A few weeks ago, we participated in our very first evening of dinner club and I can’t wait until next month’s already! We had so much fun with our friends and eating good food. I wish every night was dinner club!
Back in January, we were given the idea to start a dinner club from our friends we visited in Colorado, see that post here. They told us about their dinner club and I immediately told them we were stealing the idea. The “rules” of the club are to get 3 couples who live fairly close to one another. The evening is progressive, which means you eat each course at a different house and move from house to house throughout the evening. To add on to the progressive fun, we also chose a theme ingredient that had to be used in each dish.
Since we were getting together in the month of February, we all agreed on the theme ingredient of chocolate and then chose courses out of a hat. Eric and I chose the appetizer course, which meant we were kicking off the entire chocolaty evening, no pressure.
I had no clue where to start. First, I rarely make appetizers. I’m not sure why, but finding an appetizer that wasn’t too sweet and contained chocolate was a little daunting. After doing some searching online, I found a recipe for roasted parsnip soup that contained white chocolate and was topped with cocoa dusted croutons. It was perfect in every way, and it looked fairly simple; bonus!
Since the soup was rather simple and I didn’t have the burden of making a main course or dessert, I chose to have some fun and whipped up some chocolate butter (which we first ate at the Hershey Hotel and it was amazing!) for the bread and the chocolate drizzled popcorn that you saw in this post from last week. The popcorn would be the perfect precursor to the soup; we could eat it with drinks while everyone arrived.
To make the soup, start by roasting the parsnips in the oven after coating with olive oil, salt and pepper.
After the parsnips are roasted, saute the onion in melted butter.
Add chicken stock and a vanilla bean sliced lengthwise with the seeds scraped out and into the stock. You can find whole vanilla beans with the regular spices at the grocery store, however they are very expensive so be prepared to pay about $7 for 2 beans. (It’s totally worth it, I assure you.)
Add the roasted parsnips to the stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer until the parsnips are tender and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the white chocolate chips and remove the vanilla bean pod.
Using an immersion blender or a regular blender in batches, blend until the soup is smooth.
Squeeze fresh lemon juice into the soup and keep warm.
To make the croutons, slice some country bread. Drizzle with olive oil and then gently sift cocoa powder on one side of the bread.
Place in the oven at 400 degrees, just until crispy. Slice into cubes.
Garnish the soup with fresh dill, the croutons and a lemon wedge.
The soup was really good. At first I wasn’t sure about it, I’m not a big fan of vanilla or sweet flavors in my savory meals but this was a perfect balance so that it wasn’t actually very sweet at all. The lemon and dill really brought out the flavors of the soup and along with a slice of bread and chocolate butter, it was the perfect start to our evening.
Next we moved on to the second and main course and the second house. Here we were served a salad that boasted a home made chocolate balsamic vinaigrette. It was so delicious!
And next, we ate short ribs topped with dark chocolate an served over fresh pasta. It was out of this world delicious. The dark chocolate added such a nice sweet and subtle flavor to the dish.
These dishes were paired with a chocolate bread that had a swirl of chocolaty goodness through it. This was home made without a recipe so you’ll just have to look at the picture and wish you were there.
Following dinner, we moved on to the third and final house for dessert. Dessert was a decadent and beautiful chocolate and whiskey bunt cake served with ice cream and strawberries. We also enjoyed chocolate martinis!
Here’s a tutorial from our dessert couple about making the bundt cake. (Wasn’t it stellar of them to write me up a little blog post?!):
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus 3 tablespoons for dusting pan
- 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup American whiskey (the original called for American, I used Jameson.)
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Special equipment: a 10-inch bundt pan (3 1/4 inches deep; 3-qt capacity)
- Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream
- Garnish: confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
Butter bundt pan well, then dust with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, knocking out excess.
Heat coffee, whiskey, butter, and remaining cup cocoa powder in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking, until butter is melted.
Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 5 minutes.
While chocolate mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well.
Add chocolate to flour mixture and whisk until just combined (batter will be thin and bubbly).
Pour batter into bundt pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.
Loosen cake from pan using tip of a dinner knife, then invert rack over pan and turn cake out onto rack.
Enjoy with fresh berries and French Vanilla Ice Cream!
We had so much fun and our next club will be meeting on St. Patrick’s day. I’m sure you can only guess the possibilities for a theme for that dinner! I have to say thanks to our Colorado friends for this awesome dinner club idea and thanks to our fellow dinner club couples who have been so much fun and such great sports through our first dinner club. Food truly does bring people together!
Here is the menu from our evening and each item is a link to the recipe.