Just got back from cooking for a birthday dinner near Stratton Hills. They were celebrating a 40th birthday and the gathering was lovely. I could tell from the minute the guests arrived that they were old friends and were excited to be near each other again. Hiring a personal chef for an intimate gathering is a perfect way to make the day special.
This dinner party was in Colorado Springs, near Stratton Hills, I love the view of the Front Range from that area. The guest count was 10, which is a great number for me to serve without additional help.
Appetizer: Pickled Vegetables, Hummus, Prosciutto and Puff Pastry Asparagus Twists
Pickling vegetables is a great way to add some zing to a boring crudités plate. Carrots, cauliflower and green beans are some of my favorite choices. Classic pickling recipes call for equal parts sugar, water and vinegar with any herbs or aromatics you choose. Bring the sugar and water to a boil with the aromatics and then remove from the heat before adding the vinegar, otherwise the vapors can become too strong and cause a coughing fit. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the raw veggies and allow to sit, in the fridge, for 24-48 hours. This appetizer can be prepared ahead of time and set out for guests to pick at right after they arrive.
Digestif: Pineapple, Avocado, Jalapeño and Lime Shot
This meal is pretty heavy on the fat and dairy, a perfect formula to add a digestif. Pineapples contain bromelain which is an enzyme that can help to digest protein. Simply puree the pineapple, avocado, juice of a lime and jalapeño into a smoothie, adding water to thin. Serve in a shot glass with a tagine rim.
Soup: Celery Soup, Lemon Olive Oil, Crispy Prosciutto, Creme Fraiche
Celery soup is unusual but delish! My recipe is a simple soup with onion, leeks and tons of celery. Using a light chicken broth adds complexity but vegetable stock will keep the vegetarians happy. Home made creme fraiche is a luxurious addition that creates a creamy mouth feel.
Main: Braised Short Ribs, Smoked Celeriac and Cauliflower Puree, Green Bean and Pickled Trumpet Mushroom
Braised short ribs are a great choice for a large party as they can be prepared ahead of time and are a lower cost cut of meat. My favorite recipe comes from Anne Burrell . It’s a simple show stopper using red wine, tomato paste and pureed vegetables.
Always looking for something fun to add to a plate, I decided to smoke some celeriac. Celeriac is the creamy, tangy root of the celery plant and is readily available at local groceries around Colorado Springs. Use a sharp knife to peel off the dirt and roots, chop it, add some oil, salt and pepper, and place in your smoker for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees until soft and slightly caramelized. Using some boiled cauliflower creates a smooth puree with a smokey flavor, no cream needed!
Short ribs can be pretty fatty, coating the mouth and leaving the plate feeling heavy. Add a small element of pickled foods can cut through the fat and the crunch of crisp tender green beans add some brightness to the plate.
Dessert: Chocolate Pots de Creme with Whipped Cream and Raspberry
Dessert lovers often fall into two categories, chocolate and not. If a client loves chocolate, this is a great dessert to suggest. Starting with a creme anglais base, I found adding 70% cacoa chocolate prevents the dessert from getting to “fudgey”. Pull the dessert from the fridge about 1 hour before serving to allow the chocolate to warm slightly.
If you have a birthday coming up, please reach out to me here and let’s see if we can create a perfect menu for your special day.