Comfort Food Dinner Party

My husband and I hosted a small dinner party last night for visiting houseguests. They really enjoy down home comfort food so Pot Roast was definitely in order to be served with mashed potatoes and peas. Tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glaze were added for a little freshness and a sliced crusty baguette was also offered.

First things first – I needed to decide on what dishes to serve the food in and gather those together – a large, rimmed platter for the roast, a bowl for the peas and a bowl for the mashed potatoes, long dish for tomatoes, napkin lined basket for the bread and a small pitcher for the au jus.

Next, decide on the table settings. As it was going to be a nice evening, we decided to eat on the screened in porch. The table there is a fixed size so a table cloth works better for six people than placemats.

I have yet to figure out how to make mashed potatoes in advance. For these, I skinned and cubed 6 medium size Yukon Gold potatoes and placed in salted, boiling water and let boil for 20 minutes or so until they were soft. I mashed them with 4T of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Knowing that the au jus from the roast might be poured over them, I kept them simple.

RECIPES

Sugared Spiced Pecans
1 large egg white
1 t water
16 oz. package pecan halves
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 T ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Whisk together egg white and water in a large bowl until frothy. Stir in nuts.
In a separate bowl, combine well the sugar and cinnamon and stir into nuts, coating well. Spread nuts onto a parchment paper lined large shallow baking pan and bake in the middle of oven until dry – about 50 minutes. Cook completely and break into invididual pecan halves.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
This has become my go-to Pot Roast recipe. The only drawback is it is not what I consider “traditional” as it is not cooked with carrots and potatoes. But one can always cook those separately.

1 – 4 lb. boneless beef chuck roast
1 T steak seasoning
2 T olive oil
1 beef bouillon cube
1 cup hot black coffee (I use 1/2 regular and 1/2 decaffeinated)
1 – 8oz. can low sodium tomato sauce
5 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t dried oregano
Rub roast with steak seasoning. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and sear roast until browned, 5-7 minutes per side. Transfer to slow cooker – mine is a 7 quart capacity.

Dissolve bouillon cube in hot coffee in a 2 cup glass measuring pitcher and stir in tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and oregano. Pour over roast.


Cook, covered, until meat is tender – on LOW 11-12 hours or on HIGH 5 1/2 to 6 hours.
Serve on platter with au jus. (After roast is removed, pour liquid into a “fat separator” then pour defatted liquid – au jus – into pitcher to serve.)

Green Peas with Bacon
4 slices bacon
2 shallots, diced or similar amount of finely diced onion
1 t grated orange rind
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 t pepper
1/2 t kosher salt
2 – 16oz. bags frozen peas, thawed
2 T chopped fresh mint
2 t butter

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove and place on paper towels to drain, reserving 2 t drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon
SautĂ© shallots in hot bacon drippings over medium-high heat until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in orange rind, orange juice, pepper and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half – about 5 minutes. Stir in mint and butter.
Transfer peas to a serving bowl and sprinkle crumbled bacon on top and serve.

Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t iodized salt
1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground allspice
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 t vanilla extract
4 cups peeled and cubed apples (I used 4 Gala and 1 Granny Smith)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 pan with baking spray and flour, shake to loosen extra flour and discard.
In a medium bowl, whisk together well the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Slowly stir in flour mixture. The batter will be very thick. Stir in the apples until the batter moistens.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes – until the cake is golden brown and set. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
2 + cups powdered sugar

Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Add butter and vanilla and beat until combined.

Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. (More powdered sugar can be added for a thicker frosting. There was a little left in the bag this time, so I simply added the rest.)

Frost the cooled cake with the cream cheese frosting, cut into pieces and serve.
I store this in the refrigerator with cut ends securely covered with plastic wrap.


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