Sunday, October 3, 2010

Project Food Blog #3 - Luxury Dinner Party

 You're cordially invited to the Autumn Potato Feast!

In the third challenge for Project Food Blog, I was so excited to have the fortune to throw a Luxury Dinner Party. I love entertaining and cooking for family and friends. I normally cook any dish that sounds tantalizing and do not worry too much about a theme or intricate decorating since I'm more focused on the time with people and delicious flavor of the food. However, I love a challenge and developed a theme and plan on how to throw a luxurious dinner party everyone would enjoy.

I love autumn and the new feelings this time of year brings. The air becomes crisp and cooling, and scenery anew with a speckling of color from the changing leaves. The house is normally filled with the smells of apple cider and spices from baking comforting cookies and apple butter. It's a happy time of year that comes out often through food.

Since the potato harvest is soon upon us, the market is beginning to fill with all kinds of potatoes. Growing up with a tasting of Native American recipes often included potatoes, so this is a vegetable my siblings and I thoroughly enjoy. I decided to use potato in every course at dinner and use more delicate recipes to showcase many of the capabilities this humble vegetable can perform.

Throwing my sisters a luxurious dinner party could not have come at a better time. My middle sister, Kate, just moved into a new place and my youngest sister, Autumn, just turned 18. I wanted to throw them a dinner to celebrate their new chapters and celebrate being together. Since I live several hours north, we do not have opportunities to spend time together like we used to. Although my ingredients may not evoke feelings of luxury, the time spent with my sisters was priceless. The ability to sit down as adults together and share a home cooked meal and catch up about the events in our lives is what defines luxury for me.

A successful dinner party begins with planning ahead. By mapping out a meal plan and executing it in sections will ensure everything is ready in time without being rushed, and allowing time for the unexpected. Following a theme is usually easier to account for seasonal ingredients and the amount of time you have to dedicate overall in preparation. When the party is over, your guests will be left with its memory - make sure you've planned well enough to make it a great one, no matter how simplistic or elaborate the party may be. Below is my plan for this dinner party which can be adopted for any dinner party you're throwing:

Three Days Before
  • Prepare a final meal plan and go shopping
Two Days Before
  • Prepare the gnocchi dough and store in the refrigerator
  • Cook & store the windowpane potatoes in a tupperware on the counter; store the aioli sauce in the refrigerator
One Day Before
  • Cook & store the cheesecake in the refrigerator
  • Iron the linens & set aside the dinnerware to be used (or set the table if possible)
The Day of the Party
  • Cook the gnocchi and sage sauce
  • Prepare & cook the hasselback potatoes
  • Prepare & cook the red potatoes
  • Prepare the martinis
  • Leave time to get ready!
Some of these recipes take time and attempting to do them all on the same day is overwhelming. Plus if anything goes amiss, you'll have time to start over or make adjustments without becoming stressed. You should also enjoy the party as much as your guests!

My sisters joined me in the kitchen for some of the final touches to the meal. They kept ogling the new items to eat and complimented how amazing the kitchen smelled. The aioli sauce caught their attention from the garlic lingering in the air. Guests at your party often like to feel helpful, so it's nice to have something small but interesting for them to help with if appropriate. I was able to teach my sisters new recipes by sharing the final touches some dishes with them. It helped start and keep the conversation going, plus I learned new things about them at the same time.

We had a wonderful evening enjoying each course, catching up with each other, and our childhood friend, Krissy. And thank you to Alex, Kate's boyfriend, who stayed behind the scenes to help take pictures during dinner.

I think honesty is important between family, and they happily said each dish was amazing. Even though every item, including the vodka, was made from potatoes, the flavors were unique enough not to be monotonous or dull. The martinis especially (even the non-alcoholic version for Autumn) put everyone in a fall mood. We even had time to make some holiday plans over dinner - and everyone expects to see some of these dishes make a second appearance at the dinner table this year. The cheesecake will have an encore presentation for certain.

From the Far Left: Autumn, Kate, Brie, & Krissy
Good luck throwing your own dinner party - just remember it's your celebration, too.

Brown Sugar Vodka Martinis
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
4 tbsp butter
2 oz vodka
2 oz apple cider
cinnamon sticks

In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and spices. Melt the butter over low heat, then pour into the bowl and mix thoroughly. 

Place 2 tsp of the sugar mixture in the bottom of each martini glass. Pour in the vodka and apple cider. Garnish with a cinnamon stick in order to stir the drink together before enjoying. (Can also be made with just apple cider for a non-alcoholic drink.)

~Original by Brie.

Windowpane Russet Potatoes with Aioli Sauce

2 large russet potatoes
fresh herbs - cilantro, dill, Italian parsley, sage

Wash and dry each potato. Use a mandoline on the thinnest setting, preferably at 0.5mm (I actually use mine in the locked position for this recipe). Slice the potatoes lengthwise to get long, paper-thin slices. After both potatoes have been sliced, place several slices at a time on a tea towel to cover, press, and dry.

Preheat the oven to 400*F. Butter a baking sheet and lay as many slices down as possible without any touching. Place a spring of dill or another herb leaf down per slice, then top with another potato slice and press gently to ensure no air is in the center. Top with parchment paper, a second baking sheet, and a heavy pan. Cook for 20 min until lightly brown and crispy.


1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tbsp mayonnaise

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the pieces of garlic into a paste. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the salt, pepper, and mayonnaise and stir together. Serve in the mortar.

~ Adapted from Cooking Light.

Purple Potato Gnocchi in a Sage Cream Sauce

kosher salt
28 oz purple potatoes
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour + extra for shaping

In a large pot filled with water over high heat, bring to a boil and add 2 tbsp kosher salt. Add the purple potatoes and allow to boil for 45 min.

Remove the purple potatoes from the pot one at a time with a slotted spoon. Using a small knife, cut in half and peel off the skin. Feel for any knots on the ends or from the eyes and cut off. Once all the purple potatoes have been peeled, use a fork to scrap the potatoes and deconstruct them, trying to avoid mashing them.

Shape the potatoes into a mound with a well in the middle. Crack the egg in the center and pour 1 cup flour over the potatoes. Begin mixing together and once the flour has been incorporated, add the other 1 cup flour, adding more until it is no longer tacky.

Separate the potato dough into six pieces. Roll each piece into a log and cut into squares no bigger than 1 inch. Sprinkle flour over the pieces before moving them aside so they do not stick together. 

Once the pieces have been cut, use a gnocchi board or a fork to shape the distinct ridges into the gnocchi. (Store on a baking sheet in the refrigerator if not cooking right away.)

Sage Cream Sauce

2 tbsp butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sage, finely chopped

In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the shallot. Cook for 5 min until browned, then add the pecans and cook for 2 min stirring occasionally. Then add the white wine, heavy cream, and sage and stir well. Allow it to simmer over low heat while cooking the gnocchi.

Cooking the Gnocchi

When ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to boil with 2 tbsp kosher salt. Carefully add the gnocchi in batches of 25 pieces. The gnocchi are ready to remove when they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the sage cream sauce and stir. Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked and well blended in the sage cream sauce. Serve immediately.

~Yields 6 servings.

~Adapted from 101 Cookbooks & Epicurious.

Yukon Gold Hasselback Potatoes
4 Yukon gold poatoes
4 large garlic cloves
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

Wash and dry each potato. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice very thin sections from one end of the potato to the other. Go slow and hold the potato steady. Do not allow the knife to reach the cutting board. Use a mandoline set on the thinnest setting, 0.5 mm, to slice each garlic clove very thinly. Place a slice of garlic between each potato section.

Once all the potatoes are sliced, heat the oven to 425*F. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, then top with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 30 - 35 min. The skin should be crispy, but the inside still soft. Once removed from the oven, top each potato with 1 tbsp butter and serve warm.

~Yields 4 servings.

~Recipe by Seasaltwithfood.

Roasted Red Potatoes & Crimini Mushrooms
4 large red potatoes, chopped
8 crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425*F. Place the chopped vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20 - 25 min. Remove from the oven and plate, then top with capers.

~Yields 4 servings.

~Adapted from Simply Recipes.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Broiled Marshmallows

35 ginger snap cookies
1/4 cup pecans
1 stick butter


3 8oz packages cream cheese
3 eggs
2 tbsp maple syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp clove
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp flour
1 cup sweet potato (1 large sweet potato)


1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp brown sugar

+ jumbo marshmallows

First, preheat the oven to 450*F and bake a sweet potato for 45 min.

For the crust, grind the ginger snap cookies into a powder in the food processor. Then add the pecans and pulse a few times until incorporated. Pour into a large bowl. Melt the butter over medium heat on the stove, then add to the cookie mixture and stir until fully combined. Press into the bottom of a buttered 9x9 glass baking pan and set aside.

In a mixer, add the ingredients of cream cheese through maple syrup and combine until smooth. Then peel the baked sweet potato and add the flesh to the cream cheese mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Some small pieces of sweet potato may remain which is okay. Pour onto the crust and bake for 45 - 55 min at 325*F until just the center remains a little wobbly.

While the cheesecake bakes, combine all the topping ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Store in the refrigerator until the cheesecake has cooled for 30 min, then smooth on top. Allow the cheesecake to cool for at least 4 hours before serving, although overnight would be best.

Before serving,  place a few jumbo marshmallows on a baking sheet and broil for 15 - 20 seconds until brown on top. Use a fork to transfer to the tops of each piece, then serve.

~Yields 9 servings.

~Adapted from Homesick Texan.


  1. Brie - this looks like it was a ton of work, but you did a wonderful job! I'm so impressed. And it looks like your dinner guests had fun too. Congratulations and best of luck!

  2. Oh. My. Gosh. Looks so good, you got my vote! :)

  3. Your window pane potatoes look fantastic. Great post!!

  4. Awesome dinner, Brie! I love the colour of the gnocchi... blue potatoes are so hard to find here, but I may have to hunt some down just to try. And those windowpane potatoes are so unbelieveably pretty, I'd be tempted to frame them instead of eating them. :)

  5. Everything looks amazing, loved the herbs in the middle of the potato chips.

  6. Brown sugar vodka martinis sound like a dream come true and I will DEFINITELY be making them in the future!! Fabulous dinner party! :)


  7. Everything looks :)

  8. Love the potato theme! how awesome!! you have my vote!


  9. Those brown sugar martinis sound absolutely amazing!!

  10. I love all the different kinds of potatoes, espically the blue ones. Don't think I have ever seen them around here. Oh and I love the brown sugar martinis, I have to try them.

  11. Everything looks delicious. I love those windowpane potatoes- how unique and cool!

  12. oh my goodness i'm making that sweet potato cheesecake. i'd make it now if it weren't practically 1a.m. and i had sweet potatoes and/or cream cheese on hand. dang.

  13. Wow! A whole menu, including dessert(!), based on the humble potato - amazing! I especially love the way the Yukon gold looks, almost like an accordion. Good luck in PFB!

  14. Your recipes are awesome, your pics are so detailed and helpful, there is so much about this that I love. Great job!

  15. Wow! Fantastic! I love the windowpane potatoes! They are so pretty! It looks like a wonderful party! You've got my vote!

  16. I love your menu! So impressive! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

  17. Very cleverly done and beautiful presentation!

  18. Windowpane chips are the coolest. Nice work! :)

  19. Love the theme, the table setting! And that sweet potato cheesecake sounds divine! Well done. So very impressed with your cooking and hosting skills! Wonderfully done!

  20. wow, i want that windowpane potato!!

  21. Mmmmmmm......a nice high carb dinner party! I love it! You had me a sweet potato cheesecake :0) Cheers, you got my vote...hope we both make it through :) :)

  22. How could I *not* vote for an all-potato menu! And I will definitely have to try those windowpane potatoes - I love how they look :)

  23. Congrats Congrats going onto challenge #4!!! Must be exciting for you! Good luck and all the best. Happy Thanksgiving to you! You'll be getting the next vote from me :) Your awesome!

    Have a happy thanksgiving!
    jen @

  24. This dinner sounds wonderful, I love the potato theme :)! Great job on all of the food!