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My brain is dead - menu help needed

Dinner Saturday night - all good friends. There will be 7 of us. Not formal.

I seem to be fixated on some kind of seared scallop first course. Maybe served on an aruguala salad of some kind. And the only other thing I have decided besides that is maybe a creme brulee (possibly chocolate) for dessert. I am completely stuck on the main. I was thinking either a really nice pasta dish (I can get beautiful fresh pasta) or something meaty. If this was your dinner what would you do? Isn't this stupid? I'm totally not able to think of a single thing to cook.

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  1. Any dietary restrictions? Preferences (red meat vs. poultry vs. seafood)? Budget considerations?

    5 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      No restrictions. I've gotten rid of all those friends.

      1. re: Nyleve

        In that case, I would do something that fits the weather - here in the chilly NE, a rich ragu over fresh pasta sounds perfect. Duck? Short ribs?

        1. re: Nyleve

          Oh man, I have to follow your lead - this whole vegetarian, gluten free, kosher mambo I've been pulling is exhausting!

          1. re: emeats

            From the late Laurie Colwin: "An easy solution to this problem is to change friends immediately and find some red-blooded chowhounds with few scruples and no interest in health."

          2. re: Nyleve

            Friends don't let friends forgo flesh?

        2. Cover both bases...a nice ragu of pork or beef with some fancy veg in it served over papperdelle...

          2 Replies
          1. re: tonifi

            Oh this could be good. You don't think that would be overkill? I could definitely do a nicely cooked-to-death ragu. It would be great to have a main that was mostly done ahead. Some sauteed rapini on the side...

            1. re: tonifi

              I was going to suggest a really meaty ragu as well... my favorite uses short ribs though!

            2. What I would do is walk around my local grocery until I felt an ingredient was speaking to me, telling me that I had to use it.

              5 Replies
              1. re: FoodPopulist

                So I'm not the only one who does this?

                1. re: Nyleve

                  Walking around the grocery store for an hour is better than walking on a treadmill for an hour.

                  1. re: FoodPopulist

                    Except that on a treadmill I can read.... I like reading as much as I like eating, so it's a toss-up ;)

                  2. Thai Coconut-curry roasted white fish w/ crispy shoestring potato topping ! Make it last weekend-Wow!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hetook

                      Could you post your recipe, please?

                      1. re: almond tree

                        I went in with no recipe, but will guide you thru it. 1) Mariade fish in Red or Green Thai curry sauce w/coconut milk .(good recipes found on the net) 2) Roast Cup of sliced mushrooms and1/2 C of halfed grape tomatoes w/ splash of oil , s&p on 400* for 15 mins 3)Roast shoestring spuds with s&p and touch of oil for 5-6 mins ( 2 potatos) and then remove. 4)Remove mushrooms and tomatoes from oven, add remainder of curry sauce to pan,lay fish fillet on top( of mush/tom curry mixture). 5) Place shoestring potatos on top of fish and roast at 400* for 30 mins. Check after 20 mins of cooking time to test doneness of fish. 6) Let rest a few min and serve on a fluffy bed of Jasmine rice. It was easy,and i have only cooked fish once before this.

                    2. i've made an appetizer of a seared scallop on a pea puree - frozen baby peas, heat in a little chicken stock, let cool a bit, add a little minced mint maybe, puree, heat again, add a little butter, more chicken stock if it needs to be thinner, but you want the scallop to sit in it. it's a very nice looking appetizer, and the sweetness of the peas really complements the scallop.

                      and from fellow CH-er, nomadchowwoman on the WFD thread, comes this recipe, paraphrased from somewhere else:

                      "chunks of lamb shoulder go into the tagine (no browning, though I think I would
                      brown if using a regular pot [I USED A REGULAR SKILLET AND I DID BROWN FIRST]) with olive oil, chopped onion, minced garlic, s&p, ground ginger, turmeric; all are tossed to coat. A cup each of drained, canned tomatoes and water are added, and the whole is brought to a boil slowly.
                      Heat is reduced, pot covered, and the stew simmers for 2 - 2 ½ hours. Then a
                      mix of minced parsley and cilantro and a cup of raisins (previously drained
                      after a hot soak) are added, and the stew cooks, uncovered another 30 minutes
                      until sauce is reduced and meat tender. The uncovered pot then goes into a 325
                      oven (before the preheating if using a clay tagine) and bakes until the meat
                      is glazed (not sure this step is really necessary; not sure my meat ever got "glazed" - [I DID THIS STEP, THE MEAT DID GLAZE]). Just before serving scattered over dish fried (pre-blanched--PITA, that step) almonds [I BOUGHT PRE-BLANCHED ALMONDS, SO, NOT A PITA AT ALL], black pepper and minced parsley or cilantro for color."

                      the edits in caps and brackets are mine. we LOVED THIS DISH. very warm and homey, i served it over pearl couscous, but it would go well over pappardelle, mashed potatoes, rice, etc. i served it with a salad of romaine, sliced yellow peppers, tomatoes, scallions, carrots, with a raspberry vinaigrette and a sprinkle of aleppo pepper for a little spice/heat.

                      1. Thanks all for your help. I've decided to make a lamb ragu to serve over pappardelle, with a side of rapini for the main dish. Will start with a warm salad of seared scallops over greens (and pomegranate probably). And for dessert, the chocolate creme brulee I haven't made in almost a year.

                        Brain back on track. I think I was in a caffeine valley last night.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: Nyleve

                            let us know how turned out ! um..maybe a recipe?

                          2. Braised and smoked pork belly. Sauce not needed. Maybe some pretty vegetable arrangement on the side. Braised smoked pork belly is both the grossest and tastiest thing I know of, a nice foil to seared scallops.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tim irvine

                              Sounds fab but there's nowhere nearby that I can get pork belly before Saturday. I've got a chunk of lamb shoulder out of the freezer already anyway. Will gladly share recipes if things turn out well. The only thing I've totally made before is the chocolate creme brulee. I'm one of those people who experiments on friends.

                            2. Report!

                              It was a really great dinner - one of my better ones, actually. Simple enough, really, but everything was delicious and it all went together beautifully. Thanks to all helped me figure out what to serve.

                              Starters were both from Molto Italiano by Batali. I made the marinated vegetables and Tuscan liver crostini. Vegetable mixture was much better than it has any business being - simple grilled eggplant, zucchini and peppers mixed with garlic, olives, and and oil and vinegar marinade. Really addictive (leftovers today made a great sandwich with fresh mozzarella). The liver crostini was delicious too - I had a small packet of chicken livers in the freezer that needed to be used and this was the perfect ending for them. Served everything with my homemade no-knead sourdough bread which I've been making lately since my son's friend gifted me with a jar of very lively Yukon sourdough starter. Killer.

                              Salad of baby greens and arugula topped with seared sea scallops, blood oranges and pomegranate. Dressing made with olive oil and maple vinegar. Raves. The scallops were perfect - since we can't get decent seafood where I live, I used frozen ones which required some serious water-removal. A few hours sandwiched between layers of paper towel did the job - I wouldn't have gotten the same sear if I hadn't dried them well.

                              Main was a rich lamb ragu with fresh pappardelle. My local pasta place doesn't cut pappardelle so I bought the sheets and cut them myself at home. I think I made them a bit too wide but otherwise the fresh pasta was fantastic with the ragu. With it, rapini sauteed with garlic and crushed chilies - maybe a bit too heavy on the chili, but whatever.

                              And for dessert, chocolate creme brulee, served with a handful of fresh raspberries. And port. Of course.

                              Anyway it was all good - I love it when a dinner turns out well. Sometimes you kill yourself making a meal and it's just ok - but this time it was excellent. My husband even washed all the dishes (I'm not even mad that he broke one of our good port glasses. Well maybe I'm a little mad...but never mind. He washed dishes!)

                              Willing to post any and all recipes, if anyone's interested.

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: mattstolz

                                  Pick me up on the way.

                                  I've been chuckling at the caffeine valley comment since I read it. I totally understand.

                                  1. re: jvanderh

                                    You all have to wash dishes though.

                              1. I've heard chichen livers are really tasty... never tried them. Sounds like a good way to begin. Would you post your recipe for the crostini? I might give it a go.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: hetook

                                  Since it's a published recipe from Molto Italiano, I'll have to paraphrase here.
                                  This liver concoction is delicious - very assertive with anchovies and capers, so maybe not for the chicken liver novice. But on the other hand, there are a lot of flavours going on here so maybe a good way to try chicken liver for the first time.

                                  Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Add one finely chopped onion, 1 tbsp. capers and 4 chopped anchovy fillets. Cook, stirring, until golden. Add 1/2 lb. chicken livers (rinsed and patted dry) and cook just until no longer raw. Add 1/2 cup red wine, 2 tbsp. tomato paste and some salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then dump into a food processor and process (pulse on and off) until well chopped but not smooth. Chill and serve with toasted rustic bread.

                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                    Thanx, sounds similiar to pate.

                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                      Nyleve, the dinner sounds wonderful!
                                      I love doing scallops as a first course too.

                                      Thanks for sharing about the Mario B Chicken liver mix - very different actually, with capers, red wine and tomato paste. I am famous for my quick chicken liver mousse with brandy, apple and cream. Will have to try your inspiration as it would have a very different flavor profile. Italy vs. France, basically.

                                      Thanks for sharing!

                                      1. re: gingershelley

                                        I realize that I'm always asking for help in devising a menu. I usually have one thing I want to make and then need to build a meal around that. CH has never let me down so I am happy to repay with, at the very least, a recipe or two.