Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Family Dinner Party

Check out my breakfast. That would be half a cannoli from the pastry shop off the beaten path, guaranteed to have no line when Modern and Mike's are 20 people deep down Hanover Street: Bova's. I've raved about them before and I'll continue to do so further. Last night I hosted a family dinner party. Living in in the heart of Italian greatness, the fact of the matter is, out-of-town guests are always going to want cannolis after dinner. There is absolutley no need to stand in line for an hour on a Tuesday evening with the rest of the out-of-towners to get one. So to Bova's it is, where I ordered a large cannoli and could only finish half. Since I was going to indulge in the other half for breakfast it seemed only fitting that I splurge on coffee to go with. At 7:30 am, there was no line at Modern Pastry, so I stopped in for a hot, frothy cup. Last night's dinner party I was cooking for six, including Adam and myself, which is no small feat in my tiny kitchen. Same goes for my guests eating crowded around my living room table. Meanwhile, I haven't turned on the oven all summer. Even with the AC blaring, it was a sweatbox. But regardless, my family and I made it work. In attendance was my Mom, my Aunt Joyce - who flew in from The Great Plain State of Iowa earlier that afternoon, my sister Leah, and her boyfriend Tray. After I chatted, entertained, served drinks and appetizers, and opened myself a cold Hoegaarden, it was time for the cooking to begin. Obviously, I am cooking from a recipe, because rarely am I creative enough to concoct something on my own. Enter my Top Chef Cookbook. I decided I wanted to make Harold's Pan-Roasted Chicken with Potato Gnocchi. Since the recipe serves 1, I had to alter it dramatically. In general, it didn't have too many steps or look very difficult to execute. I also substituted a few ingredients.
Daisy's Baked Chicken with Potato Gnocci. Serves: 6.
-4 tablespoons Olive Oil
-5 boneless skinless chicken breasts. (5 and not 6, because some were monstrous in size.)
-16 ounces fresh potato gnocchi
-1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
-2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
-1 large can sweet petite peas
-1 cup chicken stock (In hindsight I might even use a little more.)
-2-3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
-salt and pepper
1) Preheat oven to 425°.
2) Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil - 1 each in dueling medium oven-safe pans over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, and brown for about 6 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Flip chicken, and transfer pan to oven. If you don't have an oven safe pan (like me) transfer chicken using tongs into baking dishes. The reason I call for dueling pans is it keeps everything even. I can cook all 5 chicken breasts at once, rather than 2 at a time if I was only using one pan.
3) While chicken is roasting (about 25 minutes), add the remaining 2 tablespoon olive oil - 1 in each pan over medium-high heat. (I am using the same pans I used in step one here. One pan really isn't enough for all that gnocchi.)
4) Add the gnocchi and mushrooms, and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are softened and gnocchi is browning, about 7 minutes.
5) Add the peas, then chicken stock and thyme. Cook until the mixture is thickened, and season with salt and pepper. 

To serve: Place the chicken on the plate and surround with mushroom, pea and gnocchi mixture. Pour the juices over the chicken and vegetables. Harold's plate: (source)
My plate:
The bone and skin on Harold's chicken, as well those unobtainable hen of the woods mushrooms, add an element of presentation, and I am sure taste, that mine is lacking. Not to say it made a huge difference, because while the looks of my chicken was rather plain, and haphazardly plated (gimme a break, I had six, he only had one!) my dish as a whole was bursting with flavor. The thyme (fresh from Mom's garden) and the stock enhanced the juicy chicken and the other texturally diverse ingredients. Thick chewy potato gnocchi, tiny bursts of sweet peas and soft savory mushrooms combined for a memorable dish which I would definitely recommend for your next dinner party, or a dinner for one. It goes without saying, no family gathering is complete without photo shoots.

We ventured up to the roof deck. 
Sisters times two!
And, of course, the Bova's trip. It was a lovely August night!


  1. awesome breakfast, family looks so happy, and i love your bookcase!

  2. oh please! i want that for breakfast!!! and i'll eat the rest throughout the day...

    -carrie :)

  3. Cute pics! That breakfast looks AMAZING!

  4. This looks such an awesome dinner party and kudos on using the Top Chef cookbook. I've had mine for awhile now and still haven't made a recipe with it!

  5. Chicken and gnocchi - yum. Cannoli from Bova's - even yummier ;) Hen of the woods mushrooms are amazing! They are wild mushrooms and they look like a giant bunch of brown alien flowers (seriously, I've never seen anything like 'em). Some of the farmers markets might sell them (I remember seeing some last year, but towards the end of summer/early fall). They are great chopped up and sauteed with some garlic and a lot of butter :) I hope you get to try/find them soon!

  6. Oh gosh we're seriously on the same wavelength! Gnocchi and canollis are hands down 2 of my favorite foods. I think a trip to mike's might be in the cards for me this weekend!

  7. awwww!!! looks like such a great {and delicious!!} time!!

  8. That pasta dish looks yummy- love gnocchi. and i'll have that cannoli please!

  9. I'm so impressed! I have that book, but I still haven't made anything from it. Awesome job.

    And yeah... I think I don't live in the North End because I wouldn't be able to stay away from the cannoli! I want one now!

  10. That cannoli looks amazing- even though I'm not a breakfast person I would LOVE to eat that for breakfast everyday ;)

  11. What a fun dinner party! Your gnocchi dish looks AMAZING.

  12. That's my kind of breakfast!!!

    You cooked. I'm so proud of you. I was wondering when we could be expecting something from you again. I remember how awesome the chicken with the grapes you made looked.

    I'm sure your family loved your dish. I've never tried gnocchi myself, but I'd love to.

    P.S. I'm waiting for the "Ditch, Friend, Marry" end of summer series. ;-)

  13. Oh, I meant to add this link. I kept the page open because as soon as I saw these plates I thought they were perfect for you. =)

    On Reeni's blog:

  14. We need to have a family Iron Chef competition! Awesome job. I want to be there!