I'm cooking an Italian dinner next weekend for 10 people and I need help deciding on some of the dishes. Here are my thoughts:
First course: Antipasto. Mostly stuff I'm going to buy at the local Italian deli -- lettuce, tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto, olives, provolone, salami, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers....anything else?
Second course: Mushroom Ravioli which I'm going to make on Tuesday and have ready to throw in boiling water. Should I serve it with sauce? I tend to think that good ravioli doesn't need anything except a little butter and a little romano, but maybe other people wouldn't agree.
Third course: Some kind of main dish meat or fish, something not too complicated that can easily be enough for 10. A chicken dish would be best -- these people are big chicken fans -- but nothing that involves chicken breast, as several of us much prefer dark meat. Broccoli rabe sauted w/ garlic and risotto and bread on the side.
Dessert: Not tira misu. Something I can prepare in advance. Something chocolately?
Not chocolate, but good after a rich meal -- lemon semifreddo. Giada has a lemon-lime one that I saw her make that looks good. You could put in individual glasses if you have enough room in the freezer. I haven't made it yet because I'm still searching for the amaretti cookies to crumble on top.
Since your menu is quite rich, I would keep the apps very simple. If you want it to look elegants, you can roll the salami in cornucopias, do decorative presentation, but keep app food simple.
DH had homemade mushroom ravioli a couple of weeks ago in little trattoria near us. It was covered with a brown sauce made, I imagine, from a roux mixed with meat drippings or beef/veal stock and a variety of sliced mushrooms and parsley. It tasted like a little alcohol had been mixed in, marsala wine? sherry? something like that. It was so good he literally licked the plate (OK, he used a piece of bread).
Poultry for dark meat eaters, well, how adventerous are you? A roasted turkey would be good and you can do lots of stuff with leftovers. If you have never made a goose and have access, that might be fun. You would need at least 2, if not 3, ducks if you are headed in that direction, but duck might be a little too rich for the meal you are planning. The largest capons I have bought are in the 9-10 lb. range, if you have never had one, they are incredibly juicy and a very luxe roast for company. If you have the space, you could butterfly or spatchcock 5 cornish hens and serve halves. You can do some kind of chicken stew, marengo?? with thighs that guarantees only dark meat.
A choclate mousse cake or flourless choclate cake is always impressive, ridiculously easy and can be very elegant served with raspberry sauce & whipped cream. I have a great recipe if you need one that makes a big 10 or 12 springform pan. Also have had success freezing this or keeping in fridge for 1-2 days. Let me know if you want any recipes.
How about trying a few different cheeses and salami instead of the provolone--maybe a bel paese or a beautiful parmigiano reggiano, a fontina or gorgonzola--something to get people asking questions along with the things they are familiar with. I would stay away from tomatoes at this time of year unless you are going to roast them (look for the ripest) or buy them sundried.
Mushroom ravioli are good with cream--you could reduce the cream over a low flame by a third with 1 garlic clove per half pint (leave the garlic whole) and a sprig of fresh thyme. Smush all this through a sieve and season with salt. Reheat the cream really gently to have when the pasta come out of the water and add grated parm.
Or fried sage and garlic with butter is good.
for the last course a roast is great, ribs braised in white wine and garlic,
or spiedini are super easy--just spear leaves of sage, pieces of onion, sausage, chicken, pork onto a skewer--it's up to you the combo--and sear them off in pan to get them browned. Careful not to overcook.
or arrista is fantastic. Buy pork loin on the bone (have the butcher cut down between the ribs and meat to give you a place to stuff), mince up a mixture of fresh bread crumbs, garlic, a combination of fresh herbs and lemon zest (no pith), and just shove all this into that pocket the butcher made and tie. Season with salt and sear it off on all sides, give it a pour of good dry red wine and roast at 300 degrees until a knife inserted to the center is hot to your lip.
Or roast chix stuffed with fresh sage, garlic and thyme, covered in layered strips of pancetta.
for dessert just lightly whip heavy cream, so it barely holds a peak. Let it come to room temp.
Melt best quality bittersweet chocolate and let it cool just a bit. (Use 2 parts cream to 1 part chocolate. Fold the two together with your hand. Pour out onto a beautiful serving platter. Refrigerate, and when you are ready to serve, give it a sprinkle of European style unsweetened cocoa.
Serve with roasted onions and a salsa verde.
I would go with some roasted birds either pouissons or smaller chickens, it makes a very dramatic presentation to have several birds on a platter- I would do a hi roast , put a ton of olives thyme and shallots in the roasting pan with some halved lemons- has a very med feel. With the pouissons you could also stuff sausage under the skin to keep them moist and add another level of flavor- especially one with a ton of fennel.
As far as dessert why don't you try a riccota chocolate cheesecake- make ahead and everyone always goes bonkers for it with some fresh fruit and a great italian dessert wine or sparkling wine
If your preference is chicken dark meat, you could make a cacciatore.
However, my favorite Italian meat dish is a simple grilled steak with arugula and olive oil with sliced strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar.
As noted you need a good Italian bread for bruscetta or crostini. Toast the bread and rub it with a garlic clove.
An excellent side veg is asparagus wrapped with proscuitto that has been "buttered" with pesto. Steam the asparagus for a few minutes. Take slices of proscuitto and spread pesto on them and roll it around the asparagus. Put the asparagus on a sheet pan in groups of 3 or 4 and sprinkle with grated parmagiano and put under the broiler until the parm melts.
This appetizer is always a hit:
Your choices are good, I'd get some stuffed olives and stuffed cherry peppers as well. Slice up a good crusty Italian bread too, maybe a little bruschetta on the side?
I'd add some cream to the sauce for the ravioli. Shave some Parmiggiano Reggiano, perhaps? Yum.
Meat: not my forte.
Dessert: ricotta cheesecake.