chop chop

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Appetizers, Meat, Veggies and Sides, Desserts, Dinner Party, Wine Line, Posted on February 25, 2013 by Sandy Bergsten

Nothing thaws the February blues like a cozy dinner party. The key to making an intimate dinner a success is being out with your guests not locked in the kitchen. Easy to do when your entire meal is planned and prepped ahead of time. Think of yourself as a caterer- catering a party for you!

When entertaining a small group it’s easy to splurge. A great cut of meat, an extravagant ingredient, a fine bottle of wine. So pull out all the stops and invite a special couple over for an evening of casual elegance. They’ll be amazed at how effortless it all appears.

grilled veal chop

Long bone veal chops take center stage. If you don’t have a relationship with a butcher consider initiating one. Most grocery stores have meat specialists that are ready and available to help you get exactly what you want. Don’t settle for what you see prepackaged. Ring that little silver bell on the counter and get started.

grilled veal chop

The simple secret to this superior cut is the marinade. In Dayton I often pick up a pint of homemade Italian dressing from DiSalvo’s Deli. Inquire at one of your favorite haunts- most places are happy to accommodate.

grilled veal chop

Place the veal chops in a large Ziploc bag. Add a cup of marinade, remove as much air as possible, seal and marinate in the refrigerator for an hour, turning once. Over hot coals grill the veal chops until medium-rare, about four to five minutes per side.

Do Ahead- Earlier in the day place veal chops in a Ziploc bag, measure out the marinade in a disposal container and refrigerate separately. An hour and half before dinner pour the marinade into the Ziploc bag with the chops. Grill right before sitting down.

veal chop sauce

Here is my mom’s velvety veal chop sauce. Start with finely chopped shallots.

veal chop sauce

Cook the shallots in butter over medium-low heat until softened. Take care not to brown them.

veal chop sauce

Add the chicken broth. Reduce by half over medium heat.

veal chop sauce

Add the heavy cream and reduce by half.

veal chop sauce

Stir in the Madeira.

veal chop sauce

Spoon over grilled veal chops and garnish with a little chopped Italian parsley.

Do Ahead- This sauce can be made in its entirety a day ahead or earlier that day. Reheat gently over low heat right before serving. Note it also freezes beautifully.

roasted vegetables

Roasting organic baby carrots and asparagus gives them depth.

roasted vegetables

Peel the carrots leaving the ends intact.

roasted vegetables

Place on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and kosher salt. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning once.

roasted vegetables

Crisp thin spears work best. Trim of the bottom ends. Place on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and kosher salt. Roast for 15 minutes, turning once.

Do Ahead- Peel and trim the vegetables earlier in the day. An hour before dinner roast the vegetables until crisp-tender (12 minutes for the carrots and 9 minutes for the asparagus). Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet at room temperature. Right before serving put back in a 400 degree oven for another 5-8 minutes.

israeli couscous

Israeli couscous with truffle butter rounds out the meal. Bring chicken broth and salt to a boil. Add the Israeli couscous. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in truffle butter and serve.

Do Ahead- measure out all of the ingredients earlier in the day. Stow the butter and chicken broth separately in the refrigerator. Ten minutes before bring the broth to a boil and continue.


When the guests arrive decant a good bottle of wine. I opened a fabulous 2005 Brunello di Montalcino.

Stay tuned. The next post will have the starts and finishes to this meal.


To greet my guests caviar toasts and serrano, manchego and cherry confit croutes.


A sweet ending- chocolate dipped macaroons and fresh berries.

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