Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dinner for Ten #1 timeline

For some people, the most daunting part of cooking is timing. For shindigs like Dinner for Ten #1, a company-worthy spread that satisfies a range of palettes, I usually make a backwards list and post it in the kitchen. Here's how I worked it. Enjoy!

2 days before dinner

1 day before dinner

Day of dinner

4.5 hours prior

  • Set up bread machine, if using. Set the timer so that the bread will be done about 30 minutes prior to your estimated meal time.

3 hours prior

  • Remove roast from refrigerator set aside.
  • Wash and trim green beans, set aside.
  • Wash and scrub potatoes, set aside.
  • Prepare green salad, leave dressing on the side, refrigerate.

90 minutes prior

  • Preheat oven to 450ºF.

75 minutes prior

  • Place meat in oven, set timer for 15 minutes.

60 minutes prior (timer should go off)

30 minutes prior

  • Bread should be done, release from pan onto rack
  • Check meat for doneness, remember the temperature will climb a bit as it rests.

20 minutes prior

  • Check meat again as needed.
  • Check potatoes for doneness, mash when ready. 

Once the meat has met your temperature requirements, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. During that time, steam the green beans, dress the salad, and slice the bread.

TIP: Use your still-warm oven as a warming unit for the mashed potatoes and green beans if your meat takes longer than expected. Just be sure to use oven-safe containers!

TIP 2: if you are a guest, and you find yourself alone in the kitchen of your host, why not help them relax a little? Go ahead, add "dance nekked in the backyard" to their timeline. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dinner for Ten Menu #1

One of my favorite casual meals over the past year follows. I'll lay out the timeline in my next post, but be assured it came together easily and satisfied the meat-and-potato types as well as the food nerds.

A special shout out to the New York Strip. I do not like you as a steak, friend, but roasted and thinly sliced, you are as delicious as you are a bargain ($2.99 a pound on sale).

(double the recipe)

2.5 pounds fresh green beans 
(rinsed, trimmed, and lightly steamed)

Your favorite bread
 (I used my bread machine, and a great recipe from

Your favorite green salad 
(use 16-20 oz. of greens to serve 10 guests)

Chocolate Torte

Posted at Eat at Home, November 17th

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The wine dilemma

A friend posted a question on Facebook. She's not really up on wine varieties, but, as a thoughtful hostess, wanted to provide some variety for her guests. How many different kinds of wine do you need for a small party? If you buy something that you don't drink, what do you do with the leftovers?

The leftover part is easy. You can cook with it, or consider your local laws. In Michigan, your sober, 21+year old guest can recork the bottle of wine, put it in a bag or container, place that in the trunk of his or her car and take it home.* See the Michigan statute here.

As far as what to serve, philosophies vary:

1) Select one wine to complement each course.
2) Offer what you like, and invite someone else to bring something different.
3) Provide three wines that reflect a range of preferences. For example, you could choose a semi-dry white; a crisp, dry white; and an easy drinking red.

Option one may be the obvious and only road for oenophiles, but will take some effort if you are just trying to be a good host. I like option two if someone asks what they can bring and they drink wine. Three is nice, but similar to option one. If you find yourself on your own, on a budget, and pressed for time, how about option 4:

4) a semi-dry white or rosé and an easy-to-drink red, along with coffee and/or other soft drinks.

For the red, I'd look at an Australian Shiraz. Yellowtail or Rosemount Estate are both inexpensive and pleasant. For the semi-dry white or rosé, allow me to be shamelessly biased. I live in Michigan, and our state vintners make some nice wines in these two categories. Try Chateau Grand Traverse's semi-dry riesling or Leelenau Cellars Summer Sunset (a semi-dry blush) - two affordable non-reds that are just right for a casual shindig.

*You know this is not official legal advice, right? It's party moxie, not Law and Order. If you're in Michigan, click the link and read the law for yourself. If you're not in Michigan, come visit sometime. You would enjoy our beautiful peninsulas, and we would enjoy your money. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween Treats

It's time to start thinking about Halloween. Our family spends the evening haunting the streets of a local village with some of our dearest friends. We usually do a casual spread with soup, chili, snacks, and bread.

Last year I upped the spooky with finger cookies from Bon Apétit. My kids enjoyed playing with the dough and attaching the jagged almond fingernails. I hope to create something equally creep-tacular this year. Here's a hint:

Do you have any favorite tricky treats?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Potluck never looked this good

I enjoyed this spread of reader's recipes and beautiful food photography last week in the New York Times. Quite different from the six-varieties-of-baked-beans potlucks of my youth.

The braised short ribs are on my must-try list. If you've never had beef short ribs, they're worth it. Incredible beefy flavor without a lot of fuss. Of course the beefy flavor comes at a price, and that price is fat, but once in a while, it's alright to splurge. Who's in?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Game Day Oktoberfest Menu

I had a great weekend. Two days of football in person, complimented by perfect weather and victories for both of my teams. Woo-hoo!

Saturday's lunch featured bratwurst at the Big House. I know, it's not the most girly frou-frou party dish, but it's exactly the meat I want in this gameday-friendly menu. Simmer in beer, butter, and onions, then finish on the grill. Serve with sauerkraut and mustard, and you've got an easy fall foodie party entrée that even the football people can love. Click the links for recipes and suggestions.

Game Day Oktoberfest
Beer-Bath Brats with a Grill Finish
accompanied by Sautéed Onions, Sauerkraut and Mustard
Vegetarian Baked Beans or No-Pork and Beans
Pretzel Rolls or Hoagie Buns
Homemade or Deli Potato Salad
Fresh Veggies and Dip
Rote Grütze or Black Forest Sundaes


1) If pressed for time, pick one thing to make it from scratch and purchase the rest. If you're not sure what to choose, may I suggest the pretzel rolls? We sliced some of the bratwurst and stuffed it inside the roll with condiments to taste. Lesson learned: make extra rolls.
2) Allow 1-2 bratwurst per person. Consider buying some Koegel Viennas and hot dog buns as a backup plan. 
3) Black Forest Sundaes: for a fun and easy dessert with German flavors, buy a pack of Swiss Rolls, a can of cherry pie filling, and the ice cream flavor(s) of your choice. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A vegetarian in Germany

"Germans love their pork," agreed my vegetarian friend. "When I was there, pork was everywhere, but I never saw a pig. Not one."

"Do they keep 'em in the basement?" I wondered.

She made the 'it's a mystery wrapped in bacon' face.

We were talking about Oktoberfest for vegetarians. It's tough to include them in a culinary celebration of the land of wurst and schnitzel, but I'm willing to give it a go.

My mom used to make a dish with kielbasa, sauerkraut and beans. This recipe echoes those flavors.

No-Pork and Beans

1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced thin
8-10 medium-sized mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 small apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 (14-16 oz.) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed

Seasoning mix
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash of ground mace (nutmeg or allspice would be acceptable substitutes)

Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. After butter has melted, add sliced onions and  cook until lightly browned and soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, and sprinkle with some of the seasoning mix (1/2 teaspoon) until mushrooms start to brown. Add diced apple and heat for 5 minutes. Add rinsed, drained beans and sprinkle with another 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning mix. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.

Serve with bavarian mustard and sauerkraut.

Non-vegetarian note: I added some sautéed chicken and crumbled bits of bacon to this dish and served it over rice for an easy supper.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Power of Pretzel Rolls

If you had a time machine, would you want to stop by the mid-nineties? 

(What is she doing on the Who Wants to Be Millionaire set? Surely she doesn't need the money!)

Be assured that I was not singing this tune when I first made these chewy, salty dinner rolls, but regardless of any difference of opinion we may have vis à vis Céline Dion, you ought to reach for these at your Oktoberfest party.

If you want the quick-rising food processor version, visit the original recipe at It appeared in Bon Apétit in January of '94. I made them one day that winter, and my man's been pining for them ever since.* That's the power of pretzel rolls.

My bread-machine version appears below. With no egg or dairy in the dough, it is suitable for the timer. You may want to double the recipe.

Bread Machine Pretzel Rolls, modified from Bon Apétit

(Makes 8 large rolls)
Ingredient list A 
2 3/4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seeds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water

8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg white, beaten to blend
Coarse salt

Add ingredient list A to your bread machine according to manufacturer instructions, set for dough cycle (using the timer if you'd like), and press start. Once cycle is complete, empty dough onto a floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape into balls, flatten slightly, cut an 'X' in the top of each ball and allow to rest under plastic wrap as you take the next steps.

Be sure one of your oven racks is in the middle slot. Preheat oven to 375ºF.

(Ingredient list B) Grease or line a baking tray and sprinkle with cornmeal. In a large pan, bring 8 cups water to a boil. Add sugar and soda: the water will foam up. Drop rolls into boiling mixture, 4 rolls at a time, for 30 seconds per side. Transfer, cut side up, to prepared baking sheet.

(Ingredient list C) Brush each roll with egg white. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake at 375ºF for 25 minutes. Remove rolls and place on rack. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*Whilst he languishes, he does not ever call me "his lady", which is good, because that would be a little less romantic and a little more Jerry Lewis.

Buying sauerkraut

Oktoberfest demands sauerkraut, but let's say that you've denied your heritage and do not even own a large crock, let alone have the time and space and inclination to ferment cabbage in salt. What are you going to do?

May I encourage you to seek out Schaller & Weber's sauerkraut in the jar?  Filled with just three things (cabbage, water, and sea salt), it tastes like, well, sauerkraut. No doctoring required.

If you live in the northern part of metro Detroit, it's available at Essence on Main in Clarkston.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Homemade Potato Salad

Here at Shindigs, we're gearing up for football a la Octoberfest. So why this old-fashioned, un-vinegared, southern-style potato salad? Well, one, because potato salad goes with bratwurst. Two, the classic German variety has bacon, and I like a vegetarian option on the table. Three, this is a do-ahead recipe.

Mostly, I serve it because I like it. If people complain about the authenticity, tell them to pretend like it's fusion. And in that spirit, don't you worry about the calories, liebling. You ain't no bigger than a minute.

Aunt Wannie's Potato Salad

3 stalks celery, washed, trimmed, and finely diced
2 medium radishes, washed, trimmed, and finely diced
1/4 cup minced onion
3/4 cup finely diced sweet pickles
3 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice if you ned to thin it out
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 shakes black pepper
4 cups washed, peeled, cooked, cooled, cubed potatoes

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Don't be lazy and skip this step: you want to toss the ingredients as little as possible once you add the potatoes, or else your potatoes will break down.

In a second bowl, mix mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, pickle juice, salt and pepper. Yes, it's a lot of salt, but the potatoes like it. Even though you salted your potato water.

Place about half of the potatoes in a large bowl. Sprinkle about half of the veggies over the top, then about half of the eggs. Pour about half of the dressing over this. Repeat the layering process, and then gently toss to coat the potatoes. Refrigerate and let chill for 4-24 hours before serving.