Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dinner Party Idea - An Oktoberfest Feast

Is there anything better than being invited over to friend’s home for a dinner party? It’s such a relaxing way to spend a weekend evening. But, is it as much fun to be the host? So many friends tell me they are hesitant to throw a dinner party because “they can’t cook” or “it’s too much work”. And so, when I can find some blips of free time, I am going to suggest a couple of menus to make entertaining easy…and yes, fun to host.

When planning a dinner party there are two things to keep in mind. First, a dinner party need not be fancy. No need to pull out the china and crystal. What’s important is that you’re gathering with friends over good food whether it be filet or grandma's casserole recipe. And second, it will be much more fun for you, the host, if you do the cooking ahead of time. This way, you get to actually enjoy the company of friends.

One of my go-to dinner parties I love to do in the fall is around the Savory Pumpkin Cannelloni I make each year. One weekend I’ll set aside time to make this rich, comforting dish, and I’ll make enough for a couple of gatherings, popping the dishes in the freezer. Serve it with a green salad and dinner is done…and wow, do the guests swoon. I'll have to post that recipe while we're all still thinking pumkin.

On a recent drizzly weekend, I made an Oktoberfest-themed dinner for a group of friends. I will admit that I spent several hours cooking on Friday, not because the recipes were laborious, but because I was actually reading recipes this go round (instead of cooking based upon what I have on hand, or relying on my own sense of flavors and textures). I had memories of German food from my time in Europe as an AFS exchange student, but I’d never actually prepared these foods. When planning the menu, I knew I would make one of my go-to fall recipes: Balsamic Braised Cabbage as a side, but the rest of these recipes I got by simply doing a google search for Oktoberfest recipes. I’ve linked to all of the recipes I made, in case you want to cook up your own Oktoberfest-themed feast. I considered it another fabulous evening, since everyone could relax over good food, and all of the recipes could be made in advance (including grilling the sausages), and then warmed in a low temp oven, or taken out of the fridge at mealtime.

“Oktoberfest” Dinner Party Menu
Trader Joe’s Cheese Puffs
Brown Sugar Bacon
Bavarian Cheese Spread on thinly sliced dark rye bread*
Trader Joe’s Pumpernickel Pretzels
*I wasn't so sure of this cheese spread when I first made it (shown above, before being "mushed") but it was actually pretty good. It's definitely a strong taste because of the brie, blue cheese, onions and beer but everyone enjoyed it...

Balsamic Braised Red Cabbage with Apricots (pictured above, before cooking)
Turnip Potato Gratin (pictured above before getting a heavy dose of cream and cheese)
Grainy Mustard
**Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Weisswurst…Walter Stewart’s carries the full line of Schaller and Weber sausages.
Trader Joe’s Apple Strudels (in the frozen dessert section of the market)
Ginger, Cinnamon or Vanilla Ice Cream
And of course, a hearty selection of German beers to go along with the feast. (I found this wide selection at Stew Leonard’s Spirits in Norwalk.)

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