Author Archives for A Capitol Contessa

About A Capitol Contessa

A woman who loves parties - both political and full of friends. I hope to inspire people to cook, entertain and have fun by sharing tips, tricks and mistakes along the way!

ACC Travels: Nantucket

As summer gets into its swing I know a lot of you have travel plans.  If I had it my way, I would spend the whole summer on Cape Cod, preferably Nantucket.  Unfortunately that is not in the cards, but I had a great trip right before the season officially kicked off so I can point you in the right direction for any of you lucky enough to visit over the summer.  Anyone who has ever been has been enchanted by this place but it does come at a cost – Nantucket ain’t cheap.  So I decided to share some places to eat and shop that include some higher and lower end places so you don’t have to eat just oyster crackers and water for the rest of your vacation.

For the Splurge…

The Straight Wharf – 6 Harbor Square

This place is such a little gem – right on the water (which is surprisingly hard to find on the island) and really special.

IMG_2256

The main dining room has luxury touches but feels very accessible with the colorful paintings and potted herbs used as centerpieces.

IMG_2252

A great way to start the meal is the spring pea salad with snap peas, english peas, parmesan, radicchio, pickled hots, and pistachios.  The perfect mix of textures and tastes comes together on the plate.  Local oysters are also a hit, served with a lemony granita.  The menu changes often but if their version of a personal clam bake is on the menu, make sure to order it.  Lobster, clams and some of the best sausage I have ever had.  It is an elegant take on a causal meal – the perfect example of what this place does well.  To round out the meal if they have a special galette (you have to order it early in the meal) make sure to get one as they highlight seasonal fruit and perfect homemade ice cream.

Ventuno – 21 Federal Street

Located right downtown in a charming historic home, Ventuno feels like the best Italian dinner party you have ever been to.

IMG_2305

The cozy interior makes the most of the historic architectural details – we were seated right by the fireplace.

IMG_2314Have fun with the menu – there are small bites, larger appetizers to share and then first and second courses.  The fried olives stuffed with sausage are completely addictive and a perfect match to their house Negroni.  We also tried the crostini with local honey and ricotta.  What a beautiful little toast!

They offer their pastas in two size portions so you can save room for everything else you want to try on the menu.  I had my mom’s favorite pasta, Spagetthi a la Vongole – and it was the best I have ever had.  Tender clams, crunchy breadcrumbs and a deeply flavored pasta was just perfection.

IMG_2311

Make sure to check out the extensive Italian wine list – there are a lot of pricey bottles but you can try some really great stuff by the glass and save yourself some money.

Toppers at the Wauwinet – 120 Wauwinet Road

I have been hearing about The Wauwinet for ages, my cousin and her husband actually got engaged at this incredible Relais and Chateaux approved hotel.  It is pretty far from downtown, out on the top part of the island, but they have a boat that will ferry you back and forth from the Harbor.  Brunch is a great way to try this incredible restaurant without breaking the bank.  Sure you could pop a $3,500 bottle with your eggs but you could also opt for the $14 sparkling cocktails (we went with option B).  Everything about this place is pitch perfect.  The shaded patio with views of the ocean – check.

IMG_2277

Bernaud china done with a Nantucket basket weave around the dishes – check.  Tender biscuits and pretzel rolls served in actual Nantucket baskets – check.

IMG_2284

We all felt incredibly well taken care of which is exactly what I expect in a hotel of this caliber.  Make sure to ask one of the hostesses to take your picture out on the sprawling green lawn that overlooks the water.  I am pretty picky about my lobster rolls and when I read that this one was served in a brioche roll instead of a split top bun (sacrilege!) I was nervous.  I am so glad I went with it – incredible french fries dusted with Old Bay and an all lobster meat, zero filler, roll bound together with brown butter mayo (!!!).

IMG_2287

Several of my group ordered egg dishes all of which they loved but everyone was stealing fries from me and others that had them so make sure to order a side of them if they don’t come with your brunch.  Freshly baked cookies was a sweet way to finsh off this lavish brunch.

For the save!!

Bartlett’s Farm – 33 Bartlett’s Farm Road

Whenever I travel I always want to cook with local produce and ingredients.  Not only it it an incredible way to taste local flavors but it also saves you a ton of money!  Bartlett’s Farm is my dream come true – family owned and meticulous about quality they have everything you could ever want for your Nantucket dinner party of your dreams.

IMG_2212

Fruits, veggies and baked goods alongside great cheeses and snacks as well as prepared foods means it’s a one stop shop.  They even have a great wine selection, carefully curated, and were just happening to be doing a rosé wine tasting right next to their rose bushes!

IMG_2214

Cisco Brewery – 5 Bartlett Farm Road

Right down the street from Bartlett Farm is one of the best reasons to visit Nantucket – Cisco Brewery.

IMG_2135

It’s not just a great craft brewery, they also have a distillery and vineyard on property.  They have live music, food trucks and SO many great doggies hanging out in the sun while their owners relax and party.

IMG_2127

This is the best gathering place – the minute we set foot on the property I start to smile.  It’s a bit out of the way but there is complimentary shuttle that will take you from downtown out there and every cab can find their way there blindfolded.

B-ACK Yard BBQ – 20 Straight Wharf

Located right next to the Harbor this BBQ place is relatively new and a great option for either lunch or dinner.

IMG_2250

The best way to try the most of the menu is one of their meals called “The Selfie.”  It comes with 2 meat options, 2 sides and rolls.  We loved the beef burnt ends, which is basically meat candy, and the mac and cheese is a must.  Split an appetizer (the dry rubbed wings are great) and then split the Selfie and you will have plenty of food.  This is a great option if you are traveling with kids as well (and if not they have an awesome craft beer selection!).

IMG_2152

Crosswinds – 14 Airport Road

If you ever watched “Wings” on TV you know that the airport on Nantucket is tiny and is supposed to have a cute diner style restaurant.  It does and it’s awesome!  It was 10am and Patrick and I are frantically figuring out new travel plans after cancelled flights (the hazards of being on an island) and we head into Crosswinds hoping to get some sustenance before we head out.  Little did I know this is the best diner on the island, maybe on the Cape!  I had to go with the grilled cheese and fries despite the hour and man were they good.  Definitely hitting this place up next time even if we take the ferry.

IMG_2315

There are so many other magical and delicious places to try on the island – Cru for oysters, Petticoat Row Bakery for amazing cakes and pastries,  Claudette’s Sandwich Shop by Siasconset Beach for beach picnic provisions – leave any suggestions you might have in the comments section.  Until next time Nantucket…

IMG_2236

SaveSave

SaveSave

Summertime Strawberry Sangria

One of the very first dinner parties my husband Patrick and I ever hosted was in the backyard of a house he shared with several roommates.  We invited a bunch of friends over and I attempted to be a hostess in a house I didn’t even live in.  It was a roaring success, which I mostly attribute to this sangria.  It’s that kind of drink that sort of sneaks up on you cause it is so easy to drink.  Mind you back then we were making a modified version with vodka in it as well.  Feel free to add some but it should definitely come with a warning label then!  Following that party we realized if we were going to keep our friends standing upright we would need to tweak the recipe given to us by a bartender at the famous Jose Andres restaurant, Jaleo.  So out came the vodka and I subbed mint with basil because I liked the flavor combos better but otherwise it is mostly as Mr. Andres served it.

If you have never used Liquor 43 before, go ahead and grab a bottle – it’s a citrusy liquor that could sub well in lots of cocktails that call for triple sec or orange brandy.  I think it is a bit more delicate and floral and it goes great in this drink.  The strawberries don’t make this overly sweet – they add a hint of flavor but mostly make for a delicious boozy snack you can munch on while drinking the cocktail.

Summertime Strawberry Sangria (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  special sangria at Jaleo
Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup Liquor 43
  • ice
  • 1 bottle Cava (I used my house sparkling)
  • a couple sprigs of basil

In a large pitcher combine the strawberries, white grape juice and Liquor 43.

You can do this several hours in advance.  When ready to serve top with a couple cups of ice, carefully pour in the sparkling wine and toss in the basil.  Stir to combine and serve.

Southern Fried Chicken Dinner

As I may have mentioned before, my mom’s desert island food is fried chicken (as is mine which would be really convenient if we ended up stranded on the same island) so in honor of her birthday today I thought I would post a menu all centered around my Fried Chicken Perfected – this has your weekend plans written all over it.

For this comforting, Southern themed meal I was inspired to use my vintage oyster cans as decoration.  I have been collecting these for several years – they are a symbol of the oyster industry that used to dominate the Chesapeake bay region.  I have them all over my house year round but they act as great vases for hydrangeas that I gathered from my front yard.  Since they were the center piece, and its almost summer, I figured just pull out all of my nautical gear and run with it.  How adorable is this row boat salt cellar??

DSC04022

Paper placemats are my jam and great for a casual dinner party like this – I have several nautical themed ones (#ihaveaproblem) like this or these rope ones.  I used these rope napkin rings we got on Nantucket and the rattan chargers remind me of their famous baskets.  Seersucker napkins top off the preppy vibe.

DSC04037

Food and Wine Curried Cashews

To start with I just wanted a couple of things to nibble on since the dinner is pretty heavy.  These curried cashews are easy to throw together and great with a beer or glass of rose.

DSC04027

Broccoli Slaw 

I make this broccoli slaw from Smitten Kitchen ALL THE TIME.  It is so healthy and so addictive.  People will think you are nuts, shaving down whole heads of broccoli but they will be converts once they have tried it.  The dried cranberries give a little nod to my New England upbringing at this Southern meal and the slaw is a nice crunchy foil to the fried chicken’s tenderness.

Fried Chicken Perfected

I can’t say better things about this fried chicken that hasn’t already been said by my friends.  Years of research and lots of mediocre fried chicken (which lets admit is still pretty good) led me to the perfect recipe that I share with you.  Eat it and be happy.

DSC04050

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Probably the second most requested thing I make right after the fried chicken so why not pair them together?  The Southern tradition of mac and cheese with fried chicken has been around forever and for good reason.  The velvety cheese sauce some times picks up crunchy bits of the chicken skin on your plate and then you are in heaven.

DSC04053

Bourbon Peaches with Ice Cream and Candied Pecans

You need a sweet treat at the end of this meal and a nice simple fruit dessert is just the ticket.  I make these bourbon peaches just like I do in my pancake bar post – sauté them with a little bit of butter, sugar and bourbon.  You can use frozen peaches or fresh ones if they are ripe enough.  Either way paired with vanilla ice cream and candied nuts (I had Southern appropriate pecans on hand) they are delicious.

So happy birthday mommy and I hope you all celebrate this weekend with fried chicken!

Hummus

Hummus definitely falls into that category of foods where you ask yourself, “Is it worth making this or should I just buy some?”  There are plenty of good brands of hummus to purchase, especially if you doctor it up with a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkling of zatar spice.  The thing is you can never quite buy yourself the super smooth, fresh tasting, garlicy punch of your own homemade hummus.  There are a zillion of hummus recipes out there and once again I have practically tried them all to try and find the right combination of teqniques.  Most purists will tell you to start with dried chickpeas, soak them over night, cook them with baking soda etc etc but at that point, for me at least, the scales of why can’t I just buy this and dispense with the hassle starts to tilt into convince’s favor.  So canned chickpeas it is.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be some work involved.  I found the somewhat tedious task of taking the skins off of the canned chickpeas makes for a substantially smoother and better tasting hummus.  It’s not as easy as just dumping the can into the food processor but at least it’s not a multi day effort.  To peel them, drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.  Then take the chickpea between your fingers and gently squeeze – you will find the weird white casing comes right off.  For a can of chickpeas it took me about 15 minutes – just turn on your favorite cooking show and get lost in the mindless task.

From my research I learned that the other benefit of cooking your own chickpeas was that when they are warm they take on the other ingredients better.  Well here we can easily cheat that by quickly nuking the skinned chickpeas in the microwave for a couple of seconds before adding them to the food processor.  After that its just a matter of taste with the amount of tahini, lemon juice and garlic.  The recipe below is how I like it but play around and see what you like best – some people really want more of that sesame tahini flavor, others really hate lemon juice and replace it with water.  The method is the key and once you have that down the sky’s the limit.  Hummus away!

Hummus 

  • 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained with the skins removed (see above)
  • 5 -6 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons tahini sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil and zatar for serving (optional)

Once all the chickpeas are peeled (see above on how to remove the skins) place them in a  microwave safe bowl and microwave them on high for 20 seconds.  Add the warmed chickpeas to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.  Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.

If its not as smooth as you would like add more warm water.  Chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld – serve room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of zatar (optional).

DSC05560

A Cinco Taco Party

Happy almost Cinco de Mayo!  I love, love, love, that it is falling on a Friday this year since I already do Fiesta Friday.  It also marks the 2 year anniversary of A Capitol Contessa being born, so lots to celebrate.  If you want to kick your celebration up a notch there are some cute ideas here on how to make your taco night extra special.

First up the margs – those are a given but how cute would it be to serve them in Patron bottles?  The mini bottles are sort of pricey but you can use the tequila inside and then just wash them out and reuse the bottles anytime you want to fiesta.

DSC01532

You could serve my spicy grapefruit margaritas from my very first post in honor of the anniversary (skip the salt air though as I am not sure how you would get it into these bottles).  If you are pressed for time, I like to cheat with this skinny margarita mix from Williams Sonoma.  I usually HATE margarita mixes because they taste super fake and have way too much acid but this one is great – I just doctor it up with a couple squeezes of fresh lime juice and you are good to go.  Now we need to talk decor – Mexican themed of course.  I like to throw down some serapes as table covers (they are excellent for hiding salsa spills).  I also found these colorful votive candle holders at the dollar section of Target – definitely look around close to Cinco de Mayo and you can find some cute items that you can pull out every Fiesta Friday.

dsc04233

Since this is a special party I always think favors are the way to go.  You can always do mini tequilas but I found these incredible bags of sea salt for margaritas in beautiful handwoven bags.  A really nice touch and something your guests can use over and over again at their own homes.

dsc04228

Ok on to the menu – the most important part!  You need a great starter to go with those adorable margaritas so try my queso and poblano dip.  I also set out regular salsa – I love Rick Bayless’s Chipolte Salsa, it’s the only jarred salsa I will eat.

DSC01537

Then on to the tacos – I went grilled chicken for ease but you could also make my carnitas or my Carne Asada tacos.  I just simply marinate chicken breasts for an hour or so in lime juice, olive oil and grated garlic and then throw in the grill.  Cause really it’s all about the toppings right?

DSC01545

I like to have as many toppings as possible and lots of them are things you already have in your house.  If all the queso and salsa aren’t gone from earlier set those out for the tacos.  Then chopped red onion, grated cheese (jack is my fave), some sautéed peppers and onions for a fajita type feel, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce…and on and on – the limit is your imagination!  I had some yummy mole sauce from a local Mexican market that I threw out there – those places are gold mines of inspiration.  Also make sure to set out hot sauces (we have maybe thirty), heat up some store bought tortillas and you have taco night.

dsc04236

To finish off the evening make life easy – grab some mango or strawberry popsicles from the store and call them paletas (Mexican popsicles) – especially good served in a glass of mezcal as a night cap!

Thank you to everyone for making A Capitol Contessa even more popular in its second year as in its first.  We had over 7,000 visitors!!!  It really is a joy for me to share my cooking and entertaining adventures with the world.  Raise a margarita and have a great Cinco de Mayo/Fiesta Friday!

ACC Parties: A Spring Menu for Easter

Easter in my family is a big deal and definitely my 2nd favorite holiday (sorry nothing beats Christmas!).  There is something about the little chickies, the pastel candy and all those spring ingredients that make me so happy.  Even if you don’t celebrate Easter the beginning of spring is a great time to gather your family and sit down to a nice meal that celebrates the best parts of the season.  Here is a suggested menu that has a lot of moving parts but actually very little needs to be done the day of, leaving you free to hunt Easter eggs and binge on candy with the fam.  I wanted the table setting to be whimsical, especially with kids in attendance.  I found these super cute carrot utensil holders at the dollar section of Target and paired it with our Vera Wang wedding china, set on chargers that sort of mimic an Easter basket.  Glitter eggs scattered over my homemade seersucker tablecloth and bam, spring is alive.

DSC03136

I don’t like to have giant flowers getting in the way of conversation so instead I opted for some thyme from my garden staggered down the center of the table in white pots.  How cute is that cabbage serving dish?  I found it for $4 at Home Goods the week before Easter so I knew it had to make it to the table.  I set up our kitchen island as a appetizer and drinks station with a floral Cynthia Rowley tablecloth (also Home Goods!) and some baby’s breath mixed with bells of Ireland for flowers.

DSC03127

Cheese and Chartucherie Board

No party is complete without one!  Since both of the aps I was actually making were veggie based I knew I had to get some cheese in here somehow.  Just pick a nice selection and throw some dried apricots or grapes on the plate to jazz it up.

Cooking Light Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Mint and Cream

DSC03126

Nothing is more springy that sweet peas (no one needs you know you get em out of a bag!).  This soup is simple and can be made up to two days in advance.  I served it in cute little glasses for sipping but discovered that the texture really wasn’t ideal for that so I would suggest providing spoons for people to eat the soup with instead.  It’s a super light appetizer that adds a nice green punch to the mix.

 Za’atar Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

DSC03121

I had been dying to make this dip since the first time I spotted it in Food and Wine Magazine all the way back in 2012 – goes to show how many recipes I have socked away!.  It’s totally beautiful but I knew it would also be delicious, being the brain child of Yotam Ottolenghi, of Jersuleam (and this post) fame.  Everyone loved the earthy complex flavor and of course the color!

Lamb Kebobs with Minted Yogurt Sauce

DSC03198

Lamb is the quintessential Easter dish but with grilled lamb kebobs you can make life much easier.  Marinate the lamb up to two days before and then just throw on the grill as you are having appetizers.  I love that it doesn’t hog the oven like a big lamb roast and it also encourages your guests to go outside and enjoy the spring, keeping the grill master company.  This version by Ina is so good though I skipped her sauce and went for my standard mint and yogurt sauce found here.

Make Ahead Polenta

DSC03194

As described in this post, make ahead polenta can be really done with any kind of polenta recipe you have by just increasing the liquid content.  This was a great side for the lamb and didn’t require me standing over a hot pot frantically stirring the polenta – it was even a hit with the kiddos!

Roasted Asparagus

DSC03190

Just toss spears with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet.  During the last 15 minutes of the polenta put the baking sheet in the oven, toss once and voila!  A nice crunchy veggie side with almost zero effort.

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

DSC03105

Ok so here is where most of the effort for the meal came in.  I realized when I was planning the menu that I had so many make ahead items that I didn’t really have much to do “day of.”  That can sometimes spell disaster because then I set and reset the table, putter around driving my husband crazy (and myself) before our guests arrive.  So I made an easy layer cake and decided to try my hand at the basket weave frosting on top.  I followed this tutorial from Wilton – it was actually pretty easy once I got the hang of it.  It does take a while and my hand was sort of cramped into a claw for a bit but you can do this first thing in the AM and just keep the cake at room temp (or in the fridge if it’s really warm in your house).  I also got  beautiful edible dried flowers from Terrian and scattered them on top.  I have to say I was really proud of this one but if you don’t have the time or energy a store-bought dessert or even this cake without the fancy pants frosting would be delicious.  Happy Spring to everyone!

ACC Parties: A Masters Party

Marry a golfer and you marry golf they say.  Well “they” are right.  From about March to November I can count on Patrick golfing at least once a weekend, every weekend, and sometimes twice.  I am not planning on taking up this incredibly frustrating and expensive sport, I will leave that to the husband.  However, I am not opposed to wearing preppy golf clothes, vacationing at lovely golf resorts and throwing a golf themed party when called for.  The Masters is actually the one golf tournament that I used to watch even before I met Patrick, simply because Augusta is that beautiful.  Even before HD the greens just always seemed so green and the rows of azalea bushes in bloom made you want to don a funny hat and some white pants and start wacking around a little ball.  I decided the best way to celebrate this annual event was with a party, so the golf lovers could watch the Saturday rounds, and those of us less invested would have yummy food and drinks to keep us entertained.  I may have gone a little theme overboard but that’s part of the fun.  Here are some great menu and decoration ideas to get you ready for the 2017 Masters.  You know I love a party favor and personalized tees were a no brainer for this one.  I got them at Oriental Trading and then put them in cello bags with Masters green ribbon.  Super easy to do and actually functional (if you golf).

DSC03323

Every party needs a bar and a signature cocktail.  The signature cocktail here was really easy – a John Daly.  This refreshing mix of lemonade, iced tea and vodka is a twist on the original Arnold Palmer and named for another, lets say more notorius golfer.  I split the difference on making my own iced tea and adding Trader Joe’s lemonade.  Just make sure to make a BIG pitcher and add fresh lemon slices, easy on the vodka.  This is an all day drinking affair so slow and steady wins the race.  We also had a selection of beer and wine over in the bar corner as well as in the other rooms.  For the bar set up I decided to riff on the famous Amen Corner of the Augusta National Golf Club.  Amen Corner is a nickname for the 11th, 12th and 13th holes and has something to do with the first time Arnold Palmer won his first Masters (ask a golf expert please – my expertise is parties).  Anyway since our fireplace is a perfect bar set up and in a corner – viola!  Some letters from Paper Source and we have Amen Corner.

DSC03329

Since Augusta is in Georgia I went with a Southern theme for the food.  Pulled pork sliders are delicious and easy to keep warm in a slow cooker so people can help themselves through out the day.  I made my own but you can also make life easier by ordering from your local BBQ place.  You also need a classic slaw that acts as a veggie side and works so well inside those sliders.  Make sure to have a spoon handy for people to serve the pulled pork and a big bowl of buns.

DSC03330

To keep the table themed and fun I used a grass table runner you can find on Etsy and glass jars full of golf balls.  The Masters always serves Pimento Cheese sandwiches so I made them using Southern Living’s recipe and then added cute little flags I made out of toothpicks and yellow paper.  Round things out with chips and mini corn muffins and people will have enough food to hang out all day.

DSC03333Last but not least you are going to need something sweet so I made Peaches and Cream Oatmeal cookies (georgia peaches get it??) and had a friend bring her delicious brownies.  Golfers and non golfers alike had a blast – I hope you enjoy this year’s Masters in style.  DSC03335

St. Patricks Day Dinner Party

As I have explained, St. Patrick’s day is a big deal in our house.  This year it is going to be even more awesome as it falls on a Friday and my sister in law Sara will be in town to celebrate.  DC watch out!  Last year I pulled together this fun little dinner party to celebrate.  Hopefully the menu and pictures inspire you for this Friday. Sláinte!

DSC03015

Decorating the table is easy for this one – anything green or gold works!  I used my favorite gold flatware and gold and black votive candles.  I just so happen to have several mini beer mugs (don’t you??) that I used to hold a sprinkling of baby’s breath down the middle of the table.  Paired with green linens and a rattan charger for contrast it was a super easy table to pull together.  For additional green, Bells of Ireland and Babys breath in a large vase at the end of the table.

DSC03034

Black Velvet

DSC03043

Guinness is essential for a St. Patrick’s day feast, but for those of you who are not a big fan or who want to class it up a bit may I suggest the Black Velvet.  Half Guiness, half Champagne (or in this case Cava) you use the back of the spoon to pour the two which creates this amazing layered effect.  Also the cava brightens up the Guinness making for a lovely drink.

DSC03018

I served these with an Irish cheese board that included Dubliner cheddar, a Irish whiskey washed cows milk cheese, some fig jam, candied walnuts and a Cashel blue cheese from County Tipperary.

Brown Butter Soda Bread

DSC03028

I make this every year without fail.  It is hands down the best soda bread recipe I have ever tried and even better, it makes two loaves!  The browned butter gives it a nutty rich taste and the rosemary adds a freshness.  If you have never baked bread, this is where to start as it requires no kneading or pans and is practically impossible to mess up.  Make sure to pick up some good Irish butter to serve it with.

Boston Lettuce with Buttermilk Dressing

DSC03044

You have to have some green right?  I love beautiful Boston lettuce (some call it bibb but not this Bostonian!) as its so tender and light.  You can serve it whole like I did which makes it look like you plucked it right from a beautiful Irish garden, or cut into wedges for individual servings.  Drizzled with this buttermilk dressing its a great fresh start to the meal.

Patrick’s Irish Stew Pot Pies

DSC03054

This stew that I posted last St. Patrick’s day is delicious all on its own but my boy looooves pot pies so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to combine the two.  Also a great excuse to use my cute little shamrock cookie cutters!  Make the stew in advance, then just put into individual bowls.  Defrost some puff pastry, you will probably need 2 sheets for 4 pies.  Cut out circles slightly larger than the top of the bowl.

Brush the edges of the bowl with egg wash and then top with the puff pastry.  You will need to cut slits in the top to let steam escape or you can use a cookie cutter like I did to make a shamrock hole.  Brush the top of the puff pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes or so until golden.

Guinness Ice Cream Floats

DSC03067

No real recipe needed here – just scoop your favorite vanilla ice cream into a tall glass and top with as much Guinness as you would like.  Drizzle on some chocolate sauce and you are in business!  All of these dishes are pretty easy so even when St. Patrick’s day falls on a weeknight you can impress your friends.  Happy St. Patricks!

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Yes 40 cloves!  This beautiful French dish was one of my favorites as a kid – partly because of the novelty of how much garlic is in it and partly because its 100% delicious.  This is a great spring dish because its hearty but not heavy so no matter what the temps are outside its appropriate.  Please don’t be scared off by the garlic – this could even be a date night dish!  Once you have cooked the garlic it becomes totally sweet and not stinky at all.  Make sure to pick up some crusty bread to serve alongside so you can spread the melting garlic cloves on the bread and sop up all the sauce.  There are a lot of different versions out there so once again I went through and tried all of the recipes I could find and then combines the best of all of them to achieve this recipe.

Peeling the garlic can be a pain but I sort of find it therapeutic.  If you want to do it in advance and store in the fridge for a couple of days you can do that.  I use the palm of my hand to push down on the clove ever so slightly so that the skin separates from the garlic but not so much that it crushes the clove (also I won’t tell anyone if you buy already peeled garlic, just make sure its whole cloves not chopped).  I would say it takes about 7 minutes to peel so factor that into your cooking time.  This is such great comfort food – serve it with mashed potatoes or polenta (and don’t forget that bread!) along with a nice clean green salad.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 bone in skin on chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 40 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 3 teaspoons chopped tarragon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the chicken pieces then cook in batches just so the chicken is nicely browned, about 5 minutes per batch.

When the chicken is browned reserve it on a plate.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic.  Sauté the garlic for 5 minutes, turning down the heat if you need to so it doesn’t burn.  Add the white wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan getting up all the good brown bits.

Return the chicken to the pot, skin side up, and add the chicken stock.  Cover and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken and garlic to your serving platter and cover with foil.  Put the dutch oven back on the stovetop and cook down the juices over medium high for about 5 minutes until reduced a bit.  Stir in the cream and tarragon, taste for salt and pepper, then pour over the chicken and garlic.

dsc05306

ACC Parties: A Classy Cocktail Affair

Happy Valentines day!  This post is a perfect fit for today – romance and cocktails.  This party plan is for a classy cocktail party which I threw to celebrate the engagement of our dear friends, Erikka and Michael.  They are such an amazing couple so I wanted to go the extra mile to make this one memorable which meant dressing up, gold everywhere and thoughtful touches.  One tough issue to tackle as a hostess is either guests who you aren’t super familiar with or guests that don’t know each other all that well.  That was the case here, with family and friends coming in from all over so I wanted to keep the mood light while still making it feel special.  My solution – a make it yourself cocktail bar.  The centerpiece of this party certainly gave me some sleepless nights leading up to the date (are people going to think I am a jerk asking them to make their own drinks???) but it was a hit!  It really encouraged mingling and being engaged in the party and also freed up myself and Patrick to make sure everyone was felt taken care of with food etc.

dsc05110

Pick a couple of classic cocktails that are relatively easy to make – I went with the  classic martini, manhattans, negroni and vesper.  I printed out the recipes and framed them so even a cocktail neophyte could be their own mixologist.  Then set out everything people will need to make the cocktails – the key here is in the luxe touches.  Instead of setting out giant bottles of vodka and gin I put them out in pretty decanters.  You will also need a selection of liqueurs like vermouth for the martinis.  We also had sparkling wine (my favorite house one of course) for those who didn’t want to do the cocktail thing so I set out casis, framboise and St. Germain as good toppers for the bubbly.  Red and wine wine as well as some beer rounded out the bar.

dsc05111

Ramekins with all the garnishes needed like stuffed olives, maraschino cherries and citrus twists meant it was super easy for guests to customize their drink.

dsc05114

Real glasses are a must here, plastic just won’t do.  Shop around to find something that fits your style and budget. I went with these martini glasses from World Market, that were perfect because of the slight bend in the glass they also worked for sparkling wine, almost like a coupe.  I couldn’t help myself and got custom made martini glasses for the happy couple.

dsc05118

I always like to give out favors and for this party they served a purpose as well.  I found these great mini shakers on a restaurant supply site and got one per guest.  People used them to make their cocktails and then got to take them home to remember all the fun we had.  The shakers set out out on the table added even more metallic glamour.

dsc05129

If people are knocking back cocktails all night you want to make sure the food is substantial.  I kept with the classic theme and did old school appetizers, just classed up a little.  Pigs in a blanket are always a favorite but made with puff pastry and poppy seeds they have way more flavor than the original.

dsc05159

Who doesn’t love a cheese puff?  Gougeres are amazing french cheese puffs and best of all they can be made in advance, frozen and then reheated right before the party.  These went FAST.

dsc05158

The chicken salad veronique cups that I posted a couple of weeks ago were a perfect one bite so people didn’t have to mess around with forks or knives.

dsc05146

Add a very substantial cheese board, bowls of olives and nuts, and some dips (I made the groom’s favorite with crudite) and people will have plenty to nosh on while they mix and mingle.

dsc05139

I ordered these beautiful napkins from For Your Party – they are my favorite resource for customized items and they always turn out beautiful.

dsc05122

Finish off the party with something sweet – I did my Individual Tiramisu because they are a sentimental favorite of the couple.  You could always head to your local bakery and get a selection of cookies, brownies etc to make things even easier.

dsc05209

It was an incredible night for an incredible couple.  But don’t wait for friends to get engaged to throw this party – this would be a great way to break up the winter doldrums by getting dressed up and shaking some cocktails.  Wishing everyone a very happy Valentines day and congratulations Erikka and Michael!!

dsc05148

%d bloggers like this: