We are spending this Christmas in Ohio. Our actual family celebration will be near New Year's, so my mother decided that a good way to fill the time was to host a large, formal dinner party, which I volunteered / was drafted to cook. My father (jokingly?) suggested that seven courses was the right number of courses, and my mother requested Italian. Thus, this menu:The first course was apretivo: prosecco with Campari. The Italians must really like a bitter flavor, because I had to cut the Campari down to one quarter (2 teaspoons per glass of Prosecco) to make it palatable for us. The second course was antipasti, and I can especially recommend this marinated mushroom recipe. You can make it a day ahead, and then just throw it on a plate with some prosciutto, olives, and cheese and you're done.
Another recipe that will make it into my regular party food rotation, goat cheese ravioli with walnut and white wine sauce. We made the ravioli from scratch, which was an insane amount of work, but I think the walnut sauce would taste terrific on fettuccine, even if it was store bought.
The main course was a lamb, beef, and pork stew, served with potatoes and creamed spinach. It must have all been much loved, because no one remembered to take any pictures. The dessert course was panna cotta. I had no idea how easy it is to make panna cotta! (Um, if you're a vegetarian who's willing to work with gelatin, which I now am, because I have totally had it with little lumps of agar agar ruining all my mousses and tortes.) You're simply dissolving sugar and gelatin in a lot of heavy whipping cream. Chill, and you're done. No hot water bath (demanded by creme brulee) and no cooking over a double boiler (required by mousse). I served the panna cotta with strawberries tossed in sugar and a good balsamic vinegar.
To end, a fruit course followed by coffee. Here, a dapper guest enjoys the fruit salad, which was topped with Chambord.
Now we're off to visit friends in Pittsburgh for two days. Hopefully I'll accumulate even more pictures of food there for the blog.