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Comfort Food Dinner with Friends

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It's been a while since I've been here but I need help...

I'm having friends over for dinner next Friday after work, and I want all comfort foods, great for a chilly winter night.

My dilemna:

Main:
I've decided on cottage pie, but I'm back and forth on a side. I found a recipe for apple-carrot slaw that seems nice...but then I go back to just serving a green salad, then I think that's so ordinary....don't know...

Next...what about apps? I'm thinking a few 'old school' items like stuffed mushrooms and deviled eggs but then I see a recipe for avocado fries with chipotle dipping sauce or mac and cheese bites and I can't make up my mind!! Should I go with 2 or 3 different items...more?

I'm also going to have fresh biscuits and/or corn bread on the table with the main, but then I start thinking: should I serve soup? I can't imagine having a dinner party and not having soup(apple butternut or sweet potato), but this all seems like a lot of food, I want everyone to enjoy themselves, not be too full to move.

Obviously it's going to be a light dessert, I haven't figured out what yet, but I'm not worried about that.

Clearly I need help!! So jump in and tell me what you think. Thanks. : )

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  1. re: green salad, as long as it's good, it's not "ordinary" - don't worry about that - after all, this is a 'comfort food' dinner among 'friends' - i'm sure everyone'll love it. tho you might be worried that soup is too much, i feel like a hot, thick soup is just the right way to start a comfort food dinner with friends - especially with fresh biscuits or rolls on the table.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ahuva

      I've served soup in small Chinese soup bowls in the living room and people seem to enjoy that.

      If you're want "chilly winter night" food, I'd replace the salad with a hot vegetable. I'm currently eating kale a lot. Depending on how many people, sautee some bacon cut in thin slices with shallots and mushrooms, cut the kale in slices and saute with the above. Add a little liquid (I like chicken broth but even water is alright), cover and cook down. S&p.

    2. I wouldn't serve a soup with cottage pie, personally, since I think of it as sort of a glorified stew. Instead, do your green salad as a first course with toasted goat cheese rounds to make it a little more substantial (I love goat cheese rolled in crushed nuts and served with a sour cherry vinaigrette over greens). The apple and carrot slaw sounds like a nice side for the cottage pie - something fresh to cut the richness. Instead of biscuits or cornbread I'd go with soda bread or even just a good baguette (with salad and main).

      As far as apps go, I don't think you need much with the hearty dinner menu you have planned. I'd do some nuts and olives, plus one of your app choices (I'd do the deviled eggs) - that will be plenty for people to nibble on with cocktails and won't ruin appetites for the main event.

      1. Two very good, but diferent views. Thanks for commenting.
        I like the goat cheese/sour cherry vinaigrette salad idea. I think I will lighten up on the apps, at first I was thinking only a cheese/olive tray..but to me, apps are the best part of a meal, I could make a meal of those alone, actually but I just want to have the variety for my guests.

        So main will be the slaw with the cottage pie.

        But....

        I also like the point about the hot soup being a good start...I want it to be a night about comfort, which makes me think soup, but I don't want anyone to be uncomfortable by being too full.

        Usually I wouldn't stress so much, I'm normally quite confident in these things, but a couple that's coming host dinner parties quite often and, I swear, she should be on 'Come Dine With Me' or one of those shows...she thinks of everything and her nights are always so lovely. So, of course, I want to equal her efforts.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Aeval

          I love soup, I always serve it in the winter. If you are worried about it being to much, just dish up a smaller amount and don't do a heavy soup like potato.

          Here is a soup I have been making for company lately, it is earthy and creamy, with slight tartness (I used gala apples for it)
          Apple Celery root
          http://www.jamieoliver.com/magazine/r...

          Also consider throwing some beets into your salad, either roasted or raw shredding. Such pretty colour, and seem very wintery to me.

        2. Personally, as a guest I would love to be presented with a bowl of steaming hot soup -- a kind of reward for braving the cold :). One way to cut down on heaviness is to serve mini portions of the soup, but don't skip it entirely. I'm wondering if you could somehow include it in the app part of the evening ...?
          If you serve the apple carrot slaw, probably better not to have apple in the soup.

          1 Reply
          1. re: almond tree

            I was just going to suggest this - if you are married to a soup, serve it as an appetizer, in "shooter" portions. You might even try hollowing out miniature rolls and filling them with soup. An artichoke/leek soup would be nice, or maybe butternut squash/fennel.

          2. with cottage pie and biscuits on the table, even a small portion of starchy, creamy soup can be overkill. creamy/cheesy apps tend to deaden the palate. a light, but intense broth, either chicken or veg, with a smattering of colorful veggies in pretty shapes and a big hit of citrus will warm the soul and not be too rich. if you want something more, a roasted red pepper soup with a chicken stock base would work too and add color to the meal.

            the apple/carrot slaw sounds so good. i'd probably add some fennel. :)

            13 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I wouldn't add fennel as many people don't care for it.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Good point about the cheese. I read recently that really cheeses (in that person's opinion) should rarely be served pre-meal. Too heavy. Serve at the end as a cheese course. I never thought of it that way and I agree.

                1. re: c oliver

                  even though i am american, i never understood the american preponderance for cheesy/creamy apps and starters. even in small amounts it's very rich, and yes, utterly dulls the palate.

                  it's the food equivalent of starting the meal with port instead of champagne.

                  warm creamy soups have their place at a winter table, but not before a heavy meaty meal.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    What would you suggest for appetizers?

                    1. re: Aeval

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/880797

                      I make something that is always scarfed down. Italian tuna packed in olive oil, with some minced capers, red onion and chopped cilantro, s&p. I add some extra REALLY good olive oil (sometimes my special Meyer lemon flavored one) and a little sherry vinegar. Thanks to Molinar's Deli in SF for this one :)

                      1. re: Aeval

                        pre-soup? it's a rich meal and a weeknight, right? salty nuts and olives, maybe some chilled shrimp. even home-made potato chips work here.

                        a dairy-free puree of red pepper or golden beets for the soup, drizzled with a colorful swirl of basil oil. it will feel rich on the palate but not in the stomach. this can also be made ahead and reheated nicely.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          We were in Barcelona recently and Marcona almonds and olives were a standard. Another good rec.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            these along with giant caperberries and i ate little bites of salty heaven everyday in spain.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              I love giant caperberries and have a jar in the fridge. Great in a martini :) Which also brings up another rec for an app. Go to the olive bar in a lot of groceries and get a great selection of olives, mushrooms, pickled vegetables, etc. I do that quite often.

                              I could live in Spain for the food.

                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                            I'm all over the nuts/olives/shrimp. Classic. In fact, given enough of those, they would be my meal.

                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                          Like the port/champagne analogy. I never thought about it but, yeah, it's supposed to whet the appetite not take it :)

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            How about a clear broth soup with some slivers of vegs? Just something to take the chill off.

                        3. re: hotoynoodle

                          MMM red pepper soup, I like that!