1 of 2
2 of 2
Don't let entertaining overwhelm you. "The idea," says Debi Shawcross, author of Friends at the Table: The Ultimate Supper Club Cookbook, "is spending time with friends and not slaving in the kitchen." To get you started, she's shared a menu with R•Home that takes advantage of the fall bounty of apples, pumpkin and greens.
Shawcross evangelizes the pleasures of the supper club, a gathering of friends who come together to eat and drink together on a regular basis. For the past eight years through her business, Signature Meals, she's taught classes focused on planning and cooking for dinner parties, and her cookbook became the natural culmination of those classes. "The same people come back to my classes for years. It's almost like [its own] supper club, in a way."
In order to be successful in creating and sustaining your own supper club, Shawcross advises setting clear expectations. "Make sure that everyone has the same ideas and goals in mind," she says. "Everyone needs to know what they're getting into." Ask questions. Does everybody have the same cooking skills, or is there a wide range? Will menus be composed of casual or fancy food? Will the host make the entire meal, or will everyone bring a dish?
"The most popular way to organize [a club] is to have the host make the entrée and then job-share the rest of the menu," says Shawcross. However, one stumbling block for the potluck model is that most dishes will need to be prepared ahead of time, and oven space for reheating may be at a premium once guests arrive. Although it sounds daunting, having the host make everything can actually end up being easier. And once you've hosted, the rest of the dinners will be nights off for you.
One problem that Shawcross has encountered — even in her own supper club — can be a lack of commitment on the part of the members. This connects back to expectations. "Be realistic about the timeframe. Every month might work, but in my own supper club, every other month works better for us." And when all of the members are together for the night, "that's when you pull out your calendars and set the next date."
The social-networking site Facebook can be enormously helpful in this respect; Shawcross recommends organizing a private Facebook group for your club. Invitations and reminders can be sent out this way, and, she says, "It's also a great way to toss around ideas and trade recipes."
One of the most important aspects of planning a supper club meal is to break down the job of entertaining into segments. Divide your grocery list into items that can be bought a week ahead of time, a couple of days ahead of time and those ingredients that must be bought that day. Look at each recipe the same way, and make sure that everything you need has been chopped and measured before your guests arrive. That way food preparation will be easy and fast.
Back to the original reason you and your friends began a supper club: It's supposed to be fun, right? So, break out the cocktail shaker and pour a few of Shawcross's apple and caramel martinis for everyone. Now that folks are back from the bustle of summer activities and excursions, it's time to relax, catch up and sit down together for a good meal. You all deserve it.
Arugula Salad with Apples, Champagne Mustard Vinaigrette and Point Reyes Blue Cheese
Serves 8 Ingredients Dressing: 3 tablespoons of champagne 3 tablespoons of champagne vinegar 1 tablespoon of sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon of pasteurized eggs (Egg Beaters) 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper 2/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil Salad: 6 cups of baby arugula 1 small head of radicchio, shredded 2 apples, cored and thinly sliced 1/2 cup of toasted almonds 1 cup of Point Reyes blue cheese, crumble
For the dressing: Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the salad: Combine the arugula, radicchio, apples and toasted almonds in a large salad bowl. Add the desired amount of dressing and toss well. Divide among plates and sprinkle with cheese; add freshly ground pepper to taste.
Sautéed Ginger Spinach
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of minced ginger
20 ounces of baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and sauté for 1 minute. Add the spinach and reduce the heat to medium-low. Toss the spinach well until just wilted, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Apple and Caramel Martini
Martini: 1 part Absolut vodka 2 parts DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker schnapps Thinly sliced apples Caramel sauce: 1 cup of white sugar 1/2 cup of water 1/2 cup of heavy cream 2 tablespoons of butter, softened at room temperature Directions For the martini: Dip the rim of a chilled martini glass in caramel sauce (recipe below) and twirl to coat the edge. Combine all of the ingredients in a martini shaker filled with ice and shake. Pour into the glass. Garnish with a slice of apple. For the caramel sauce: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring, until the mixture has turned the color of golden caramel (about 20 minutes). Be sure not to let the sauce get too brown, as it will continue to cook and may scorch. Take the mixture off the heat. Let it cool slightly, and then slowly add the cream and butter. Stir until smooth.
Seared Sea Scallops with Cider Glaze
4 tablespoons of butter, divided
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
32 dry-pack sea scallops
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup of apple cider
1/2 cup of dry champagne
1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
1/2 cup of shallots, finely chopped
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
In a large, heavy skillet over high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Add the scallops to the skillet and sauté until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer scallops to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. (Do not clean the skillet.) Add the cider, champagne, maple syrup and shallots to the skillet; boil until the liquid is reduced to about half. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, whipping cream and thyme. Boil until mixture is reduced to sauce consistency, about 5 minutes. Return scallops to the skillet. Stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Divide the sauce and scallops among plates.
Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Gingersnap Crust
Serves 8 to 10
Crust: 1/4 cup of sweetened coconut 8 ounces of gingersnap cookies 2 tablespoons of sugar 4 tablespoons of melted butter Cheesecake: 2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese 3/4 cup of firmly packed brown sugar 2 large eggs 1 (1-pound) can of pumpkin 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice 1 tablespoon of maple syrup Directions For the crust: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until golden brown. In the bowl of a food processor, place gingersnap cookies and pulse until the cookies are finely crushed. (You will need 1 3/4 cups of crumbs.) In a medium bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs, toasted coconut, sugar and melted butter. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan with a removable bottom. Press the crumb mixture about one inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. For the cheesecake: With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup; mix until well blended. Pour mixture into the pan. Bake until the center barely jiggles when the cake is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 1/2 hours or up to 24 hours. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and remove the pan sides. Top each piece with whipped cream.