Thursday, January 1, 2009

Goodbye 2008 (A Dinner Party)

2008 has been a big year for me so I had to see it out in style. Beginning in February, I took my first overseas trip by myself to go visit my little bro in the Peace Corps in Senegal, Africa. In April, Joe and I bought our first place together and I became a home owner for the first time. Most importantly though, we got married in October!

Since it has been a year of a lot of firsts and new beginnings, it was fitting I threw my first real, adult dinner party in 2008. Well as adult that you could call a night that ended in paper towel mummies, someone climbing over one of our lofted walls and my friend sleeping at the foot of Joe's and my bed without us noticing until about 9 am this morning.

Anywho, I'm looking forward to a less eventful 2009 with more time to cook (maybe even bake) and of course, blog about it!

The Menu

Mixed Greens Salad with Lobster, Brown Sugar Bacon, Avocado and Grapefruit

Truffled Angel Hair Pasta with Wild Mushrooms

Tuscan Grilled Veal Chops

Buttered Green Beans with Almonds

Mint Chocolate Trifle

All recipes (except for the Trifle) came from Viking Cooking School in Cleveland. My mom, sister and I have started a tradition together in the last few years of taking a class together around the holidays. We took this class last week so it was perfect to have already tested out the recipes and see how the timing goes for everything.

I've taken classes from some other places in Chicago and I love the Viking classes the best, I wish they had one here.

Mixed Greens Salad with Lobster, Brown Sugar Bacon, Avocado and Grapefruit with Vinaigrette

This salad is AMAZING. By far my favorite part of the dinner, both at Viking and last night. It was also a great way to serve lobster but stretch your buck, since you're not serving them whole. I think the Viking recipe calls for 1 tail per person, but I did 4 tails for 8 people and it worked out just fine.


mixed greens
brown sugar

lobster tails
red wine vinegar
olive oil


- The first thing I started was the brown sugar bacon. Umm.....this is heavenly. I think I'm going to be making brown sugar bacon for lots of other recipes. Super easy, just lay the bacon out on a
non-stick cookie sheet and sprinkle brown sugar liberally over it. Stick in the oven at 350 and let it crisp up (or however you like your bacon, but crispy definitely worked best for this salad. When the bacon is done - leave it in the pan and DO NOT discard the juices!

- Next, I did grapefruit and avocado. Simply toss diced avocado and grapefruit segments in a bowl together and squeeze the remaining grapefruit juices over to keep the avocado from browning. Then I stuck it in the fridge to chill.

- Then I made the vinaigrette, again super easy. In a mixing bowl, start with chopped shallots, red wine vinegar (I honestly don't know how much, probably about 1/3 cup, but vinaigrette's are 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. Then slowly pour in the bacon juices and olive oil while whisking (the bacon juices are probably about 1/4 cup, then the rest is oil). Salt and pepper to taste.

- I did the lobster tails next, which don't take long at all in the oven. I just drizzled some olive oil on them and salt and pepper. They took about 4 minutes at 350.

- Once the lobster tails are done and slightly cooled, chop them up and arrange on top of the mixed greens with the avocado and grapefruit, pour the vinaigrette over top and garnish with chives.

Truffled Angel Hair Pasta with Wild Mushrooms

So the class at Viking was the first time I've ever tasted truffles, well truffle oil that is, and I love love love the taste. A teeny tiny bottle cost me $13 bucks at Whole Foods but it's worth it since you use such a small amount of it. I need to start thinking of other dishes I can use this in!

The Viking recipe just called for any wild mushrooms, I used shittakes and portebellas. I also omitted chicken stock from their recipe and used more white wine instead (hey, its New Years!)


angel hair pasta (I used a box and half for 8 people, probably could have just used a box)
mushrooms (I used 6 big portebella caps and a box of shittakes)
truffle oil (1 table spoon)
2 shallots (minced)

2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 cup white wine
olive oil

parmesean cheese (used about 3/4 cup grated)
butter (half stick)


-Saute the shallots in olive oil first, over medium heat, for a few minutes with salt and pepper, then add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme.

- Let saute about 10 minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown.

- Pour in the white wine and cook down

- While the wine is cooking down, add the angel hair to boiling water, it takes less than 4 minutes to cook them al dente.

- Once drained, mix the pasta with the cheese and parley

- Add the half stick of butter to the mushroom mixture and let melt
. Once melted, add the truffle oil.

When plating, serve the noodles and pour the mushroom mixture over top. I added a little more parsley for a garnish.

Tuscan Grilled Veal Chops

Whenever my mom made veal when I was younger, I would dramatically claim that I was a vegetarian and refuse to eat it, because I thought what they did to the little baby cow
s was so cruel. Umm...I've gotten over it. Veal is amazing. (Animal lovers, please don't flame me).

The original Viking recipe actually called for a marinade and then cooking the chops entirely on the grill. The instructor varied this by only grilling them for the marks (about a minute on each side) and then finishing them off in the oven. Also, instead of a marinade, it was more of a rub, herb mixture type thing on top. This is placed on after grilling and before cooking in the oven:


veal chops (order them at least one inch thick)

olive oil


- Rub the chops with oil and season with salt and pepper

- Grill just about a minute on each side for the grill marks

- Mix chopped herbs, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl and drizzle in a bit of oil for the herb mixture.

- Put the herb mixture on the grilled chops and transfer to the oven.

- Cook for about 20 - 25 minutes at 350, internal temp should be 140.

Buttered Green Beans with Almonds

Green beans (about a handful for every 2 servings)

butter (I used a half stick for 8 servings)
almonds (crushed)

- Blanch the green beans in salted, boiling water for about 3 - 4 minutes, depending on how crunchy you
like them.

- Shock them in an ice bath

- Saute with butter and almonds till warm and season with salt and pepper

Mint Chocolate Trifle

The Viking menu had some kind of chocolate tart with a gelatin kind of fill that was mint flavored. I
wasn't really feeling it since I don't like gelatin or baking. I registered for a trifle dish and love how easy it is to make simple, no bake desserts in it that still look great, so I decided to carry on the mint and chocolate them but do a trifle instead.

So this consisted of 3 major components:

- Chocolate mousse (recipe from
- Mint flavored whipped cream

- Mint Oreos (this was originally going to be Grasshoppers but Joe ate the whole package and Mint Oreos were the only mint flavored cookie the corner grocery store had)

For the mint flavored whipped cream, I just added about 1 tsp of peppermint extract and a teeny tiny bit (less than a tsp I think) of green food coloring. Start small with both of these because you can always add more. I used about 2 cups of whipping cream.

For the chocolate mousse, I followed the recipe exactly but made it for 6 servings. Not as difficult
as I thought it would be!

I just crushed the cookies in a ziploc bag with a meat tenderizer.

As you can tell from the picture, the layering did not come out as pretty as I'd hoped. This is
because I am very impatient (which is why I don't bake) and didn't wait for the mousse to thicken up in the fridge before I began layering, so you can see where it is running together in the layers. Also, the mint layer looks very white in the photos but it was greener.

I garnished with more whipped cream and mint leaves dipped in chocolate.

Regardless of how it looks, it was soooo delicious, and as light and refreshing as holiday desserts can go. mmm....I think I'm heading to the fridge right now for the leftovers.

That's all! Happy New Year!

Shout out to my friend Melissa for coming over early and being my sous chef and food photographer for the evening AND to my mom for the Viking class : ) - love ya both!