Monday, April 9, 2012

Sweet Spring Supper

Yesterday my husband and I had some friends and family over to celebrate spring.  I love entertaining - I get to cook all kinds of food and spend time with wonderful people.  It makes me super happy.
This was the menu...
Jelly Bean Martini

Bacon “Chips”
Deviled eggs
Caramel Pecan buns
Beecher’s Flagship cheese with Pear
Hillary’s addition: Chicken and Avocado dip/salad

4-Hour lamb
Provencal French beans
Sausage & mushroom strata

Chocolate cream pie
Easter candy

As soon as I decided to have a party, I knew I wanted to try to make lamb.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been enjoying lamb and thought it would be perfect for this meal.  Ironically, as I was scouring over various lamb recipes, I caught a “Barefoot Contessa” episode where she prepares a 4 hour lamb with french white beans.  It was exactly what I was looking for - an easy to make, lamb dish and a simple, elegant side dish.

Lamb Prep

After that, I decided on the chocolate pie.  I don’t know why, but I saw an image of one and instantly wanted to make it.  I didn’t end up making that recipe... I ended up making an America’s Test Kitchen recipe because I have found that if there are a ton of recipes for something, ATK’s recipe is always the best one.  And it was pretty darn tasty - I mean they had me with the oreo crust.  It was also fairly easy to make which was a plus.

Pie Prep

Then I decided I wanted to add a “breakfast” item to the entrees and as soon as I saw the sausage and mushroom strata recipe, I knew it was perfect.  It has to sit overnight, so it’s something you can make the night before.  And then it’s just heat and serve.  So easy.  And the sausage and mushrooms were yummy together.  I think I would use a sweet italian sausage next time.  Or, as my husband suggested, sliced cured sausage.

Sausage & Mushroom Strata

For the “starters”, I chose the bacon “chips” because these had been on my list of things to make for some time now.  And they were tasty!!  I wish it were easier to make a large batch, because they would be great for parties, but I feel like no matter how much I made, it would never be enough - they are like crack.  (note: although the recipe reads easy to do, it significantly depends on super crispy bacon and unless you have many baking sheets and large or multiple ovens, you have to do multiple batches if you want a large amount of “chips” - I simply didn’t have the time to devote to that and would never have that kind of time while prepping for a party).  Also, I added to the recipe a bit - I made some with cayenne and some with paprika.  Both were good, but I think the kick of the cayenne was a bit better.  Seriously, they are so addictive.

Bacon Chips

Secondly, I decided to make mini-cinnamon rolls.  As you can see from the link, this was not a “mini” recipe, but I thought the recipe sounded good (and didn’t involve yeast, which I did not want to deal with) and felt like I could just make smaller rolls.  Well, I’m not the greatest baker and I’m not sure what happened, but the dough was very gooey and there was no way I could roll it or spread it out.  I was about to throw in the towel when I thought: I’ll just add the filling ingredients into the dough and make muffins!  They were super good right out of the oven, hot and gooey and soft, but as they sat, they did get a little hard.  I found that if the muffin happened to get a good amount of the filling in it, then it was super tasty - caramelly and gooey and kind of broke apart like monkey bread.  But if there was not a lot of filling, then it was a little “hockey puck-ish”.  I think I may just bite the bullet and start trying to make things with yeast.

Caramel Sticky Muffins

I also made deviled eggs - just my normal recipe (eggs, little mayo, lots and lots of pickle relish and pickle juice), but I did add finely diced celery this time and I think I liked that.  And I put out some Beecher’s Flagship cheese that we picked up at this new place near our house - Henri’s - with some pears.  Beecher’s is so good and it was perfect with the pears.

And thanks to Hillary, we had this incredibly yummy chicken and avocado dip/salad.  I think it was originally a chicken salad recipe, but she made it into more of a dip and we ate it with chips.  It was fantastic!  We completely devoured it.  I’ll see if she will provide more details in the comments.

Onto the lamb and white beans... I was so nervous about this dish.  But, as you can see from the recipe, it was so easy!  It came out tender and succulent - it really absorbs all the flavors of the wine and the herbs.  And the white beans are a perfect accompaniment!  You basically use all of the same herbs in the bean dish, so the flavors meld nicely.  I piled my lamb on top of the beans and covered the whole thing with sauce and was very happy indeed.  I would like to try lamb chops as well, but for this party, I wanted each guests to be able to take as much or as little lamb as they wanted, so I knew the shank was better for that.
I would probably cook the beans (the step before combining with the herbs) slightly less next time.  They were perfectly al dente when I drained them, but they continued to cook and, in my opinion, ended up a little too mushy.  They were delicious, but I wanted more bite to them.

4-Hour Lamb & Provencal French Beans

My last addition to the menu was the jelly bean martini.  I saw this about a week ago and thought it was so perfect in color and sounded yummy.  I used the Starburst jelly beans (watermelon - picked from a mixed bag) because I know they have a strong flavor and Tito’s vodka.  My husband was the bartender and did a great job mixing them up.  They were yummy, but I wanted more jelly bean flavor - I didn’t have a high enough jelly bean to vodka ratio.  I think if I did this again, I would simply buy one flavor of jelly belly so I could make sure I had enough jelly beans.

Jelly Bean Martini

Overall I was super happy with how everything turned out!  It was so great to spend the day with everyone.  The weather was nice, we had a lovely walk after dinner and then we came back and had pie!

Chocolate Cream Pie

Wow!  So, so good!!  Rich and decadent and silky smooth.  And a perfect chocolate flavor.  Seriously, you can never go wrong with an America’s Test Kitchen recipe.


  1. This was such a great meal, and I'm so glad I got to partake :) It was so good, that I've nominated you for a Sunshine Award:

    1. Thanks Jason! I'm glad you were able to partake as well. :) And thanks for the nomination!

  2. Everything looks amazing! Bacon chips! Jelly bean martinis! Cheese tray! Sticky buns (sort of)!

    And I totally agree about America's Test Kitchen. You can never go wrong with their recipes. I have their Perfect Vegetables cook book and they've never failed.