Inspiration for my dinner party themes come from everywhere, including a bottle. I was trying to think of an ingredient that I could build a whole menu around when it occurred to me that I not only like to serve wine with every course but I also love cooking with wine. Why not use dishes that all have wine in them, and not just as a bit player but as the main event. I tried to really stretch myself and use all kinds of wine – white, red, dessert, sparkling. Invite your friends to bring over their favorite bottles to match the wine soaked meal and you are sure to have a great time.
For decor I kept it pretty simple with fall colors and lighting. Make sure to have wine glasses that match your wine (i.e. flutes for champagne, white and red wine glasses) at the ready so people don’t have to mix in their glass.
Also try to pick wines that mirror, or are the same as those you put in the dish – I happened to have a magnum of my house white so I could use it in the Beurre Blanc dip as well as serve it on the side. For the stew grab an extra bottle of red that you are planning on serving because a whole bottle goes into it. The entire meal can be made in advance and then just reheated which means you will have plenty of time to hang and drink wine with your friends without having to worry about stirring or flipping anything. Let the wine soaking begin!
Appetizer – Whipped Beurre Blanc Dip
If you have never had beurre blanc sauce on something you haven’t really lived. Luckily the geniuses at Food and Wine magazine came up with this incredible dip that tastes a lot like the rich buttery sauce. It’s not easy to find an appetizer that uses 2 whole cups of wine! By cooking it down, this dip looses the booze taste and just retains the delicious winey flavor. Add in lots of creme fraiche and you have a rich creamy dip perfect for dipping salty potato chips. I served the white wine that went into the dip along side as well as our favorite local sparking from Greenhill Vineyards – sparkling wine or champagne if you have it pairs nicely with the richness of the dip and the saltiness of the chips. Also how beautiful is that dip with the shallots, lemon zest and chives on top? A real show stopper.
Main Course – Parker’s Beef Stew
An Ina classic, this beef stew takes an entire bottle of red wine to make. She really puts the wine to work by using it as a marinade for the beef first and then as part of the stew.
What you end up with is incredible slow cooked flavor that also has that tart edge of wine. Make sure to use a nice bottle that you would want to serve along side the dish. I went with a Cabernet Savuignon, Ina suggests a Bordeaux but really any medium to heavy body wine with lots of flavor will do. Best part is that it’s a one pot wonder with meat and veggies included so you can serve it on its own for the main event or with some crusty bread to sop up the sauce.
Dessert – Poached Pears
Last but definitely not least we come to dessert made out of what else but dessert wine. Another whole bottle goes in (if you are counting that is now almost 2,000 ml of wine in this meal!) and poaches the pears as well as becomes the sauce. For those of you who think you don’t like dessert wine and have a dusty bottle hanging around somewhere that was gifted to you this is the perfect dish to use it in.
The fresh ginger and tart pears counteract the sweetness of the wine. Best part the pears can be made way in advance – just take the ice cream out 20 minutes before you want to serve it to let it soften. More dessert wine would pair great with this as would port or another bottle of bubbly. I hope you guys enjoy this menu with your friends – just make sure to have a DD or Uber handy following the meal!