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Your Go-To Company Is Coming Recipe.

My favorite thing about Chowhound is the ability to look through for people's best recipes, especially if they are nominated by several people from different areas. My husband and I are young and have just started entertaining. So I am looking for recipes that impress.

Some that I have already collected here are:

Zuni's Cafe Chicken and Bread Salad
Lemon Roasted Chicken

I am looking for all courses and main entrees that vary in elegance. Thanks!

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  1. I like do-ahead recipes, so short ribs a favorite. They are good served with mashed potatoes or polenta. There are some great short rib recipes on this board.
    If you have the Zuni cookbook, there are two of my favorite recipes in there that can be started ahead of time, then you don't have to do much after your company arrives other than serve. One is the Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, and the other is Slow Cooked Green Beans. I may have paraphrased the titles, but it will get you close. Those potatoes go with everything. They get better the longer they sit in the oven. Grill up some skirt steak, throw together a salad, and you're done. The beans go well with the short ribs or your roast chicken.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pcdarnell

      We're headed for braising weather. That means either short ribs (thanks, jfood) or brisket when company's coming.

      1. How adventurous are you and your friends/family, how are your knife skills and do you prefer family-style or individual service?

        Short ribs have already been mentioned twice and are really nice so what I'm going to suggest in support is that you learn Joel Robuchon's pommes purée recipe and technique; they are going to be some of the best mashed potato that you can serve and eat and only have a tiny amount of butter.

        Paella, cassoulet, garbure and pot au feu are nice casual family-style that will impress.

        9 Replies
        1. re: wattacetti

          I beg to differ regarding Chef Robuchon's pommes puree was featured on Anthony Bourdain's 100 episode in Paris last week. When the Chef was asked how much butter he uses in his recipe, he responded, "Two pounds of potatoes and half a pound of butter."

          1. re: attran99

            That depends on what you consider to be a tiny amount of butter.

            1. re: wattacetti

              I'm afraid that sounds like a lot of butter to me, too. I'm sure it's delicious, but I wouldn't characterize it as a tiny amount of butter.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I'm going to have to agree with you Dairy Queen. And on TV, the potatoes looked divine!

                1. re: attran99

                  This recipe comes up for discussion on Home Cooking now and then and I think the consensus seems to be that they are divine, although, one person described them as "gluey"--here's a recent discussion of those potatoes. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7178...


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I still (respectfully) disagree with you both, primarily in that a serving of said purée is not a kg.

                    The recipe was developed at Jamin, and no three-star serves industrial quantities of anything. I still suggest that you try them before automatically stamping Diet Police judgement. The hard parts are getting the tamis (if you don't already have one) and having access to rattes.

                    EDIT: and good butter.

                    1. re: wattacetti

                      Did you read the comments in the thread I linked, including the person who tried the potatoes at the source and said they were gummy and actually refused a second portion? (So much for restricting portion sizes if they give you more anyway...)

                      I'm not calling the diet police, but I stand firm that I characterize that proportion of butter as "tiny". But, I guess I don't intend to eat mashed potatoes by the thimble full, either.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Yes, actually I did, but it depends on how you like and want to serve your potato: smashed or lisse (Robuchon's is the latter).

                        And the portions aren't large even if they offer more.

                        1. re: wattacetti

                          The "gummy" potatoes were Robuchon's, not the smashed potatoes (from Ottolenghi) which is a different part of that discussion. The smashed potatoes are good, too, though I'm not sure I'd serve them to company as horseradish isn't as universally adored as butter seems to be.

                          I picked up a copy of Robuchon's book about 6 months ago and plan to make those potatoes this fall or winter because I'm certain they are delicious (with that tiny amount of butter.)

                          In the recipe in Simply French the Potato Puree calls for 16 TBSP of butter and serves 6-8. So the smallest serving (1/8 of the total recipe) would have 2 TBSP of butter in it. 1/6 would have more, of course. Anyway, not deadly, as long you're serving it to company once in a while (which is what the OP is after) and not to your family on a daily basis.


        2. I'm in the same situation as you- but we've been doing this for about 3 years. A few tips- if someone offers to bring something- agree- especially if you're working on a time consuming menu. Do prep work in advance- like snapping string beans or washing romaine lettuce.

          We also do lots of casual buffet type meals. It's much easier when 20 or 30 people are coming over for a hockey or football game.

          Some favorite recipes-
          - homemade hummus and pita chips
          - romaine salad with apples and breaded goat cheese
          - arugula salad with watermelon/figs and balsamic glazed cippolini onions
          - macaroni and cheese (not fancy but everyone LOVES it)
          - roasted chicken and potatoes
          - blanched string beans in whole grain mustard dressing
          - americanized chinese food- all homemade- lo mein, sesame chicken, pepepr steak, stir fried broccoli, fried rice...
          - pan fried breaded veal cutlets

          1. Shrimp scampi, lasagna, Korean BBQ, Prime rib roast, homemade pizzas, roasted asparagus, roasted corn, chicken tortilla soup, corn casserole, tiramisu, assorted cupcakes, etc. We started entertaining a few years ago, and have amassed quite a few "favorite" dishes to serve guests.

            1. I love this recipe for Chicken Pandora with sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes. I am big on doing things, and most of this is done ahead of time. If you happen to celebrate Passover, it's a good dish for that too.


              I also love Barefoot Contessa's Indonesian Ginger Chicken. That with basmati rice and a vegetable is a very tasty and easy dinner. Oh, and Chicken with 40 Cloves. I happen to like Alton Brown's version, but there are a few versions out there. All tasty.

              1 Reply
              1. re: valerie

                While we're on Barefoot Contessa, her Parmesan chicken with arugula and shaved Parmesan is an elegant and east dinner party dish.

              2. This is killer. Russian Potato Casserole

                Upside down apple pie-Use a glass dish or the crust doesn't get done enough.

                The Barefoot Contessa books have great recipes and are a good read just to understand what it takes to entertain. She usually has just a few things(I tend to cook too many things), appropriate music and likes to have a good time.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: wekick

                    wekick - have you made the russian potato casserole often? Is it very rich as it sounds?

                    1. re: smilingal

                      I make it always at Christmas. I use a little less butter.
                      Sometimes I make a similar potato casserole with caramelized onions and a lot less fat.

                  2. here's another recent thread that might give you some ideas or inspiration:

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Thanks. I saw this thread earlier and I took a look at it. Some great ideas there too. I am thinking about checking out a few holiday cooking threads since I am looking for things that really blow people out of the water. :) A lot of these look good though.

                      In response to earlier questions, I am open to anything and I don't mind if it is complicated. I feel pretty confident in my cooking/knife skills and of course I am always willing to try things that will help me improve too. Family or individual doesn't matter much although it would probably be good to have both styles.

                    2. If elegance is of interest to you then I can offer suggestions simply because haute cuisine was in style when I was learning to cook a gazillion years go. But keep in mind that "elegant" and "complicated" are NOT synonyms! For most of my suggestions there are dozens of recipes on line, but when appropriate I will pass on a few caveats. And for anyone reading this, please remember the caveats are based on my own tastes and biases. That said...

                      BEEF STROGANOFF. ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. But don't trust a recipe that has anything in it besides beef, mushrooms, onions, butter, sour cream and salt and pepper and a dash of nutmeg at the end. The beef must be sliced thin as bacon and about the size of a rasher of bacon cut into thirds. The choice for cut of beef can be wide, from seven bone roast to filet. Very lightly cooking it keeps normally tough cuts tender. So, in a large skillet, first saute sliced onions in butter. Do not use margarine, do NOT use olive or any other oil. Butter! This originated as a dish made by Russian farmer's wives, and they didn't have margarine or oils. I cut an onion in half, then slice about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. When the onions are limp and begin taking on color, remove them to a bowl. Next saute sliced mushrooms in the same pan adding butter as needed. When softened and delicious, remove them to the same bowl as the onions. Add more butter as needed and saute the beef strips until just pink, then return the onions and mushrooms to the pan with the beef, stir well to mix and add a quart of sour cream. Well, maybe just a pint if you're only making enough for two. Stir well over reduced heat and do NOT allow to boil. Season with salt and pepper and a grate or two of nutmeg. Remove from heat and serve in an elegant serving dish garnished with a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top. Buttered egg noodles are the traditional accompaniment. A tossed green salad with vinaigrette and a good crusty rustic bread complete the main course. The proportion of meat, onions and mushrooms should be fairly equal in volume, not in weight, but the meat can be a bit less.

                      COQ AU VIN and/or BOEUF BOURGUIGNON Don't tell anyone I told you this, but they're basically the same recipe except one uses chicken and the other beef. Tons of recipes for both on line. CAVEAT: In both cases use a good red wine and then serve the wine with the meal as well. Again, in both cases, don't trust any recipe that doesn't have a tablespoon or so of tomato paste in it. It gives depth to the finished dishes, and without it I find them underwhelming. Personal preference: I do not like the use of carrots or celery in either dish. Pearl onions, mushrooms and lardons is the only way to fly!

                      CLASSIC TOURNEDOS "Tournedos" are individual steaks cut from the fat end of a beef tenderloin. The classic way to serve them is to place the medium rare steak atop a crouton -- a slice of baguette or French bread sauteed in butter until lightly browned and crisp -- that is the same size and thickness as the steak, then a sauce of the cook's choice tops the steak prior to serving. The fun and deliciousness of this serving method is that the crouton under the steak absorbs all of the juices as the diner cuts into it and the crouton together. None of the juices are lost. The sauce can be anything from a simple pan sauce to a Bearnaise. The creme de la creme classic is Tournedos Rossini, in which the steak on a crouton is topped with a slice of lightly floured and sauteed foie gras which in turn is topped with a slice of black winter (French) truffle with a sauce Perigord napped over it with more served in a sauce boat. NOT cheap! But delicious! However, other variations of tournedos en crouton are much less expensive and all are delicious!

                      ROAST DUCK (or GOOSE) Again, tons of recipes on line. Duck goes very well just about any fruit cooked along with it the last several minutes of roasting time, as well as basted with a variety of liqueurs and spirits. Duck l'orange remains a favorite. I also love duck with black olives. No end to what you can do with this bird. If you want to keep things simple, go with a roasted duck and don't bother messing with duck breast and all that jazz. For some curious reason I have never considered before, whenever I roast a duck, I NEVER stuff it. When I roast a goose, I ALWAYS stuff it. Curious. Anyway, for goose my favorite stuffing is made with roasted chestnuts. I often add some diced dried apricots and/or walnuts along with some Grand Marnier or wine. In either case I have to resort to subterfuge to sneak away some for leftovers for me the next day.

                      STIR FRY Once you learn a few basic sauces, there is really no recipe required for stir fry beyond a protein (one or more of meat fish or foul) and an assortment of vegetables that have interesting flavor and color contrasts. Oh, and a good wok! Add fettuccine (or a more traditional noodle) and you have lo mein. Serve wth crisp noodles and you have a version of chow mein. On top of rice, with rice on the side, it's all up for grabs and the most interesting thing about stir fry is that dinner guests are always amazed that you cook "Chinese food." You can do much in advance, especially prepping/chopping your choice of veggies then storing them in the fridge in zip lock bags until you're ready for them.

                      MOUSSAKA Think lasagna using slabs of sauteed eggplant in place of noodles, then topping it with a bechamel sauce before baking. Again, lots of recipes on line. In most recipes that call for cinnamon, I cut the cinnamon by half.

                      LASAGNA (or moussaka in which you replace eggplant slices with lasagna noodles.) TONS of recipes on line. An interesting alternative to the stacked lasagna is to make individual rolls with lasagna noodles and filling that are rolled up, stabilized with a toothpick so they don't unroll during baking, then toothpicks removed and served.

                      BEEF WELLINGTON Basically puff pastry smeared with duxelle (finely diced mushrooms with a touch of onion sauteed in a little butter until a thick paste) and maybe a bit of pate on top of that, then wrapped around a seared (but not completely cooked) tenderloin of beef and baked in the oven until the puff pastry is browned and the beef reaches medium rare. You can do a whole tenderloin, or you can do individual steaks wrapped in the puff pastry with the same "spreads." Decorate the finished package with leftover puff pastry cut in designs, then do an egg wash before roasting. People LOVE it...! VERY elegant. I serve a sauce with it. When the bank is smiling, I add sliced black truffles to the interior (next to the meat) and then serve a truffle sauce with it.

                      ENCHILADAS SUIZA Basically chicken enchiladas with green sauce and topped with Swiss cheese prior to baking. I use boiled shredded chicken with diced chiles and sauteed onions for the filling. Easy, you can make it ahead, and everyone has seconds.

                      FONDUES, MONGOLIAN HOT POTS, SHABU SHABU These are all great fun that guests cook for themselves at the table. Again, tons of recipes on line. My major caveats are to first make sure you don't invite more than four other people, second be positive that everyone of them are VERY neat eaters, and finally, have plenty of napkins on hand. All three of these and the gazillion variations on each theme are great fun and especially good during the winter.

                      None of these dishes are complicated. Just read your recipe(s) through top to bottom two or three times the day before you cook, then relax and go for it. And every one of these dishes are reputation makers, so be prepared to bow. Have fun!

                      22 Replies
                      1. re: Caroline1

                        Two lines into this and I knew it had to be you. And I agree that the oldies became goodies for a reason.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Somebody else said the same thing to me last week! I guess there's no hope of me being anonymous. Oh well... '-)

                          1. re: c oliver

                            +1. i didn't even have to get to the second line :)

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              Wow. I'd better start trying to figure out a disguise right now if I want to sneak up on anyone for Halloween! "Who *IS* that masked writer?" Probably not me. '-)

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                ++1 So clearly Caroline immediately -- I've often wondered if all of us abandoned our current user names and came back "reincarnated" as another user if we would be unmasked. I love how you can so clearly "know" someone you've never met, to the extent that you recognize a voice you've never heard. It's brilliant.

                                1. re: mebby

                                  i'll bet i could get away with it for a while if i used an unassuming name and typed my posts with proper capitalization....but i do wonder if, even with those controls in place, at some point i'd say something in a manner that would give me away to Hounds who are really familiar with my posts :)

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    I think I'd recognize you before too long. I often identify your posts before I've scrolled far enough to see your name (and I enjoy your great information and creative ideas very much).

                            2. re: Caroline1

                              Great list, Caroline1. I'd love to dine at your table some day...Stroganoff is also v good with pork tendeloin, done just as you indicate, preferably with some oyster mushrooms and a sprinkle of paprika on the pork before cooking it.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                Comonna my house! We'll do grapes and pomegranates and whatever.

                                I'm going to have to give pork Stroganoff a try. Sounds interesting. I just got an email flyer from my local (Texas!) 99 Ranch Market today, and they have shiitake on sale for $2.49 a pound. Pork and shiitake Stroganoff could prove interesting. I'll call it "Subtle fusion." '-)

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  Would I ever like to! I'm not crazy about shiitake, fresh or otherwise, but if you are, go for it. I love the milder mushrooms in it. (The idea is from Jane Grigson's "Mushroom Feast", a great book.)

                                2. re: buttertart

                                  That pork stroganoff sounds fab. in Germany they make something similar called Geschnetzeltes vom Schwein, http://kuechenschlacht.zdf.de/ZDFde/i...

                                  It is typically made with cream rather than sour cream, however.

                                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                                    The Geschnetzeltes is also v v good with veal or (my favorite) venison...me want now...

                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                      This is a typical Swiss dish, too, only made with veal and served with kartoffel rosti.

                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                        I fell in love with Geschnetzeltes at the wonderful Swiss restaurant in the Peninsula, Chesa, ages ago. It's one of my very favorite dishes. Great made with venison, too, as I had it at the Chalet Suisse in NYC also years ago. Wish there were more high-level Swiss restaurants around these days.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          What peninsula are you talking about?

                                          1. re: Sharuf

                                            The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong.

                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                    you always come up with such great ideas.......the rollup lasagna is very pretty and presents well. I've used it several times for special parties. Easy and good. Another one I use is a chicken version with a white sauce, lots of mushrooms and spinach...comfort food and pretty too.

                                    1. re: othervoice

                                      Unlike "regular" tray lasagna, I think the roll ups optimize the ruffly edges of the noodles that are otherwise lost. And I'm a sucker for spinach!

                                      Now that I've officially mentioned food (Hi, Mods, love you guys!) I was going to drop you a private email to ask how you're feeling and how the recovery is coming along, then I thought, wait a minute! There have to be other folks around these boards who would also like to know. So, how are you doing? Really well, I hope!

                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                      Caroline1, I am absolutely not doubting you, but the reason I've never made beef stroganoff is there is just no way my budget will allow for a tenderloin, although I've always wanted to. So just to make sure I am not misunderstanding - because you're cooking it lightly you could use a less expensive cut of beef? What about a top sirloin or a london broil? Or is that pushing it?
                                      I just love the idea downthread for a pork stroganoff, too.

                                      1. re: auburnselkie

                                        Yes, you can use a cheaper cut of meat. Stroganoff, the way I make it, is a very old peasant dish, and while peasants did slaughter their own beef, Stroganoff was not what they did with the tenderloin! My favorite "alternative cut" of beef for Stroganoff is a seven bone roast. Cut the meat off the bone and put it in a plastic bag in the freezer for twenty minutes to a half hour. You want it to be flat in a good slicing position and not all jumbled up, and you want it to get fairly firm but not totally frozen. The partial freezing means you'll be able to get much thinner and uniform slices than would be possible if the beef isn't partially frozen. I try to cut the meat when I'm removing it from the bone before freezing so that I will be able to slice it across the grain, which also means it will be perceived as more tender when cooked. It also means that thicker seven bone roasts work better than thin cut ones. Then, in cooking, do not crowd the pan! That's critical. And if the beef is pretty moist, you may want to pat it dry with paper towels. Depending on how much you're making, you may have to do the beef in three or four sessions. I use drawn butter (ghee) when frying the beef instead of whole butter that has the very burnable milk solids in it. The ideal is for the drawn butter to be hot enough to brown/sear the very thin meat lightly on the outside while still leaving the inside (or the other side) slightly pink.

                                        When I use this grade of meat, when I've finished sauteeing it, I remove it from the pan and put the onions and mushrooms back, bring them up to simmer, then add the sour cream, turn off the heat, stir well and then add the beef and stir a bit more and adjust seasoning.

                                        Timing is critical in using cheaper cuts of meat, but hey, if the family has great teeth and enjoys chewing, don't worry about it! '-)

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          Thank you so much for the reply. I can't wait to try this and will report back! I especially appreciate all the details. We've all got good teeth so I know we can make it work. :)

                                    3. People seem to feel this is a dated recipe - but I still love making it and the presentation is impressive to your guests - Chicken Kiev. When they make that first cut and the butter and herb mixture oozes out onto their plate, hopefully being caught by the rice, it is fun to share their impressions.

                                      1. Mark Bittman's "Shrimp My Way" is always easy and tasty. I leave the tails on and serve them as finger food for big groups of people.

                                        I'm not big on roasting chicken, but I do find you can't go wrong with a quality spiral-sliced baked ham. One year a friend of mine did a ton of research and made a fussy basting sauce for the ham out of orange juice, brown sugar and a bunch of secret spices, only to find that it tasted exactly like Coca-Cola. And the results were delicious. So now Coca-Cola is what I use when I'm not just roasting the ham plain.

                                        1. Hi Amanda,
                                          What a great post and it reminds me to add the Zuni Cafe cookbook to my own wish list! I'll take a look through my own tried and true recipes and see what I can post for you.

                                          That said, being new here, I have a question for you. In your post you say:

                                          "My favorite thing about Chowhound is the ability to look through for people's best recipes, especially if they are nominated by several people from different areas "

                                          I wasn't aware Chowhound had this feature and would love to take a look at these recipes and nominations...would you mind telling me where I need to look?

                                          Thanks so much!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                            It's not exactly it's own feature but would be a great addition. Great idea for a website though.

                                            Essentially what I do is search for "best" or "favorite" of something or just that word in the Home Cooking section. There are lots of threads on people's best __ recipe. That's how I got the Zuni roast chicken recipe actually. Once I find a thread of interest (for example, best roast chicken) I scan though the replies for the most raved about or recommended recipe. Then I find and save it to my computer to try.

                                            I am always looking for the best version of something and this is the best website I have found for that. Hope this helps!

                                            1. re: AmandaCA

                                              Thanks Amanda, I hadn't thought of doing that but it's a great idea and I'll put it to use right away. Thanks for taking the time to get back to me.

                                          2. A nice pork tenderloin with rosemary & spicy mustard is super simple and great for company.
                                            Recently I stumbled upon a "spinach brownie" recipe that was so delicious & a real snap to put together. Company asked for the recipe to take home.
                                            I'm a big fan of 4-5 ingredient baking recipes and the nutella brownie & pecan pie mini muffins floating around here were both deliciously easy and a nice small hit of flavor after a large meal.
                                            If any of these strike your fancy, I'll post links.

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              Thanks HillJ, can I get the links to the pork tenderloin and the nutella brownie? Chocolate and hazelnut is an inspired combination and always a favorite of mine.

                                              The pork dish reminds me of my one other company's coming recipe before this post, blue cheesse and dried fig stuffed pork loin. A simple, but looks elegant, hit.

                                              1. re: AmandaCA

                                                Nutella Brownies
                                                Makes 12

                                                1/2 cup Nutella spread
                                                1 large egg
                                                5 tablespoons all=purpose flour
                                                1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts


                                                1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cup mini muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
                                                2.  Put the Nutella and egg in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and well blended.  Add the flour and whisk until blended.
                                                3.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins (about 3/4 full) and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts.
                                                4.  Bake until a pick comes out with wet, gooey crumbs, 11 to 12 minutes.  Set on a rack to cool completely. 

                                                  1. re: AmandaCA

                                                    Amanda, is the blue cheese & dried fig packed inside the pork loin alone or are their other ingred. ? Sounds delicious.

                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      Yes it is stuffed. It was a recipe I picked up from a caterer I used to work for. She just did light appeitizers mostly but that was one main dish I learned.

                                                      Blue Cheese and Fig Pork Loin

                                                      Butterfly the pork loin and stuff with equal amounts blue cheese and quartered, dried figs, stems removed. Tie the loin together with butcher's twine. Bake at 350 until pork is cooked through, remove from oven and brush with apple jelly. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes then slice and serve.

                                                      I've often done this in regular thick cut pork chops, sometimes even breading and frying them. Also, I've thought about mixing up the stuffing to dried apricots and fresh chevre but haven't gotten around to trying it yet.

                                                      1. re: AmandaCA

                                                        Sounds delicious and I'm giving this one a try for sure. You had me at apple jelly!

                                                    2. re: AmandaCA

                                                      spinach brownie as in spinach casserole (just in case you thought it was a sweet) is devine. Give it a look:

                                                      Spinach Brownies

                                                      (10 ounce) frozen package spinach
                                                      1/2 cup all-purpose flour
                                                      1/2 teaspoon salt
                                                      1/2 teaspoon baking powder
                                                      1 egg
                                                      1/2 cup milk
                                                      1/4 cup butter, melted
                                                      1/2 onion; chopped
                                                      1/2 medium red pepper; chopped
                                                      1 clove garlic
                                                      2 pieces of bacon; chopped
                                                      1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

                                                      1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 8×8 inch baking dish.
                                                      2. Place spinach in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until spinach cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain thoroughly and set aside.
                                                      3. Sautee red peppers, onions, garlic and bacon in a pan over medium heat until vegetables are slightly softened.
                                                      4. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and butter. Mix in spinach, pepper mixture and mozzarella cheese.
                                                      5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        Silly silly me! I was hoping for something like carrot cake, but brownies with spinach in them. Hey, if Alice B. Toklas could put pot in her brownies, why can't Popeye have spinach in his? But your recipe does sound good. Spinach and bacon and cheese? Sounds like S'Mores!

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          What a hoot! I can't take credit for the recipe just enjoying it with company. In a pinch a box of defrosted chopped spinach makes me look like I slaved away. These are simple go tos when folks stop by.

                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                            someone actually came out with a spinach brownie recipe in a cookbook recently! I found it here: http://www.notquitenigella.com/2007/1...
                                                            and am tempted to try it, but I suspect it won't really taste all that good...

                                                          2. re: HillJ

                                                            I make something quite like this, without the bacon and red peppers (although the peppers are inspired, and I'm giving that a try next time around). Mine calls for far more cheese, though. :)

                                                            My 16-month-old loves them and they freeze beautifully.

                                                          3. re: AmandaCA

                                                            Be sure not to confuse a "pork loin" with a "pork tenderloin". Two different cuts. I was about to offer a pork loin, butterflied and lightly stuffed with dozens of combinations, as a great main course. It's easy, relatively inexpensive, and is basically make-ahead. Porketta (porchetta) is a great variety on pork roast, and always looks and smells great. Served with polenta, you have a classic northern Italian meal.

                                                            I haven't made a pork tenderloin in a couple years because the quality of tenderloins available today is simply awful. They are devoid of taste, unless you can get one from a heritage breed of pork.

                                                            On the "fancier" side, I've made goat cheese and smoked salmon risotto that has always gone over very well. Tends to be a little pricey to make, but then again, because it's pretty rich, a little goes a long way. On the less fancy side, a nice jambalaya can be the center-piece to a fun Louisiana themed evening.

                                                          4. re: HillJ

                                                            What a good topic this is! I'm feeling inspired to have a dinner party soon.

                                                            The pecan pie mini muffins sound good too. Care to share?

                                                            1. re: twodales

                                                              Sure! Super simple, 5 ingredients. Just be sure to prepare (PAM, butter/flour, crisco) the mini muffins tins before adding the batter-they are gooey!

                                                              Pecan Pie Muffins

                                                              1 cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
                                                              ½ cups All-purpose Flour
                                                              1 cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts
                                                              ⅔ cups Softened Butter
                                                              2 whole Eggs Beaten
                                                              Preparation Instructions
                                                              Preheat oven 350 F.

                                                              Spray with PAM or butter and flour your muffin pan (whatever size) well so the baked muffins are easy to remove.

                                                              In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour and pecans. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and eggs together until smooth. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Cups should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks when done.

                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                Oh mama those sound just too good.

                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                  Sometimes simple is just the right move.
                                                                  These are as satisfying as a pecan pie w/out the work or calories.
                                                                  They are yummy. The recipe makes 2 dozen minis.

                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                    Or calories? With all that sugar and butter? ;-)

                                                          5. Just found this too and thought I would share.

                                                            Pork Sauté With Caramelized Pears And Pear-Brandy Cream Sauce

                                                            1¼ pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut crossed into 1 inch thick slices

                                                            4 tablespoons butter, divided

                                                            4 firm but rip large Anjou pears, peeled, halved, cored and cut into wedges

                                                            1 teaspoon sugar

                                                            ½ cup shallots

                                                            1¼ dried thyme

                                                            ¼ cup pear eau de vie (clear pear brandy) or pear schnapps

                                                            1 cup whipping cream

                                                            ⅓ cup pear nectar

                                                            Place pork slices between sheets of plastic wrap. Using meat mallet, pound pork to ¼-inch thickness.

                                                            Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add pears and sugar; sauté until pears are tender and deep golden, about 8 minutes.

                                                            Melt 1 tablespoon butter in another large nonstick skillet over high heat. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Working in batched, add pork to skillet; sauté just until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Tent loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Reduce heat to medium. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet. Add shallots and thyme; sauté 2 minutes. Add eau de vie; boil until reduced to glaze, scraping up any browned bits, about 2 minutes. Add cream and pear nectar; boil until sauce is thickened enough to coat spoon, about 5 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

                                                            Reheat pears if necessary; spoon into center of platter. Arrange pork around pears. Pour sauce over pork and serve.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: AmandaCA

                                                              wow, now that's heaven on a plate. Pears and pork, going shopping......

                                                            2. One of my favorites is shrimp with red-eye gravy on spoonbread. The gravy recipe is an upscale one that I got I think off the epicurious website (has brandy in it, a lot of mushrooms) and is better made in the morning or even the day before the party, so it makes the rest of the party prep really easy, as the shrimp are done in just minutes before serving and the spoonbread cooks in the oven. It could be served on grits as well, but I love the custardy texture of the spoonbread as a foil for the shrimp. Roasted green beans w/ cherry tomatoes is a nice, simple side to go with this. I tend to also go with a southern style dessert as well, lemon chess pie or coconut layer cake, depending on if my guests like coconut or not.

                                                              1. An easy yet elegant dish for company is chicken kabobs w/ vegetables. You can buy bonelese chicken breasts and cut them into bite size pieces. Marinate in classic Italian dressing. Choose your favorite veggies (mushrooms, onions, yellow squash or zucchini, grape tomatoes, etc.) and also marinate those in classic Italian. Skewer the chicken and veggies separately as chicken will take longer to cook (on the grill or broil). Serve with boxed rice pilaf or package yellow rice. You can prepare most ahead or while you mingle with your guests if you have an open kitchen like mine. It looks impressive and tastes great! And the beauty is that it's not that expensive. Buy a frozen dessert pie (such as Key Lime) or a cheesecake for dessert and you are the hostess with the mostess for minimal effort and cost.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: kcfields

                                                                  Love the idea and you're right about skewering separately. However, the chicken will cook WAY faster then the vegetables in my experience. Bite-size chicken breast pieces will be done in just a few minutes, so quickly in fact that I'd get the vegetables done and then cook the chicken skewers.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    I've found that on those RARE occasions when I really want the vegetables and protein (lamb, chicken, rat) on the same skewer for color impact, then I par cook the veggies first and it works fine! Haven't done that in years, but I still have the "skewers" that are built like a sword with a well at the top of the handle specifically to be filled with cotton soaked alcohol and set afire when the kebabs are presented at table. I'm too old for such nonsense any more! '-)

                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                      Now isn't that a good idea?!? Because they do look pretty, don't they? At our age, one little tremble :) and we self-immolate!

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        Caroline1, one day when you're feeling up to nonsense, I'm coming to your house for flaming rat skewers.

                                                                        1. re: Pia

                                                                          Count me in. No so much as a particpant of the meal but as one who wants to view the expressions on your guests faces! If you need some help catching those little suckers I have a rat terrier.

                                                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                                                          I had forgotten that they used to be presented that way! I think there was a place here in SF that presented them like this. Was always thrilled by this sort of thing as a kid.

                                                                        3. re: c oliver

                                                                          I stand corrected. Chicken jerky is not very appetizing. You want to cook it long enough for the chicken to be tender yet cooked through. It's been awhile since I've entertained. What would you say the ratio (in minutes) is for chicken vs veggies?

                                                                          (I screwed up on my post - this is in reply to c oliver's post of 9/20/10 5:44am)

                                                                          1. re: kcfields

                                                                            BTW, I have to say that I consider myself to be semi-literate but I had to look up the meaning for immolate. And I have to ask, you're not soaking yourself in "alcohol" while you're cooking, are you? Not a good idea. I would keep a fire extinguisher on hand if I were you!

                                                                      2. Another go-to recipe in my arsenal is a fish stew - lots of white wine, fish stock, fennel, and a few pounds of a firm white fish. I can find the recipe if anyone is interested. Smells great, it's on the lighter side, and is super easy to put together. I've usually put the soup-parts together an hour before hand, and right before serving, put in the fish pieces and cook for 3-4 minutes immediately before serving.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                            Fish Stew:

                                                                            2-3 lbs firm whitefish (cod, etc.), cut into 2-3 inch chunks
                                                                            1/4 c olive oil
                                                                            3 yellow onions, diced
                                                                            2 green peppers, chopped
                                                                            3-6 garlic cloves, minced
                                                                            2 tsp fennel seeds
                                                                            2 tsp dried oregano
                                                                            1 bay leaf
                                                                            15 or 26 oz can of crushed tomatoes (depends on how much you like tomatoes)
                                                                            2 cups good dry white wine - i usually use a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (you can make this with red wine too, but i like it better with white)
                                                                            2 cups fish stock or clam juice
                                                                            red pepper flakes, up to 2 tsp, if you like some heat. I usually add 1 tsp, depends on who's eating
                                                                            fresh parsley and/or fresh basil, chopped, to top and garnish

                                                                            Sprinkle fish chunks with salt and pepper in a bowl, put in fridge
                                                                            In a large saucepan or pot, heat olive, add onions and bell peppers, stir until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes
                                                                            Add garlic, red pepper flakes (optional), fennel seeds, oregano, bay leaf and cook 2 minutes until spices are frangrant
                                                                            Add tomatoes, simmer 3 minutes
                                                                            Add wine and stock, simmer 10 minutes
                                                                            Taste and season broth to taste
                                                                            Add fish, simmer until fish is opaque, 5-8 minutes. Garnish.

                                                                            You can make the broth ahead, then just turn off the heat and cover until you['re ready, then add heat until simmering and add the fish. Works well, but I've never done that for more than 1 hour.

                                                                            Also, I've been wanting to try a variation, where I add diced fennel bulb with the tomatoes (I like fennel).

                                                                            For folks that REALLY like fennel, adding a few shots of Pernod would really up the fennel flavor and give it a really nice depth.

                                                                        1. My quick go to dinner party dish is a rack of lamb. I like because it's easy to make especially on a work night when time is limited. I take a small bowl and add allspice, finely minced garlic, S & P, and olive oil. I then rub this all over the lamb, but first I remove the flap of fat that is sometimes still attached to the one side. I throw them into a 425 degree oven and turn them a few times. Let rest after cooking for 10 minutes or so then slice em up and put on a plate.

                                                                          Serve with couscous made with chicken broth, a fresh salad and bingo! A quick, easy and delicious dinner. Sometimes I also make an eggplant dish, or tomatoes persillade (the Pepin recipe). Time start to finish about 45 minutes including prep.

                                                                          1. Kind of a miscellaneous assortment here, but that's my nature...

                                                                            Barefoot Contessa's Tequila Lime Chicken always goes over well; it can be made indoors using a grill pan instead of an outside grill.

                                                                            Super easy, very tasty Shrimp Maison Cointreau recipe available over at cooks.com.

                                                                            Ryan Nomura's recipe for Ginger-Scallion Crusted Salmon with ponzu butter and Asian cucumber salad, can be used for other fish steaks as well.

                                                                            McCormick's Spices website has a good Spicy Pulled Pork In Tart Cherry Sauce With Vanilla Slaw- slow cooker recipes make entertaining so much easier!

                                                                            Squash always makes a good Fall soup; there's a good smoky, spicy Southwestern Butternut soup at epicurious.com which stands out from the zillions of more typical ones.

                                                                            A Fall favorite of mine for decades has been James Beard's Barley Casserole with mushrooms. It can be dressed up a bit with a splash of sherry and a little truffle oil, but is absolutely delectable even in its simplest form.

                                                                            A few less elegant but great-for-company dishes:

                                                                            A barley favorite that's been in my family for ages, this makes a great side but is substantial enough to serve as a vegetarian main course if accompanied by a good salad.
                                                                            Lentil and Barley Stew
                                                                            1/4 C butter
                                                                            1/3 C chopped onion
                                                                            1/2 C chopped celery
                                                                            2½ C skinned, chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
                                                                            2 C water
                                                                            1/2 C dried lentils
                                                                            1/3 C whole barley
                                                                            1/2 t sea salt or Herbamare
                                                                            1/8 t each rosemary and black pepper
                                                                            1/3 C shredded carrots
                                                                            In a large heavy pot, melt the butter and sautee the onion until it is tender.
                                                                            Add celery, cook 5 more minutes, and add all else except the carrot.
                                                                            Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally.
                                                                            Add carrots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

                                                                            Another family tradition, this one's a never-fail hit:

                                                                            Brown Rice & Cheese Casserole
                                                                            The classic, courtesy of Oma (Elisabeth Wiley), and perhaps my favorite casserole of all time..
                                                                            The resulting culinary paradise lies somewhere between a soufflé and a risotto, but is simpler to make than either one. I still need to have this at least a couple of times a year, and honestly would be happy eating it a couple of times every week.
                                                                            2 eggs, lightly beaten
                                                                            1/2 cup heavy cream
                                                                            1/3 cup water
                                                                            1½ cup cooked brown rice (3/4 cup uncooked) [Oma says she uses a bit more than this]
                                                                            1¼ cup freshly grated Cheddar (10oz bar = 2½ c)
                                                                            salt to taste (or Herbamare...)
                                                                            1/4 cup chopped green pepper (½ med. pepper)
                                                                            2 Tb grated onion {Oma says use a little more here too}
                                                                            Preheat oven to 350°. Beat eggs together with cream and water. Stir into cooked
                                                                            rice. Add cheese, salt, green pepper & onion. Mix well. Turn into an oiled casserole
                                                                            dish and bake 45 minutes or until set.
                                                                            serves 2 - recipe times 9 is enough for 20 people

                                                                            Garden Skillet, pasta and vegetable recipe that's still on the back of the P&R Rings box.
                                                                            Simple comfort food, but satisfying, fast, easy, and one step up from plain pasta- I make it using Morga vegetable broth and served as a side it's always been well received.

                                                                            Three favorite desserts:
                                                                            For a truly decadent finish, epicurious.com has a great recipe for individual Raspberry Refrigerator Cakes. Very rich and a bit labor-intensive, but they're made in advance...

                                                                            Mondavi Winery website has a fabulous Pear-Hazelnut Custard recipe.

                                                                            Strawberries Romanoff is easy, tasty, and can look quite elegant when served in a stemmed glass.