Thursday, March 10, 2011

Luxe File ♥s...An Intimate Dinner Party

When we were children, our parents loved to host dinner parties. These gastronomic get togethers resembled well-staged, theatrical events. Fabulous fêtes where well-dressed guests supped and savored extraordinary cuisine and wines from around the world.

Hosting a dinner party can be as simple or lavish as you like, depending on the occasion and your preference. Whatever you choose, here are a few suggestions for hosting an elegant event worth remembering: 1. Keep your menu simple. 2. Have as many dishes prepared before your guests arrive. 3. Keep wine chilling and alcohol ready and serve to guests promptly. 4. Play music softly (Entertaining Company's Rachel Schwanz loves French lounge music; we recommend Canadian electronica duo, Lola Dutronic). 5. Lighting should be soft or opt for candles (we love them because they make our skin glow). 6. Invite an eclectic mix of guests. 7. Guests love mingling in the kitchen and if you need help, ask them to help you plate or serve. 8. Make sure guests' water and wine glasses are filled before you sit. 9. Now relax and enjoy your party!

Whether you're hosting a dinner party for friends, hoping to impress an in-law with a particular palette or fixing a romantic meal for a loved one, there are few dishes as lovely or easy to prepare as a roast chicken. Luxe File loves Ina Garten, whose beautiful recipe we plucked from her cookbook, and which has earned us the (not so well-deserved) title of "gran cocinera" amongst our family and friends. Grande gracious, Ina! Also no dinner would be complete without dessert. Cupcakes are lovely and you need only serve one or two per guest. Pick some up from your favorite bakery (Sprinkles, Crumbs and Molly's Cupcakes are our favorites) or prepare them in advance at home, we like to use Magnolia Bakery's recipe for vanilla cupcakes.

In preparation for your party, start by picking up an organic, free range bird from your local market, fresh herbs and vegetables from the farmers market, a few bottles of crisp and citrusy white wine or a smooth, velvety red (we recommend a Pinot Grigio or a Valpolicella Classico) and all the accoutrements for your cupcakes. We have listed our favorite recipes below.

Bon Appétit!

Pollo Perfecto

Perfect Roast Chicken
1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced (Spanish, preferably)
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
Olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 2. Remove the chicken giblets. 3. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Pat the outside dry. 4. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. 5. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. 6. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. 7. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. 8. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. 9. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. 10. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top. 11. Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. 12. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. 13. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

Cupcakes from Heaven:
Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes

Ethereal Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing: Vanilla Buttercream, recipe follows

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. Line 2 (1/2 cup -12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers. 3. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside. 4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. 5. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. 6. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. 7. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. 8. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. 9. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. 10. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. 11. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. 12. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. 16. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Note: The vanilla buttercream the bakery uses is technically not a buttercream but actually an old-fashioned confectioners' sugar and butter frosting. Be sure to beat the icing for the amount of time called for in the recipe to achieve the desired creamy texture.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. 2. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. 3. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. 4. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. 5. You may not need to add all of the sugar. 6. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Photo (top) courtesy of Rob Bennett/New York Times

Roasted Chicken courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Clarkson Potter, 1999

Vanilla Cupcakes courtesy of Allysa Torey, More From Magnolia: Recipes from the World-Famous Bakery and Allysa Torey's Home Kitchen. Simon and Schuster, 2004

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for recommending our music for your dinner party! :-)

    best wishes
    Lola + Richard