Michael’s brother and his wife came to visit a few days after Christmas for one last celebration with his family before they headed back to Boston. His sister-in-law is due with their first child in February, so that made the visit all the more special. Whenever they come in town, we typically head out to dinner every night for several nights in a row. But with the holidays in full swing and the fact that they hadn’t yet seen our new house, we decided to host everyone for a big, fancy dinner on Saturday night. Michael has gotten pretty adept at grilling steaks on the Green Egg, so that was his task, and I was in charge of all the sides. I worked for most of the day on Saturday, so I have no idea how we managed to pull this off, but we did. (We only had to ask them to come over 30 minutes late and call them again on the way to bring a few forgotten items from the store!)
We started the meal with a few simple appetizers. I pulled out the zip lock of frozen cheese puffs I mentioned here, and put those in the oven right before everyone was set to arrive. They looked beautiful in my new silver tiered stand that my sister got me for Christmas.
For our salad course, we made traditional steakhouse wedges with homemade blue cheese dressing. The recipe is adapted from one I found in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home. His book is really beautiful, but it’s one of those that has recipies within recipies, where you have to flip to multiple sections just to make salad dressing. So, refusing to make my own aioli which also required making my own garlic oil, I improvised a bit and it turned out fantastic. Here are the little wedges all set for serving.
Blue Cheese Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced, flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced chives
1 teaspoon minced mint
Kosher salt & fresh black pepper
1 cup Gorgonzola crumbles
Whisk all ingredients together and stir in the Gorgonzola crumbles. Season to taste and add in more lemon juice or buttermilk if it seems too thick. This will keep in the fridge for about a week.
For our sides, we decided on scalloped potatoes and a mix of different green beans and peas inspired by a recent meal at Coppa Osteria. We used snow peas, sugar snap peas, and french green beans, mixed with a bag of frozen peas. Looked really beautiful and made a ton.
Mixed Green Beans and Peas
Set the peas out to thaw. Trim the ends off all the green beans and wash thoroughly. Drop in boiling water for a few minutes until the beans are just cooked through and remove to a cold water bath to lock in the color and stop the cooking process. Saute a few chopped shallots and a few minced garlic cloves in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add the beans and the peas to to reheat and season just before you’re ready to serve them. Yummy.
For the potatoes, I remembered that my Dad used to make a version of scalloped potatoes on the stovetop in a skillet. They came out all brown and crispy on top and were pretty tasty from what I could remember. Knowing Jacques Pepin was his favorite chef, I turned to Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home to see if I could find the recipe. The book is an old favorite and one that has been on the shelf for years in every apartment and house I’ve lived in since college. True to form, it had just what I was looking for…
Pommes de Terre Byron
3 large russet potatores
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake the potatoes on a sheet pan for 45 minutes, or until tender. Allow to cool, peel and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter with the canola oil in a 10 inch oven-proof, non-stick skillet. Arrange a layer of overlapping potato slices, and then season with salt, pepper, and a little of the nutmeg. Add another layer, season, and dot a tablespoon of the butter over the top. Repeat until you’ve used up all the potato slices. Cook on the stove-top on medium heat for about 5 to 8 minutes. Shake the pan to make sure the potato cake is loose from the bottom of the pan and transfer to the hot oven for about 15 minutes to set.
Remove from the oven and flip over onto an unrimmed cookie sheet. Top with the sour cream and grated cheese and set aside until you’re ready for dinner. Just before serving, place back in the oven with the broiler on to melt the cheese and crisp up the top. Remove and slide onto a cutting board or other serving dish for dinner.
Michael’s steaks turned out perfect as usual. He’s developed this method where he cooks the steaks sous-vide in our Yeti cooler to just below medium rare before he sears them on a scorching hot Green Egg. It’s his favorite party trick. He also made bernaise sauce in the blender to accompany the steaks. Also a home run. He used Ina Garten’s recipe for the sauce. I swear, she has gotten so ubiquitous that I try to steer away from using her recipies for everything, but she rears her head at every meal and it always turns out perfectly. Here are our finished “steakhouse” plates all ready for dinner.
And here “she” is again, with the perfect easy desert that looks super impressive. The only edit I made to her recipe was to use puff pastry to make the process even easier. I only needed two apples, and didn’t need nearly as much apricot jam as she calls for, but I suppose part of the fun of her recipes is all the unnecessary excess. Regardless, it looked gorgeous and couldn’t have been easier.
A little Blue Bell vanilla on the side and it was ready to serve.
Happy and full! After this one, we are closing up the entertaining shop for a little bit. We always seem to say that though and then end up inviting people over the next weekend. We’ll see how long we hold out!