This is the first of a series of posts where I will share some of the menus that I like to cook with my husband for our friends, in a couple of after-work hours. In order to make my life easier, usually, I set up the table the night before, so that when we get home from work we can focus on the cooking.
In our kitchen there is a good mixture of Italian and French cuisine, but we like to keep the Italian tradition of having a “primo” and a “secondo”, especially when we entertain. Here is the first of our 120-minutes meals:
– Caprese in a spoon
– Home-made tagliatelle with cream, green peas and prosciutto
– Steak, potatoes and green beans
CHEESE AND DESSERT:
– Cheese platter
– Chocolate cake with whipped cream
The first step, before touching any ingredients, is dividing the tasks. Usually, I take care of the primi and J of the secondi. So while I like to start from making the pasta dough, J starts peeling the potatoes.
Recipe for pasta dough:
– 400 gr flour
– 4 eggs
– 1 tablespoon salt
Mix the flour and salt in an electric mixer with a flat beater. Add one egg at the time and continue mixing for …. minutes on power…. . Continue mixing with a dough hook for …. minutes. Finally finish to work the dough with your hands. Place in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the Bruschette:
Cut the tomatoes in very small cubes, about half a centimeter. Mix in a bowl with basil leaves cut in small pieces, salt and olive oil.
Cut a baguette in slices a little smaller than a centimeter and grill them in a toaster or in the oven if it has a grill function. Rub a peeled garlic clove on the grilled bread and place some tomatoes on each of the pieces of baguette. Be generous with the sauces created by the oil and waters from the tomatoes.
Get the pasta dough out of the fridge, flatten it and cut it in the shape desired, with a pasta machine. I use the attachment for the Kitchenaid stand mixer. Make sure to spread enough flour on each layer of pasta, so that it does not stick until it’s time to cook it. Leave it to rest, with kitchen clothes in between, to cover and prevent from sticking. My advice is to cook the pasta later, once the guests have already arrived – you can leave the apero-time for 5/6 minutes, fresh pasta does not need more than that!
The sauce for the pasta is very easy to make:
In a pan, mix 200 gr prosciutto crudo cut in small cubes, 200canned grean peas and 400 ml cream. This does not need to cook long, just the time for the cream to thicken a little. You will in any case warm it up just before serving.
In this time, J has been peeling the potatoes and cutting them. He likes to cook them in a De Buyer pan with abundant oil, salt and pepper. At the same time, he takes the steaks out of the fridge and prepares them with salt and pepper on the surface, so that these ingredients enter the fibers of the meat until it is time to cook it. The recipe for the green beans is very easy and “à la francaise”: place the green beans (raw, without boiling) in a pan, with some yellow onions finely chopped and 2 cloves of garlic. Cook them at low heat, turning often in order to prevent the onions from burning.
While J takes care of the secondo as described, I have to remember to take the cheese out of the fridge early enough so that it can reach room temperature. I place them on a nice cutting board with cheese knives; each cheese knife has a specific purpose – I will write about it in a future post.
While J goes to the cellar to pick the wines, I prepare a Chocolate cake following this easy recipe:
Melt 200 gr of dark chocolate with 100 gr of butter in a bain marie with a low heat. All you will need to do it to stir from time to time to prevent it from burning – but with a low heat it needs very little attention and can take care of itself. This takes approximately 10 minutes, so you can let it melt while you move on with the next steps.
Beat 3 egg whites until stiff (very important!) – I do this with my Kitchenaid stand mixer, but any electric beater works for this – doing it by hand would take too much time and make for 2/3 gym sessions!
In a bowl beat 3 egg yolks with 50 gr of sugar until they becomes light and fluffy, then add two tablespoons of flour and the melted chocolate and mix very well (you can use again an electric beater). Finally fold in the egg whites, slowly, without beating, with a spatula.
Coat a cake form with melted butter and flour, to prevent it from sticking, and pour the mix. Cook in the oven for 20/30 minutes at 180° C.
Little tip: Remember to put the whip and mixer bowl in the fridge, ready to whip the cream later, before serving it. Making whipped cream is very simple and even quicker than buying it at the supermarket, all you need is to whip 200 ml of heavy cream and 2 table spoons of icing sugar together in a stand mixer until it gets fluffy.
Finally, just before the guests come, prepare the caprese in a spoon: place a small cube of tomato, a small cube of mozzarella on top of it, and a small leaf of basil. Top it up with good quality olive oil and salt (my favorite is Maldon salt)! This classical Italian starter served in little spoons makes for a simple, fresh starter, it looks pretty and is easier to enjoy with the guests in an informal fashion, before sitting down at the table.
Now all that is left to do it to light the candles, put some music and wait for the friends to arrive! Our division of tasks allows us to never leave the guests alone: my main task is the primo and J’s is the secondo. So while we enjoy a glass of bubbles for apero with the bruschette and caprese, I only need to cook the pasta (5-6 minutes), mix with the sauce and serve in a nice bowl! During the break between the primo and secondo, J usually has his “alone time” in the kitchen to cook the steaks in a steak pan for a few minutes.
So, this dinner is ready in a couple of hours and only needs little work during the dinner time itself, as most of the preparation work can be done in advance, allowing you to enjoy the time with your guests.
It is lots of fun to cook together and it is indeed very rewarding to see your friends’ appreciation for an all-home-cooked meal!
I hope that you will enjoy trying out this menu, or some of the recipes from it. Don’t hesitate to shoot me an email should you have questions/suggestions!