(Vegetarian?) Christmas dinner party for 20
So....in a temporary lapse of judgement I decided it would be a great idea to throw a pre-Christmas dinner party in early December for our closest friends - all 20 of them! I LOVE the Christmas season and have always wanted to have a dinner party with a nicely decorated table etc...however, now that the invitations have been sent out and the rsvp's are in, I am totally stuck for ideas of what to cook!
Here are the issues:
1) I am a vegetarian (I know, one of THOSE people...)
I prefer not to handle meat, and besides that I really don't want to poison my friends because I don't know how to cook meat properly! The group I'm cooking for are fine with (and likely expect) a vegetarian dinner, but I want to prove to them that vegetarian meals need not be bland and boring! If I NEED to include meat somehow then I guess I could get my husband to deal with that part of it.
2) I've never cooked for more than 6 people before. This is my first large dinner party. Eek!
3) I don't want it to be a full out traditional Christmas turkey dinner...just a nice dinner that happens to be taking place during the Christmas season.
My idea for the menu is this:
Butternut Squash Soup
Individual Vegetable Strudels
A side dish of some sort?
I've had some DELICIOUS Vegetable Strudels at restaurants, but now I can't find a recipe that sounds really fantastic. I think it would be nice to have some fall vegetables incorporated into it, and maybe some sort of creamy or cheesy sauce inside or on top?
Does anyone have a recipe they think might fit the bill?
Are strudels really hard to make? Once I find a recipe I like, I plan to do a trial run to make sure it turns out well.
What could I serve on the side?
Any suggestions and tips are very much appreciated!
If you can think of a main course other than the Strudel idea I'd love to hear it :)
A vegetarian dinner is never less than! I'm sure your friends will appreciate the meal without meat. Strudels are actually ridiculously easy to make. The key is to ensure your filling is dry enough so the pastry doesn't get soggy. For a spinach strudel (spanikopita), they make you squeeze the liquid out of defrosted spinach before mixing in the cheese, eggs, and other ingredients. If you want other vegetables, make sure you sautee them thoroughly extrude the excess liquid. Like spanikopita you can either make it like lasagne with layers of filling and strudel dough or individual triangular packets. Here's what I've done for a layered vegetarian strudel. Take a block of tofu and mash it up so it's the consistency of ricotta (or even use 16 oz of ricotta). Grate 2 large zuchinni and carrots and saute with two chopped scallions in a little olive oil for about 15 minutes so the vegetables have softened and the moisture from the vegetables have evaporated to some degree. Add the mixture to the tofu/ricotta along with 2 eggs. Add a cup of medium hard cheese (any kind you want - gruyere, feta, cheddar). Add pepper to taste and 1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg. In an 8x13 in baking pan, spread 1/2 of the mixture on the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of filo dough and brush the top of the filo with olive oil. Do four layers of filo dough. Add the other half of the filling and then top it off with another four layers of dough. Bake at 400 degrees for about half an hour. As long as the liquid has been taken out, you can do any vegetable - mushroom, kale, etc.
A good side dish is a nice salad with chunk of blue cheese, pecans and cranberries in a sherry vinaigrette.
I've really been enjoying braised red cabbage as a side this fall. It's a wonderful cheery color, so makes the plate really pop, and it can be made up ahead and reheated very easily (and the leftovers keep really well, too.) Maybe put a dollop of good sour cream with it.
1 largish white or yellow (not sweet) onion, diced
butter or oil for sauteeing (I usually use olive oil for this recipe)
1 big apple, peeled & cored, chopped
1 head red cabbage, cored and sliced thin
good couple of shakes of celery seed (optional)
couple of tablespoons of caraway seed OR juniper berries OR about 1/4 cup gin
salt (I start with a tablespoon of kosher, taste & adjust)
fresh ground pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup vinegar (apple or red wine)
Sautee the onions in oil, when translucent add chopped apple and sautee until hot through and beginning to get tender, add cabbage and everything else, stir until cabbage starts to wilt, reduce heat and cover with pot lid a little ajar, and cook stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes. Taste & adjust seasoning (note: sometimes needs a bit of sugar if the apple wasn't quite sweet enough). Keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge (thanks to the vinegar). Especially tasty with smoked foods
Gruyere scalloped potatoes? Homemade whole wheat mac and cheese?
One that I'm planning to do at Christmas is green peas cooked with butter, olive oil, shredded cabbage and carrot blend (i.e. cole slaw in a bag), minced garlic, chopped onion, fresh rosemary, fresh parsley, salt, and black pepper. This actually comes from a dish called haluski, which as a main course also has egg noddles and bacon in it. If you leave out the egg noodles, it's a great peas side dish, and of course you can leave out the bacon. :)
You could also do a meatless version of Dublin Coddle - sautee boiled cubed potatoes with chopped apple and onion, in olive oil and a little bit of apple juice.
How about a mushroom strudel? Do a mix of mushrooms, with as many wild as you can find/afford, sauteed w/garlic, maybe some shallots, parsley, and layer between sheets of phyllo or strudel pastry. You could, as you suggest, offer a cream sauce on the side. Brussels sprouts, glazed, or braised in cream would be another nice accompaniment. Or braised leeks or endive, baked fennel.
Alternative to strudel, you could do a hearty tart or quiche: mushroom, leek, or onion w/a custard of eggs and cheese. Or a vegetarian lasagna.
How lovely of you to do, and I'm sure your friends will all be just so grateful for the opportunity to get together and to be cooked for...
Maybe a side dish with a little protein in it... Like a bean/rice pilaf or a lentil salad or a quinoa pilaf...
Another alternative to the strudel would be a vegetable napoleon of sorts... This one looks fabulous with a Tomato Bisque Sauce http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ro...
Another hearty side dish would be a Portabello Steak
I am also trying to come up with vegetarian menu ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Vegetarian Times had an article with recipes from some of the most famous vegetarian restaurants that look interesting. The Emerald Rice Cakes from Millennium in San Francisco and the Seitan Piccata from Candles 79 in New York City look awesome.