Host a fall dinner party (while there’s still time left) with this easy menu!
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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I was hoping to have this up earlier because it was pretty much my menu for Friendsgiving this year, but I still think this menu could be used for any fall dinner party. It has all the right flavors. Additionally, I want to share it because you can take recipes here and there and even make them for easy weeknight or casual weekend meals. I found some great recipes from a variety of sources and I’m sharing it all below. Hope you enjoy – my guests definitely did. Favorites included the cardamom rice and cornbread!
Pre-Dinner Drinks and Nibbles
I started the evening by welcoming my friends with a large batch cocktail. Usually, I just stick to wine and beer given that cocktails can be difficult to keep up with if you’re hosting without help; however, I chose Ina Garten’s Autumn Sangria recipe from her new book Cook Like A Pro (by the way, you can find a link to buy the book on Amazon via my Shop page – it’s great for beginner home cooks). I simply made it ahead and used a an inexpensive punch bowl – super easy.
I modified the recipe slightly – I only used apple brandy since I didn’t have the pear brandy she suggests. Additionally, I messed up my cinnamon simple syrup (oops!) – I don’t think I allowed the sugar to fully dissolve because after I chilled it like Ina suggests in her recipe, it seemed to have crystalized rather than maintained its syrupy form. Thanksfully the syrup was made the day before. To account for this, I made the cocktail early on the day of the party – about 8 hours ahead and let cinnamon sticks sit in the cocktail. This still gave the cocktail a good cinnamon flavor.
To keep the cocktail cold, I created a homemade decorative ice ring using baking pans ahead of time. I’ll be sharing how to do this in a future post. You can also check out the ice ring on my Instagram feed.
I served a cheese and charcuterie board (not pictured) for guests to nibble on with the welcome cocktail while I finished the main dish and the sides. There are so many resources on how to create the perfect cheese board, but my advice is to take into account your guests’ and your preferences. For example, with my group, no one really cares for soft cheeses much, so I lean towards hard, semi-hard, and sometimes blue cheeses. As with any advice, take what’s useful to you and toss the rest. I also love serving other items to pick on such as olives, nuts, and fruit.
The Main Dish
For the main dish, I roasted bone-in chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, onions, and brussels sprouts. I did the brussels sprouts separately given they usually take longer to roast than the softer sweet potatoes and onions. Recipes below!
Not pictured here, but just as delicious, I made cardamom rice – adapted from this Food & Wine magazine recipe (I added slivered almonds) and sour cream cornbread, another Ina Garten recipe. I paired Pinot Project’s Pinot Noir and a Chablis from Burgundy, France with the meal – appealing to both the red and white wine drinkers.
Inspired by Damn Delicious' One Pan Roasted Chicken with Fall Vegetables. An easy roasted chicken dish that can be served for a large party or cut down for an easy weeknight meal.
- 6 lb bone-in chicken breasts about 8 pieces
- 4 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp for brushing the chicken; 3 tbsp for the vegetables
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme For the dried herbs, I did not use a strict measurement, but perhaps start with 1/2 tsp
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
- salt and pepper to taste I used pink himalayan sea salt and black pepper from a grinder on the chicken and the vegetables
- 3 lb sweet potatoes
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 tbsp butter Cut into 1 tbsp portions and then quarter them - for topping the chicken
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar For the vegetables
- 3 cloves fresh garlic
Prior to prepping the chicken, cut the sweet potatoes into small-medium sized chunks. I basically cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise and then cut them into small pieces from there. Additionally, slice the onion into strips.
Coat the vegetables with 3 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and the crushed garlic. I like putting everything into large ziplock bags and then shaking it up so the vegetables are coated evenly. Set these aside for later.
Crush the garlic. I like using this garlic crusher by Oxo. It's great because you can put it in a dishwasher.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. As an initial step to roasting the chicken - put the chicken in at this high temperature so the skin can start browning nicely. Do this for about 5-10 minutes. If you live in an apartment like I do - you will probably set off your smoke alarm. This happened to me and I had a minor freak out!
Brush each piece of chicken with olive oil.
Season with the dried herbs, salt, and pepper.
Top with a small piece of butter. Since I had 8 pieces of chicken, I used 2 tbsp of butter and quartered each tbsp. I put each quarter on one piece of chicken.
Place chicken onto roasting pans and in oven at 500 degrees for 5-10 minutes only. Watch it carefully during this time period. I like these roasting pans as they are safe to go into oven temperatures up to 500 degrees.
After this initial step is taken, turn down oven temperature to 350 degrees and add in the vegetables. Roast the chicken with the vegetables until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. I like this no frills Weber thermometer. Remember - do not leave it in the oven to monitor the temperature. You may laugh that I'm noting this, but when I first starting cooking meat more frequently - this was something I googled! Also make sure to put the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken. It took about 1 hour to finish the chicken and vegetables in my oven.
Simply roasted brussels sprouts that will please everyone!
- 3 lb brussels sprouts
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper add to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wash, dry, and cut brussels sprouts lengthwise and remove any browning or tough out leaves
Coat the brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I like to put the vegetables into zip lock bags with the oil and seasonings and shake vigorously to make sure all of the sprouts are coated evenly.
Scatter on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Place in oven and roast for about 35 minutes.
By the way, if you’re wondering, the serving plate for the chicken and bowl for the brussels sprouts are from One Kings Lane – one of my favorite home decor sites. They are beautiful and quite reasonably priced.
Finally for dessert, I served Barefoot Contessa Apple Hand Pies and Sally’s Baking Addiction Pumpkin Pie Bars (in addition to the beautiful desserts my guests also brought). I served both with vanilla ice cream, but homemade whipped cream would also be delicious!
Click on the links for the super easy recipes. I slightly modified the hand pies. I left the cloves out of that recipe because I did a test run without them and it tasted good to me. Somewhat unfortunate story – the recipe calls for ground cloves so I bought them from Whole Foods when I tested the recipe, but when I got home they seemed to have rolled out of the bag. I just went ahead without the cloves, because I couldn’t find ground ones in the supermarkets close to my apartment. To me, it still worked out fine – the apple pies tasted good. I made the pumpkin pie bars exactly as written and they were a hit as well.
What are some of your favorite fall dishes? Tell me in the comments!