triple crown

perfecting the “done before the arrive” dinner party- a work in progress

Categories: Appetizers, Salads and Dressings, Fish and Seafood, Poultry, Grains and Pasta, Veggies and Sides, Dinner Party, Wine Line, Posted on September 25, 2011 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (0)

Last night’s dinner was a trifecta of old vintages, new friends and a flippin good make-ahead meal. 

Entertaining you want to take some risks but also hedge a few bets. Old wines are a wild card. You can dust them off, stand them up, but until you uncork them what they hold is an unknown- could be a home run or has-been. Most often there is little in between.

New friends are a surer thing. Good chance if you like them and they like you they will most likely like each other. Personally I’m always a fan of shaking up the guest list and for meeting someone new.

One thing you can take to bank is your menu. Save your risky dinner for your tried and true friends- they can help you laugh it off while you dial up for pizza. Unless you’re hanging with your besties serve up something special that you’ve made before. This way you can plan ahead, prep ahead and deliver with confidence. Last night’s menu was just that.

cheese puff cups

In the freezer I had stowed some cheese puff cups with fig preserves.

Fois Gras Canapes

Next fois gras piped onto baked toasts. The perfect accompaniment for the bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rose one of the guests brought.

 smoked trout stack ingredients

The first course heralded a 1991 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc and a smoked trout stack.

Wonton Crackers 

Wonton wrapper “crackers”. Top with fresh arugula, flaked smoked trout, scallions and a spritz of lemon juice. The fresh, almost ethereal, taste the perfect foil for the deep golden tones of this fine white burgundy.

 1982 Bordeaux

During hors d’oeuvres we decanted the 1982 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou Saint Julien and the1982 Chateau La Dominique Saint Emillion Grand Cru Classe. The prepped-before course consisted of confit duck legs placed on a baking sheet with a ½ tsp of rendered duck fat ready to crisp up in the 400 degree oven.

 duck confit legs

The spinach was cooked off to just wilted prior to the guest arriving and the garlic was slivered and ready for the sauté pan.

 sauteed spinach

The sage brown butter sauce was made and set aside for the butternut squash ravioli.

 sage brown butter sauce

When we sat down for the first course. The duck legs went into the preheated 400 degree oven. The salted water for the ravioli was set to boil.

While the smoked trout stack plates were cleared, I boiled the ravioli and sautéed the garlic and spinach. Plating the second course was a breeze. One duck leg, three butternut squash ravioli tossed in a sage brown butter sauce and a mound of fresh baby spinach with sautéed garlic. The Saint Julien momentarily halted the conversation while we tasted what was by far one of my better years in college.

 emulsified dressing

Next came mixed greens lightly tossed with an emulsified dressing (done the day before). And a trio of cheeses and a freshly baked baguette. Bets on the Saint Emillion were across the board but it came in for a close second in the main heat.


Dessert was a sublime pine nut torte served with fresh figs and a ricotta mascarpone (a true treat graciously prepared by one of the guests) savored with an exquisite Avignonesi Vin Santo. A 1991 bookend completing a boxed bet on a quintet of memorable wines and a treasured evening making me and my husband feel ever closer to home.

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