The Chef's Dinner Table
Dinner Clubs are making a comeback so to speak. The Couple’s Dinner Clubs have transitioned through-out history from its origin of the “Supper Club” and began a tradition of sorts. A supper club originally began as a traditional dining establishment that would also function as a social club. A supper club had the image of a high-class destination, one where guests had to be invited in to enjoy the dining experience. Supper Clubs became very popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s right around the time of prohibition. They were traditionally a place where guests would spend the whole evening, from cocktail hour to a nightclub type of entertainment after dinner. This establishment featured a casual and relaxed atmosphere where guests could eat, discuss issues of the day and just hang out with friends and members of this exclusive club.
Supper Clubs have turned into Dinner Clubs or Couple’s Dinner Clubs, a destination where one has to be invited into this exclusive modern day club.
A few years ago, my friends and I thought of tapping into this club of “exclusivity” and decided to try our hand at monthly dinners with a small group of friends. We, however, named it the Chef’s Dinners. Our Chef’s Dinners' consists of friends that are foodies, love to cook exquisite meals, drink wine or cocktails and discuss random topics. We always begin with a cocktail hour moving onto appetizers and then dinner. Afterward we just hang out and chat in this casual atmosphere which is usually our living rooms or patios.
When planning these dinners, we all decided to kick it up a notch by making recipes that we have never made before and also theming them. Having to prepare a never before meal is really a lot of fun as it tends to test our culinary skills on new elaborate recipes.
Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Our first Chef’s Dinner was Latin themed, by our long-time couple friends. Their menu was Latin type foods, and everyone is to make a dish related to their menu. They made a spectacular flank steak with a chimichurri sauce followed by empanadas, key lime pie and mojitos! The chimichurri sauce adds a punch of goodness to the flavorful steak.
My first time dish was dessert, the Key Lime Pie! This pie was so easy to make from scratch. The pie has a touch of tartness from the key limes to sweetness from the graham cracker crust and meringue topping that touches your palette in a subtle but lip-smacking way. This was one of my very best desserts to date and is now a family fave! Muy deliciosa!
When decorating for a themed dinner party, there is no reason to go crazy or expensive. With our Chef’s Dinners, we usually go for something low key and easy. With the Latin theme, the tables had brightly coloured table cloths, napkins and plates. Vibrant, in-season coloured flowers were placed on the tables as center pieces. They hung some brilliant colourful paper fans, had some festive drinkware, turned on some Latin music and there you have it! Easy peezy! Dinner parties need not be about perfection, but about good food and friends!
One of my favourite Chef’s Dinners was the Elegant Steakhouse dinner! Our friend made a phenomenal beef tenderloin, with asparagus and twice baked potatoes! My taste buds have never been the same since this dish was served! The tenderloin was cooked to a medium rare of perfection with a dollop of horseradish sauce to top it off! The twice baked potatoes were a tantalizing treat with all of their creamy goodness. We could not let this perfect decadent meal go without serving the perfect wine. We served a beautifully full-bodied, distinguished Cabernet Sauvignon!
The decorations were simple, elegant and sophisticated! Beautiful black and gold accents, and delicate crystal stemware adorned the table. Soft candle light lit the way to enjoying this wonderful culinary masterpiece. As you can see, theming a dinner party does not need to be expensive or over the top. Sometimes, simple is best. After all, you want the food to shine, not your decorations!
If you have been thinking about starting a Couple’s Dinner Party or Chef’s Dinner Club, here are some steps of preparation to keep in mind.
Steps to starting your own Chef’s Dinner Club:
- Choose who the invitees will be, preferably good friends old and new that have the same interest as you when it comes to cooking. We like to keep the dinners small to a few close friends. Only inviting a small circle of friends will make the dinners easier to prepare and less stressful for the host/hostess.
- Choose who will host the first dinner.
- The host will plan the menu and determine who will bring which dish. The host/hostess usually makes the main course, so the remaining dishes to consider are: Appetizers, Side Dish, Bread/Carbs, Dessert, and depending on theme will determine the drink of choice.
- Choose the frequency of the dinners. We try to have one/month, however, life does get in the way, so we work around it. Just make sure to get the dinners back on track, otherwise, it will be a year since the last dinner.
And remember, these dinners are not just about eating great food, they are about my close-knit, food-loving friends that are in my life, that fill my soul with laughter, love and happiness!
Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce Recipe:
I’ve always been a steak lover, especially when it’s topped with homemade chimichurri. It adds freshness and zing to grilled meats, chicken or fish, and the sauce can be made a day in advance.
- 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 3/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- fresh ground pepper
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Chimichurri Sauce Recipe:
For the Chimichurri Sauce:
- 2 packed Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped (no stems)
- 2 packed Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- 2 tbsp. red onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. water
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp fresh black pepper
- 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- Using sharp knife lightly score the steak about 1/8-inch-deep on both sides in a crisscross pattern at 1/2-inch intervals.
- In a small bowl combine the cumin, garlic powder, oregano, freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. Season both sides of the steak with season spices.
- For the chimichurri, combine the red onion, vinegar, salt and olive oil and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix all ingredients together. (Note: this tastes best when you chop the onions by hand rather than in a food processor, not sure why but trust me)
- Prepare the grill on high heat. Grill the steaks to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, turning steaks 1/4 turn after 1-1/2 minutes to form crisscross grill marks, if desired.
- Transfer steaks to cutting board; let rest 5 minutes. Thinly slice steaks across grain.
- Transfer to platter and top with chimichurri sauce
Recipe by: Gina Homolka
Key Lime Pie and Meringue Topping Recipe:
For the Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups graham-cracker crumbs, broken into pieces
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons sugar
For the Filling:
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (about 17 limes)
- 1 tablespoon grated key lime zest, plus more for garnish (about 8 limes)
For the Meringue Topping:
- 8 large egg whites
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- For the Crust: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine graham-cracker crumbs, butter, and 3 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl; mix well. Press into a 9-inch pie plate, and bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.
- For the Filling: Lower oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, gently whisk together condensed milk, egg yolks, key lime juice, and zest. Pour into the prepared, cooled crust.
- Return pie to oven, and bake until the center is set but still quivers when the pan is nudged, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
- For the Meringue Topping: Add topping shortly before serving. In a large bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium-high until stiff peaks form. Pipe or spread meringue on pie, making sure it touches the crust all around. Use a kitchen blowtorch to brown meringue all over.
2018, Martha Stewart Living