A dinner menu to warm guests on a chilly winter night
Now that winter has arrived, hearty sustaining meals are more appealing and warming after a busy day. The following menu is especially nice for company or a special occasion and can be prepared with little shopping or preparation time.
Wild mushrooms such as cepes, morels, and chanterelles are currently popular with adventurous cooks. These dried fungi, with their earthy pungency, team up well with pasta for the first course of a decidedly elegant dinner party.
Porcini, the French equivalent of a cepe, which rhymes with step, are available from specialty food stores. Some carry a ''generic'' dried imported mushroom which is slightly less pungent than a cepe but considerably less expensive.
It is $1.40 an ounce compared with $4.50 an ounce, and a very good substitute. The more readily available dried Chinese black mushrooms are another acceptable choice.
Follow the pasta course with grilled lamb steaks with rosemary butter, shredded zucchini with roasted red peppers, and a simple salad of mixed greens with a blue cheese vinaigrette.
Have your butcher cut the lamb steaks at least one inch thick from the sirloin half of a lamb leg or from the midsection of a frozen New Zealand leg.
There's a little trick for cooking the lamb steaks that will assure a juicy result. Sear the meat on both sides over very high heat, then remove and let rest at least 20 minutes. Just before serving, return to a less intense fire, or cooler saute pan, and cook to the desired degree of doneness.
Serve by slicing on the bias as you would a London broil. No juices will be lost during the slicing, a result of the initial high heat and resting, which sears the juices in.
The zucchini can be shredded, salted, rinsed, and squeezed early in the day, the peppers roasted then, too - and at dinnertime they need only to be heated.
Dessert is a combination of the best vanilla ice cream you can find topped with a ruby red raspberry-orange sauce. Fettucini With Imported Mushrooms 1 ounce cepes 8 strips bacon or 1/4 pound pancetta, diced 2 shallots, minced 1 cup tomato sauce 1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth 12 ounces egg noodles 1/4 pound softened butter Freshly ground pepper 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
One hour before serving, cover mushrooms with boiling water. Drain and rinse thoroughly. Fry bacon or pancetta and drain. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add shallots to fat and saute at low heat one minute or until translucent but not browned.
Julienne mushrooms; add to shallots and stir-fry for a moment. Add tomato sauce and boil until reduced by half. Add beef stock and cook at medium-high heat until sauce is thick. It should not be runny.
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and toss with softened butter. Toss pasta with sauce in saute pan and sprinkle bacon over top. Season with lots of freshly ground pepper. Pass cheese at the table. Serves 6 as a first course. Lamb Steaks With Rosemary Butter 6 lamb steaks, 1 inch thick 1 tablespoon oil, smokeless recommended such as grapeseed Mustard 2 tablespoons butter (if cooking in saute pan) 1 tablespoon oil (if cooking in saute pan) 5 or 6 tablespoons bread crumbs 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 1 small clove garlic, crushed 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary 1 tablespoon minced parsley 1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint leaves, optional
Brush steaks with oil, then with mustard. Dredge in bread crumbs. At least 30 minutes before serving, sear steaks at high heat either on hot grill or in saute pan to which you have added 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Sear about 2 minutes on each side. Remove and rest 20 minutes.
Return to grill or saute pan at medium heat for 3 minutes each side for medium rare. Place slice of seasoned butter on each steak about 1 minute before removing from heat. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing on bias in thick strips. Serves 6.
To make herb butter, beat together softened butter, garlic, and herbs. Spoon onto wax paper, molding into sausage shape by twisting ends tightly closed. Chill until butter may be sliced in quarter-inch-thick pieces. Freeze any that is left over for another use. Shredded Zucchini 3 zucchini 4 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons kosher salt Freshly grated pepper and nutmeg 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, optional
Grate zucchini into colander, add salt, and mix in with hands. Let rest 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Squeeze hard by handful or in a dish towel.
Melt butter in skillet. Add zucchini, pepper, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Just heat vegetable through, about 1 minute. Put in center of plate and ring with Roasted Red Peppers. Serves 6. Roasted Red Peppers 4 or 5 red bell peppers 1 tablespoon olive oil
Wash peppers and remove stem end. Cut in half the long way and flatten with hand. Place on cookie sheet and broil 7 to 12 minutes or until skin is charred. Put in paper bag, roll tightly closed until cool.
Remove skin; it will slip off easily. Remove seeds and rinse. Cut into thick strips. Heat oil in skillet, add peppers, and cook until heated through. Green Salad With Blue Cheese Vinaigrette 1 small head Boston lettuce 1 small head red leaf lettuce 1/2 bunch watercress 1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 1/4 cup olive oil 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Wash and dry lettuces. Put in plastic bag or wrap in clean dish towel and chill a few hours. Wash and roughly chop watercress. Chill salad plates.
Mix together garlic, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar. Add oils in a slow, steady stream, whisking rapidly. Stir in blue cheese and sugar. Toss greens and watercress with dressing and serve on chilled plates. Raspberry Orange Sundae 1 to 1 1/2 quarts vanilla ice cream 1 10-ounce package frozen raspberries 6 tablespoons orange marmalade Juice of half a fresh orange or 2 tablespoons orange juice
Thaw raspberries and whirl in food processor or blender. Strain to remove seeds. Melt marmalade in small saucepan. Add orange juice and mix a moment over low heat.
Scoop ice cream into glass serving dishes. Spoon raspberry sauce over ice cream and top with orange sauce.