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Help! Professional chefs coming to dinner.

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Okay. So a few months ago, new neighbors (a married couple) moved in next door and much to our utter delight they are both professionally trained chefs, working in hip LA restaurants. We entertain regularly, and never have trouble serving delicious, sometimes elegant and sometimes casual meals to our friends, but most of them don't know the different between an onion and a leek. We've had two wonderful meals at the neighbors house, and have visited the wife's restaurant and were treated like royalty, so we are long past due having them over for a reciprocal meal. But I'm nervous!

They're very nice, gracious people, and I know they'll compliment anything I put out, but I really want to put on a nice dinner. For better or worse, my guy has decided we should make a beef carbonnade. It will be a bit of a beer dinner (the husband and my guy will be brewing all day), so I need some other dishes that will go wonderfully with the meal, as well as pairing with a variety of craft beers that my guy has chosen. But the carbonnade will be petty heavy. Can you suggest some other dishes for other courses or sides? I'm thinking of making some homemade egg noodles to serve with the beef.

Salad? Soup? They're bringing dessert, would a small cheese plate be too heavy at the end of the meal?

Any suggestions or reassurances would be welcome!

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  1. Homemade egg noodles sound great. I would not do soup unless it is something very light. A salad- maybe a nice, authentic ceasar salad.
    By way of encouragement, I think professional chefs really appreciate a home cooked meal. A young woman once wanted to interview my husband. He asked her to come for dinner- and she said can my boyfriend come too? He said, sure! Boyfriend was a chef and owns a restaurant. I was a wreck as it was Sunday, the day I always make someting new and experiment and had no idea how the food would come out. I was making some kind of asian soup, cornish hens, some mashed new potatoes and something else. He ate four servings!!! Don't be nervous- they will love it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: emilief

      I second that. Have known a couple of amazing professional chefs in my life and they are honestly thrilled and appreciative to have someone else cook for them for a change. My sister, who is many wonderful things but no cook, had to entertain Jasper White (well-known Boston chef) as a newly-wed because her husband was his maintenance man while in grad school and invited him over. She made roast chicken, mashed potatoes and steamed green beans and they all sat around picking the meat off the carcass until it was gone and he couldn't stop telling her how fun it was. So have fun and don't be nervous!

    2. Another note of encouragement here. I would recommend a salad too. Perhaps frisee with a cranberry vinaigrette, or mixed baby greens with dried cranberries and goat cheese. Something that reflects the season and brightens their palates.
      Cheese courses are wonderful. They are served before the dessert and at room temp.
      Best of luck!

      www.houndstoothgourmet.com

      2 Replies
      1. re: monavano

        I agree. This one is really wonderful:

        Mixed greens with pecans, goat cheese, and dried cranberries
        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

        1. re: bananie

          Nice recipe and would be perfect for the dish op is doing. yum.

      2. Are they making the beer that day, or bottling and bringing home? If you know what type of beer you'll be getting, you can plan around that. Do you know what type of beer?

        2 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          They're brewing a porter at home, but obviously it won't be ready to drink yet, but we'll be trying the new brown ale that is now drink-ready.

          We have La Roja Artisan Amber Ale, one bottle for the carbonnade, and one bottle drinking. I thought a saison would go well with a salad/starter dish, and we'll probably have an IPA with the cheese course.

          1. re: EmilyE

            That sounds good. The porter would be great with the carbonnade, when it's ready. The spaetzle would be good w/ the IPA, too (with the side of roasted chicken, like you've said the Rock Bottom Brewing Co does). Or, maybe Zuni chicken and the bread salad? This might help on deciding what cheeses to use:

            http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/116/

        2. I was invited to go out to dinner with a friend and a new couple who had moved here. Turns out he was the new food critic for our newspaper. He and his wife were so lovely that I just spontaneously invited them to come for dinner to my house. His wife grabbed both of my hands and looked me in the eye and said, "Thank you SO much...we'd love to come...no one EVER invites us to their home." They came and you could tell they were just happy to be with some nice people for the night eating home cooked food.

          1. Ah! Spaetzle! That's perfect. I've been wanting to make it myself for a couple of years but haven't gotten around to it. I don't have the spaetzle making device, and was always convinced that trying to do it without one would be disastrous. Think I can use a colander?

            I hate to admit this, but the best spaetzle I've ever had was at Rock Bottom Brewing company last fall...it had poppy seeds and some kind of delicious buttery-mustard type sauce on it, a side dish to a roasted chicken. It was wonderful.

            For the carbaonnade, would you recommend adding herbs or anything to the dough? Or leave it plain?

            2 Replies
            1. re: EmilyE

              You can definitely use a colander. In fact, I have a spaetzle device, but find that you lose so much batter to it, that I prefer the colander, where I can force it all out. You will want to test your batter for thickness. If it pours out of the holes too easily, add a bit of flour. You want the batter to just barely come out on its own. Hold it over the boiling water and push it through with short strokes with a spatula. It can stand to be made a few minutes ahead, and then revive in some hot butter int he pan, but more than a few minutes and you may have a problem.

              I have put herbs in the flour as I am making it. You want to be a bit careful, because you don't want anything that would contradict the flavor of the carbonnade. But they definitely add some attractive color.

              1. re: EmilyE

                Its easy, just takes strong arms. Whatever recipe you decide to use just don't let them cook too long. Good spaetzle will be loved by everyone at the table I promise!

              2. As long as the company is good --- and you're obviously a good cook yourself ---- they wil be thrilled with anything you do. Put thoughts of what they do out of your head and make this what YOU do. Relax and have a wonderful dinner

                1 Reply
                1. re: dutchdot

                  I agree. To me restaurant food and home cooking are two completely different things and you just happen to eat both. I think having a great home cook welcome you into their home and serve the food of their heart is a wonderful gift. It's all good.

                2. I don't know the source of your carbonnade recipe, but I swear by Julia Child's version in MASTERING (Vol 1). The addition of some brown sugar and vinegar at the end of the cooking freshens the taste beautifully. At the very least, look over Julia's instructions. The details I pick up from her recipes improve every recipe I make.

                  Julia has the answer to your question: "Serve this with parsley potatoes or buttered noodles, a green salad, and beer."

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Indy 67

                    And, frankly, I wouldn't bother making fresh noodles unless you really feel like it. I agree that spaetzle would also be a nice choice for this dish. Nothing wrong with a small cheese plate - and if, as the meal progresses, you think it is too much, you can just choose not to serve it. Here's a v. nice compote that I've made to serve with blue cheese:

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/454294

                    1. re: Indy 67

                      Yes, I was planning on using her version! I'm glad to hear from someone that it works!

                      1. re: EmilyE

                        Excellent. And as Julia would say, "Bon Appetit!"

                    2. Sounds scary, all right. My first thought was "Don't do whatever they do well." I wonder if a not formal side might work in a non-formal get together. I'm thinking of cabbage and noodles. It's easy, it's tasty, and it fits the time of the year. If you do this, the secret ingredient is a couple of spoons of brown sugar.

                      A cheese tray could be out for nibbling the whole time or just left out after dinner. Making the beer is long enough to accommodate some snacks along with the de rigueur beer you drink during the process.

                      1. If it were me, I'd keep it simple with no hint of the ostentatious. I'd make something easy and down to earth, like Paul Prudhomme's Meatloaf. Everyone I know loves it, and, who knows, maybe your friends have never had it before. I like the sides that everyone has mentioned here, also.

                        1. I'd keep it pretty simple and do something that you know how to do well. One would be surprised at what chefs eat at home.

                          1. roasted carrots or root vegetables might be nice, too.

                            1. K*I*S*

                              They'll be happy someone else is sharing the love from their kitchen! Prepare simple, honest food and they will love you for it.

                              To tell the truth, they may be uncomfortable with feeling they were on the spot to acknowledge some culinary triumph of yours. Do what you always do for friends and be happy!

                              1. So how did it go?