Elegant Dinner Party Recap

With my 10th anniversary only a few months away, I can count on one hand the number of times I've used my wedding china and silver.

In for a penny, in for a pound, right? At some point on Saturday afternoon, I thought: “if I am going to make this four-course menu and serve this beautiful butterflied leg of lamb, I might as well go all in.” And that was when I got up on a chair and pulled my wedding china off the high shelf on which it lives. I dug the silver polish out from under the sink and polished the tarnish off my sterling silver. I ironed linen napkins and my good tablecloth. I even put out my Great Grandma Molly”s Art Nouveau silver candlesticks — a wedding present from my grandmother. (I was so excited when my friend Beth commented on them.) Using your best things when you entertain involves some extra work — okay, a lot of extra work — but sometimes it”s worth it. The polishing and the ironing and the hand-washing is the price we pay for laying a beautiful table for our guests.

The dinner party was a smashing success: Lots of eating and drinking; great conversation and laughter. We raised a glass to my friend Beth and her new husband of less than two months, John; heard about our friends Jon and Rebecca”s upcoming trip to Uganda and learned about the world of dog breeding from our friend Darren, whose partner (also named John confusingly) was out of town at a dog show. It was 11 pm before our friends headed back into the city. (And we started cleaning up.)

I am happy to report that the food was all a big hit. Whew! They always say not to make new recipes for company and I have never once listened. So, I had no one but myself to blame when I consulted three recipes for stuffed boneless butterflied leg of lamb and all three recommended different oven temperatures and cooking times. I chose a path somewhere in the middle but ultimately, I was grateful for my meat thermometer to know when my leg of lamb was medium-rare. It”s a worthwhile investment for all cooks.

Our first course was a beautiful cheese tray from Great American Cheese — and delivered, of course, by Artizone.com. All three cheeses were delicious and it”s exciting to know that there is domestic cheeses as good as those being produced in Europe. I love supporting Midwestern dairy farmers and cheese-makers.  I had originally planned to serve Quince & Apple”s Shallot Confit with my cheese tray, but when my organic fruit and veggie box from Green Grocer Chicago arrived on Thursday evening with a dozen kiwi, I knew I had to make something with them. I ended up making a sweet and spicy kiwi-apple chutney would be perfect with cheese. So that is what I used. My guests seemed to love it! (And I am saving my Shallot Confit to serve with grilled meat or on a sandwich.)

With our cheese plate, I served a fizzy cocktail with which to toast our newlyweds. I poured a little bit of my homemade sour cherry syrup (that I held back from the food swap)  into a champagne flute, added a dash of aromatic bitters and topped it off with a nice dry Prosecco from Green Grocer Chicago. Yum! And it looked so pretty. I realize that most people don”t have homemade cherry syrup lying around — although here is the recipe that I used — but one can easily find store-bought versions.  I don”t have a name for this concoction yet, but I am accepting suggestions.

Clockwise from top: Green Hill camembert, Cowda and hickory smoked Gorgonzola served with homemade kiwi-apple chutney.

The other surprises in my Green Grocer veggie box were 3 handsome leeks and two bag of potatoes. I had originally planned to stuff my leg of lamb with spinach and serve lentils on the side. That plan was abandoned in favor of a stuffing make with

leeks, Feta butter and bread crumbs and a side dish of roast potatoes. The lentils will keep for another day but those potatoes would not have and there was no way my family could eat that many potatoes by ourselves. Moreover, I could place the potatoes under the lamb while it roasted which would 1) simplify preparation and 2) result in crazy-good potatoes that were flavored with lamb fat. Diet food? Maybe not. Delicious? You bet.

Not surprisingly, the boneless butterflied leg of lamb from Gepperth”s was outstanding. Once you have tried meat from a real butcher shop like Gepperth”s, you will be converted. It is really superior to supermarket meat. The lamb was expertly cut, making it easy to stuff, roll and tie. And the flavor was extraordinary.

After such a rich main course, we needed a salad to cleanse our palate. Luckily the Green Grocer fruit and veggie box included two heads of lettuce and an insane number of avocados. (Are you starting to get a sense of how much produce comes in one of these boxes?) So, I made a salad with red onion and avocado and dressed it with a sweet-and-tangy vinaigrette that I scored at last week”s Chicago Food Swap. (I was a little sad when one guest specifically complimented the dressing, which was perhaps the only thing in the whole dinner that I didn”t make, but that”s the magic of the Food Swap.)

The fruit and veggie box also featured a half-dozen sweet Pinata apples, which I incorporated into the dessert: Caramel Apple Brioche Bread Pudding. (My husband will tell you that it”s just as delicious for breakfast as it is for dessert!) All in all, it was quite a feast. And, honestly, as you will see when you look at the recipes, much of this menu can be prepared ahead of time, leaving the host plenty of time to polish her silver, set the table and change into a chic outfit. And if you have the ingredients delivered from Artizone.com, you save all the time you would have spent shopping!

So, if you”re looking for an elegant menu for your next dinner party, let me suggest this one. The original recipes for the Stuffed Leg of Lamb and the Caramel Apple Bread Pudding are available exclusively on the Artizone.com website.

Leg of lamb with roast potatoes

(Revised) Elegant Dinner Party Menu:

  • American Cheese Plate with Kiwi-Apple Chutney (served with cherry syrup-Prosecco cocktail)
  • Boneless Butterflied Leg of Lamb stuffed with Feta butter, leeks and bread crumbs (served with Cono Sur Pinot Noir)
  • Roast Potatoes
  • Salad with red onion and avocado
  • Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Stay tuned for my April party which is right around the corner: a family Passover Seder.