in the same oven as the fish. The spinach rounds were prepped in the morning and kept in the refrigerator. The Beurre Blanc was made an hour before guests arrived. The sauce was served room temperature.
So let’s sum this up: During the day, The fish was topped with the Panko and Chorizo and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator, the Spinach Rounds were prepped and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator and the Potato Gratin was fully cooked and left at room temperature covered with foil. The tomatoes were tossed in Olive Oil and sautéed for 5 minutes while I was making the pasta. The Black Cod, Spinach and Potatoes all required 12 minutes in a 400 oven. When the appetizer was served I put the Black Cod on the top shelf in the oven, the spinach on the middle shelf and the potatoes on the bottom shelf. I then went to sit down and eat my appetizer with my guests. After 10 minutes I returned to the kitchen to take everything out of the oven. The plates were all stacked and ready for me to place the food on. As my kids cleared the appetizer dishes, I plated the food and it was served to the guests. After that I was able to sit, have a glass of wine and enjoy my Dad’s birthday. Dessert was brought by my Step Mom so the rest was easy. I had the dessert plates and forks ready to go. The other nice thing about preparing in advance is that it makes clean up very easy. All that was needed to get done was place the plates and silverware into the dishwasher. No one wants to walk into a messy kitchen at the end of the night…
We started with Cacio e Pepe Ravioli in a Truffle Butter and Cream Sauce topped with Shaved Fresh Black Perigord Truffles. Black Perigord Truffles are found in the Winter months, November through March. In the next few days I will be posting more on Black Truffles. The appetizer pasta was very quick to make. The Cacio e Pepe Ravioli was fresh so it only took a few minutes to cook in boiling water. I had a big pot of salted water simmering on the stove when my guests arrived so all I had to do was turn up the heat and make a quick Truffle Cream Sauce when it was time for dinner. The sauce took 5 minutes to make, roughly the same amount of time it took the pasta. I quickly tossed the ravioli in the sauce, dished it into bowls and my daughter Olivia brought them to the table as people were sitting down. I then went around the table and shaved the fresh Black Perigord Truffle over the pasta. It makes a beautiful presentation to shave the Black Truffle at the table.
Try to pick a menu that is easy for you. The sides should definitely be made earlier in the day. Many vegetables are able to serve room temperature after being prepared. Try roasting zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes or sautéing string beans in shallots and serving them room temperature or give them a bit of heat in the oven before serving. Individual Potato Gratin can be made earlier in the day and quickly reheated. Fish is ready in no time which is why I love this Black Cod recipe. It is ready in 15 minutes and looks absolutely beautiful on a plate.
Chorizo and Panko Crusted Black Cod
- 1½ lb Black Cod or Halibut
- ¾ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 Smoked Chorizo
- salt and pepper
- Lemon slices for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400
- remove casing from Chorizo and chop finely
- mix with Panko
- spinkle fish with salt and pepper
- top with Panko mixure
- Bake at 400 for 12 minutes
- serve with make ahead beurre blanc and lemon slices
Make Ahead Beurre Blanc
- 1 shallot peeled and sliced thin
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ cup white wine sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp dijon mustard
- sautee shallots in butter until translucent
- add white wine and reduce by half
- slowly whisk in heavy cream to emulsify and thicken
- add mustard and pepper
- strain through a sieve and set aside