Impress your friends (or bae) with this winter dinner party menu.
To me, one of the best activities is hosting a dinner party with my closest friends for an evening of wine and comfort food. I love waking up, going to the gym, and then going to Whole Foods for the ingredients (even if the Whole Foods near me is a double-stroller filled hellscape on Saturday afternoons). I’ll get back to my apartment and spend the afternoon cooking, listening to music, and maybe dipping into the wine a bit early until my guests arrive.
Winter will technically be over next week, but living in the Northeast my entire life, I know there is still time to enjoy this rich dinner party menu; however, I wanted to post this menu before we miss the opportunity completely.
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Braised short ribs are perfect for a hearty, but casual Saturday evening meal. I used Ina Garten’s Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs recipe from her new book Cook Like A Pro and paired it with her Parmesan Polenta recipe. I served baby spinach for some greens on the side; kale would work, too.
I tweaked the recipes very slightly – mainly because I needed to use some substitutions. If you live in New York City, you can sympathize with the fact that when you go to a grocery store, even a large one like Whole Foods, they may not have all the items you need in one place. Sometimes I’ll go to multiple stores; other days I simply don’t have the time or don’t want to. To avoid making multiple trips, I always make sure I can google substitutions that would work.
For dessert, I served a Lemon Curd & Olive Oil Ice Cream which I adapted from an NYT Cooking recipe. See my post from last week or find it below.
Make sure you start early, short ribs are easy to make, but take a long time – about 4 hours. It’s well worth it though. You’ll need a dry red wine as well as Guinness beer for the braising process. Ina’s recipe recommends Chianti, Burgundy, or Cotes Du Rhone wine. I had Chianti on hand and used this. I also served it to drink with the meal given that I happened to have a magnum. A magnum of wine equals two standard 750ml bottles of wine. The recipe used one whole bottle.
Regarding the beer, I could only find a pack of Guinness. I’m not a beer drinker so I didn’t want to buy that. With some quick googling, I learned that brown ale could be used for braising beef short ribs. Whole Foods sold individual bottles of Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, so I used that instead. I prepared the short ribs in a Calphalon Non Stick Dutch Oven, which is oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. I hope to upgrade to a Le Creuset one day!
For the polenta recipe, I couldn’t find creme fraiche in Whole Foods for some reason. Sour cream is a good substitute – I didn’t notice the difference. A note on this recipe – I followed Ina’s instructions exactly and I thought it was insanely salty. Once the cornmeal is incorporated into the chicken stock, slowly add the salt to taste. The short ribs did cut the salty taste of the polenta, but it was still a little too salty for me and I like salty things. Garlic mashed potatoes or garlic mashed cauliflowers work well as a side dish, too.
Lastly, this is a pretty heavy meal so avoid serving any heavy appetizers. Perhaps serve some nuts, olives, and chopped vegetables for your guests to pick on as they arrive. I like to stick to wine with this meal; however, your guests may want a cocktail when they arrive. I recommend a light cocktail such as a gin & tonic, vodka tonic, or Aperol spritz.
I did a lot of research on wine pairings for this meal and there are a ton of options. This meal takes effort to prepare and is absolutely delicious, but is not particularly fancy. I would go with a dry red wine you enjoy and that is in your budget. If you want to stick to a wine produced in the U.S., California Cabernet or Syrah would be great. If you like Italian reds, Chianti works, as would a Sangiovese. Lastly, based upon my research, wine experts recommend pairing a wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape which is located in the Rhone wine region of France with braised beef short ribs.
When it comes to wine, there is always more to learn and I’m not an expert, I just know what I like to drink. You can get really snobby with wine and food pairings, but I’m not about that life, so pick what you enjoy the most.
My playlist for the evening was a low-key dream pop/indie rock heavy playlist that would not compete with conversation. I couldn’t resist including Chromatics’ cover of one of my favorite New Order songs “Ceremony.” Follow me on Spotify under Jenna Loyal if you like this playlist and want more of what I’m listening to.
The Dessert Recipe
End the meal with this delicious olive oil ice cream.
Homemade olive oil ice cream churned with lemon curd. Adapted from NYT Cooking Lemon-Olive Oil Ice Cream recipe. Yields about 1 quart.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup fruity olive oil, I used Frantoio Muraglia Medium Fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil which I got in Eataly in downtown Manhattan
- 1/4 cup lemon curd, I used one from Trader Joe's, Bonne Maman also makes one
- Flaky sea salt, for serving
Whisk egg yolks in a nonreactive medium bowl.
In a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and salt.
Cook the mixture on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and small bubbles begin to form around the edge of the mixture.
Use about 1 cup of the cream mixture to temper the egg yolks. To temper the eggs, slowly ladle the hot cream mixture little by little while whisking the eggs continuously. If you just dump the hot mixture into the eggs, they will cook, which is not what you want. Tempering is merely combining two liquids of different temperatures. My mixture became a bit frothy.
Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and whisk to combine.
Cook the mixture on medium-low heat by stirring constantly until it thickens enough so that it can coat the back of a spoon. This took about 10 minutes for me.
Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and into a bowl. Slowly add the olive oil to the mixture while whisking constantly.
Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is completely cool. I chilled mine overnight.
You will need an ice cream maker for this part. I used the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Attachment for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. Follow the directions for whichever machine you are using. These directions are based on the KitchenAid attachment.
Put the mixer on stir speed (level 1) and slowly add in the ice cream base. Let churn for about 15 minutes.
Then, add in the lemon curd and churn for another 10-15 minutes. You'll come away with a creamy ice cream with a soft consistency. Feel free to serve this way; however, I transferred my ice cream to a freezer safe container and put in my freezer so it could develop a firmer texture. Note, this ice cream will tend to be on the softer side regardless.
Note that the times listed above don't include chill times. I chilled the base of my ice cream overnight. The base took about 30 minutes to prepare and the total churning time on my machine took about 30 minutes. Additionally, given that Eataly is limited to NYC and LA, to find similar ingredients such as the olive oil and salt I used you can go to a similar high quality grocery store or even find items on Amazon.
What’s your favorite thing to serve on a Saturday night? Tell me in the comments.