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Sep 11, 2011 04:27 PM

Autumn Dinner Party Menu Ideas??

Hey everyone!

I'm hosting a dinner party in a few weeks and I wanted to have a "fall/autumn" dinner menu. I was thinking of making sweet potato gnocchi as a side dish, a salad, and a roast chicken as the main. For dessert, I was thinking of either a pie, panna cotta, or something like that. Any suggestions or comments on the menu would greatly be appreciated.

Here's the sweet potato gnocchi recipe I was going to use (courtesy of the Italian Dish):


1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 14-ounce sweet potato
1 10-ounce russet potato
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk, room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour (approximately)
3 ounces pancetta, chopped finely (omit if you want a vegetarian dish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried sage
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place hazelnuts on foil and toast the hazelnuts in a 400 degree F oven for about 8 minutes. Immediately wrap hazelnuts in a clean towel and let steam for about 5 minutes. Roll the hazelnuts around in the towel - this will remove a lot of the skins. Take the hazelnuts out and set aside.

Place the potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for about one hour, or until they are soft and easily pierced with a sharp knife. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper. A pastry scraper helps a lot in making gnocchi. Cut potatoes in half and remove their skins. Force potatoes through a ricer. Make a mound on a work surface with the potatoes and make a well in the center. Beat the eggs slightly in a small bowl and pour into the well. Sprinkle a cup of the flour onto the potatoes and with a fork, start mixing the eggs and incorporating the flour and potatoes together. Add another half cup of flour and with a pastry scraper, mix the ingredients together until a dough begins to form. Add another half cup of flour and work into dough. Use a pastry scraper to scrape up the dough and fold it back on itself. Use additional flour if dough is overly sticky. You want the dough to be slightly sticky, but not too sticky.

Cut off a chunk of dough and roll it out into a rope about 1/2 inch in diameter. If the dough is too sticky, it will be hard to roll but if it is too dry, it will not stick enough to the counter for you to be able to roll it out. This takes practice to get a feel for this, but it's very easy. Use a little sprinkling of flour on the counter if the dough is sticking too much. After you roll out the rope, then sprinkle the rope with flour and cut either with the pastry scraper or a sharp knife into inch long pieces. Place on the wax paper on one of the baking sheets and sprinkle with additional flour so the gnocchi don't stick together. Repeat with remaining gnocchi and refrigerate until ready to cook.

In a large skillet, fry the pancetta until crisp. Remove and let drain on paper towels. Wipe fat out of pan. In same pan, warm the olive oil, butter, nutmeg, and sage together over low heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a strainer or spider ready. Place half the gnocchi gently into the water. Do not let the water boil vigorously, just gently. When the gnocchi float to the top, continue to cook them for about 30 seconds. Remove with the strainer and place in the skillet with the warmed oil and butter. Cook the rest of the gnocchi, add to the skillet along with the pancetta and toss gently. Add sea salt to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and toss with the cheese. Sprinkle hazelnuts on top.

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  1. Yum :-)

    I know it's trite, but you really can't beat apple crisp.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jvanderh

      I agree, any crisp is a classic comfort food dessert. Can be jazzed up in many different ways also. Try making in individual casseroles and top with a really good ice cream. I add walnuts and raisins to my standard apple crisp. Also, try combining apples and pears.

      1. re: othervoice

        Oooh yum that sounds good! Apple crisp is a great idea, it's a quintessential fall dish. I think I might try your idea about serving them in individual ramekins. Thanks for the great tips everyone!

    2. I'm cooking for my first autumn dinner party in a couple of weeks and I'll be doing Nigella's so-called Venetian Lasagne: has polenta layers instead of pasta and a rich meaty ragu, to which I'll add some wild mushrooms too.

      Pudding I think will be plums stewed with star anise and maybe some hazelnut icecream.

      Your gnocchi sound great, definitely autumnal.

      1. That gnocchi looks amazing.

        As for dessert, I have brought this pear-ginger-maple pie ( to a few autumn dinners and it's always a success.

        1. That sounds like a killer gnocchi. For the salad, you may want to have a frisee with bacon with a red wine vinaigrette to have both the fall flavor of bacon and the bitter frisee. Instead of the roast chicken, the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for chicken breast with shallots (essentially seared chicken breast with a shallots. YOu can lighten it up by omitting the cream and the extra butter and just reduce the jus.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Dcfoodblog

            Good idea, thanks for the great recipe

          2. I love sweet potatoe gnocci. I wish someone would serve me that!

            I have one suggestion about dessert. It seems individual desserts are all the rage right now so I've been making rustic hand pies for my dinner parties. Double crust=10-12 hand pies. I've done apple with a pecan crumble on top. Serve with a dollop of cream or icecream. Here's a pic so you get the idea. I'm assuming you know how to make apple pie. Sorry I didn't include a recipe for that.

            Also the individual desserts jars are not much effort. You can pretty much do any of the suggestions here and adapate it to a jar. You can do a day or two ahead, put the top on and stash away in the fridge.

            All the suggested recipes look great. It will be hard to decide! Good luck!

            2 Replies
            1. re: TSAW

              What do you mean by "individual dessert jars." Not sure what that is.

              1. re: karykat

                The smaller size mason canning jars (maybe one cup). You cook and serve it in the jars. I've seen it in quite a few restaurants and on various foodie blogs so I tried a few recipes using them. Then I reused the jars to can my salsa last weekend!