Have you ever had an experience that was just so incredibly awesome, you wake up the next morning and think to yourself…wowza..THAT was just cool? Well folks….I had that kind of night last night!
I had the pleasure of creating and hosting a dinner party for Midwest Dairy. If you remember from my previous blog post (where I was hanging with the cows in Minnesota ☺), Midwest Dairy is a group of dairy farmers from 10 different states that promote dairy products by building consumer awareness and Bringing Dairy to Life!
On the guest list, Midwest Dairy had an eclectic group of people that could not have been more fabulous! Dairy farmers, bloggers, food writers and chefs all came to my table to eat, relax and experience a dairy inspired menu.We shared ideas and learn more about our local dairy farmers. They all brought to life that the dairy we eat on a regular basis is local, family owned and a true labor of love.
My first task was to create a menu that is inspired by all things dairy (butter,cream, cheese, milk…ummm yes please:) I needed to create something fabulous that included dairy as the STAR in every course!
Now, this was a blast to create! I use dairy all of the time but to have it the forefront of each course was something to think about and to let my creativity run wild! And Run Wild it did……
I needed each dish to have the right balance of the five basic tastes:
Umami you ask? Well, I use to think this was a pretentious cooking term that I didn’t need to use….UNTIL….I really took a moment to understand it. If you can understand umami….it will take your food to the next level! Umami resembles the rich flavor of fatty meats like steak. Think seafood. Think aged cheese — all carry the signature of umami. When I add Parmesan rind to a tomato sauce..it adds that missing umami…..it truly takes food to the next level. Learn more about unami here:
I then considered texture, color and of course…dishes that are easy to entertain with. You know- That’s my thang. I wanted every dish to be savored and also something everyone would think about in days to come.
The dinner began with a grazing board that included one of the most delicious Wisconsin cheese I’ve had in a long time…I mean…it was one of those things that you put in your mouth and think…. omg, what just happened! The cheese had the coarse texture of a parmesan and a flavor reminiscent of a cheddar. The cheese was just delightful, and I can’t get my mind off of it! I learned so much about cheese on my trip to Minnesota…..I now LOVE to explore all different types of cheeses when I’m out doing my regular shopping….yummy. I try to pick up a cheese that I have never tried each time I’m out shopping-such a fun way to learn and discover new favs!
I then included a small Crudité of veggies wrapped in prosciutto on the grazing board. I added nuts with fresh rosemary, olives with Cervasi olive oil and orange zest. I finished the board off with fruits, crackers and a bit of greenery for color. The goal was to create something that was really beautiful and inviting. I love starting parties where all my guests can have a glass of wine (or 2:), get to know each other, start to relax and nibble on delicious food that looks beautiful.
See my free guide on how to create stunning seasonal boards here.
Blue Cheese Soufflé over Mixed Greens
No way was I going to serve my wonderful guests a mixed green salad with a bit of cheese on it….NOPE….way to easy. I had my heart set on these cute little individual cheese soufflés place on a bed of arugula with a simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette . Make these and they will dazzle your guests and the great thing is you can make them in advance!
Yep…soufflés made in advance…I promise! Make them a day or 2 ahead of the event and reheat (read repuff) them right before serving….omg, so good and easy….right?!?!
I will be sharing this recipe and all the tips that will keep you from making rookie souffle mistakes…so stay tuned! The light, cheesy, creamy, warm, soufflé-y goodness is something you HAVE to try!
Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Butter Sauce
Gnocchi was a no brainer for my pasta course. I LOVE gnocchi and ricotta gnocchi is my fav. Typically, gnocchi are made with potatoes, but Ricotta Gnocchi is the lighter, hipper cousin to the typical Northern Italy potato gnocchi that everyone is most familiar with.
These gnocchi cook up like a soft light pillowy dumpling. Often times, I use ricotta gnocchi as a base for any type of sauce. I love pouring a simple tomato sauce over them or a brown butter sauce….yummy!
Did I mention that Ricotta Gnocchi can also be made in advance? ‘ YES…make these a week or two in advance and put them in the freezer and plop them in boiling salted water when you’re ready to serve. For this party I was all about delicious food while keeping in mind that I wanted to enjoy my guests and not cook every dish at the last minute before serving.
The Tomato Butter sauce that I poured over the ricotta gnocchi paired perfectly with each other. In each bite, the two flavors swirled together and was MAGNIFICENT! (if I must say so myself ☺)
Milk Braised Pork with Herbs and Vegetables.
This course was a labor of love. I braise a LOT of meats in red wine, stock etc…I know, I know…I like red wine..but I wanted to use milk as my braising liquid and create my own recipe. As I was thinking about how to create this dish, I thought about a dish I ate in Tuscany-Maiale al Latte. Maiale al Latte is a classic Italian dish that utilizes the lactic acid in milk to break down a fatty pork. It’s hard for some of us (non-Italians or Italian wanna-bes) to wrap our heads around this because typically we braise pork by throwing stock and wine into a pot! But, when you are surrounded by farmland, cows and pigs, Maiale al Latte starts making perfect sense.
Once I got the flavors that I wanted to create perfected, this dish was really easy. I infused the milk with garlic, herbs, leeks, fennel carrots and a bit of lemon. Once ready to serve I added cannelloni beans and a bit of gremolata and created a one pot PERFECT meal! This was truly a no mess, no fuss type of main dish I love. Oh yea…..you guessed it….you can totally make this in advanced as well…and it even gets better! Keeping it simple people!
Panna Cotta with Berries
Now I LOVE panna cotta, but I know a lot of people don’t because they haven’t had the real deal. Panna Cotta is defined as: sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and molded. Maybe it’s the “gelatin” or “molded” part that turns so many people away from Panna Cotta….but I promise if you stick with my recipe you will LOVE Panna Cotta. This recipe has a perfect ratio of liquid and gelatin. and has an amazing smooth and silky texture. Panna Cotta is great for any type of entertaining. Formal, casual, large, small….and guess what??? You can even make it ahead of time..(is that getting old..but it’s true:) This recipe allows for you to get creative with toppings and it will soon be your go to dessert recipe! The moment you dip your spoon into the creamy deliciousness and try the sweet, silky bite…you will be a true believer in Panna Cotta.
Welp that’s it….I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed hosting these amazing new friends last night. Please refer back to my blog about my visit to Minnesota and the other Dairy farmers I met there. Dairy farms are so much more than just the cows. These farms are lovingly passed down from generation to generation. Each generation works to improve the processes and environment handed down to them. They do this with sincere love and passion for their products, animals and their legacy. So please remember, if you desire to support local, buy dairy because dairy is not shipped long distances. You will be supporting local dairy farmers who prides themselves on delivering nutritious and safe products.
A sincere thank you to Midwest Dairy for allowing me the opportunity to cook and gather with such an incredible and inspiring group of people.
Post sponsored by Midwest Diary, but all the ideas and typos are mine:)