I enjoy inviting friends over and usually prepare a meal for them. It can be brunch, or a casual meal by the pool, a BBQ or a more formal meal. The menu below was for a special occasion with some special friends. I wanted to make something different for the main course and came up with Chicken “Wellington”. This turned out to be a delicious meal that my friends loved.

First Course

Italian Onion Soup

Ingredient

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 pounds of Tropea onions or red sweet onions – halved or quartered and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sea salt
6 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
Croutons
Shaved Parmesan cheese for the topping

Directions

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add the olive oil and set on the pan over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the garlic and let sizzle for about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn.

Add the onion slices and sprinkle with the salt. Stir into the olive oil with a wooden spoon.

Reduce the heat to low and slowly cook the onions for about 15 minutes – stirring frequently.

The onions will reduce in size and begin to develop a light browned color.

Add the wine to the pot and cook until the liquid reduces. Add the beef broth and bring the liquid to a boil.

Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes.

Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes, letting the soup thicken a bit.

When ready to serve, pour soup into individual soup bowls, top with croutons and shaved cheese.

Second Course

Stuffed Chicken Breasts In Pastry

Ingredients

One 17.3-ounce package Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts halves
6 heaping tablespoons chive/onion cream cheese, divided
3/4 cup spinach pesto, divided, Recipe Link

Directions

Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness between sheets of plastic wrap.

Place one heaping tablespoon of cream cheese on one end of each breast and flatten the cheese to make an even layer.

Fold the opposite end of the breast over the cheese and press down. Do the same with the rest of the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Unfold one pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 16-inch square.

Cut into 4 squares. Do the same with the second sheet of pastry and set 2 squares aside.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of spinach pesto on each square.

Top each with a folded chicken breast. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg mixture.

Fold the corners of the pastries up over the chicken and press to seal. Place the pastries on an oiled baking sheet.

Use a small decorative cookie cutter to cut out 6 flowers or other shapes.

Place a cutout on top of each pastry.Brush with the egg mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes. Pastry should be golden brown and flaky and the chicken should register 165 on an instant read meat thermometer.

While the chicken is baking make the wine sauce.

Mushroom Wine Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1 shallot, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a medium skillet heat the butter over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms, shallot and garlic for 5 minutes.

Add the freshly chopped parsley, salt and pepper and continue to saute for about 8-10 minutes.

Add the wine, bring to a boil and reduce by about 1/2 over medium heat.

Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the cream. Heat over low and serve with the cooked chicken breasts.

Rapini with Garlic and Oregano

4 Servings

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), ends trimmed and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 large garlic cloves minced
1/2 dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper, crushed
Salt to taste

Directions

Cook broccoli in boiling, salted water in a large saucepan 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender; drain.

Rinse with cold water; coarsely chop and drain again.

Heat oil in the same saucepan. Add broccoli, garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano; cook stirring 3 to 4 minutes.

Season with salt, to taste.

Corn Custard

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter
5 cups fresh yellow corn kernels cut off the cob (6 to 8 ears)
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
4 eggs
2 cups prepared Bechamel sauce, see recipe below
1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal flour (Masa Harina)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the inside of a 2 quart baking dish.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan and saute the corn and onion over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs and Bechamel sauce in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and then the ricotta.

Add the honey, salt, pepper and the cooked corn mixture. Process until smooth with a stick blender.

Stir in the chopped chives and the grated cheddar cheese. Pour into the baking dish.

Place the dish in a larger pan and fill the pan 1/2 way up the sides of the dish with hot tap water.

Bake the pudding for 40 to 45 minutes until the top begins to brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

This dish can be prepared one day ahead and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator one hour before baking.

Béchamel Sauce

Ingredients

3 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt

To make the béchamel:

Melt the butter over medium heat. When foaming, add the flour and stir briskly with a whisk.

Cook for about 2 minutes, then slowly add the milk, whisking continuously.

Cook for about 3-4 minutes more, until it is of medium-thick consistency, similar to a runny pudding or yogurt.

Remove from the heat and set aside. Makes about 3 cups.

Dessert Course

Vanilla Ice Cream with Berry Sauce and Shortbread Cookies

Slice-and-Bake Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

1 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

Beat 1 cup softened butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract and almond extract until blended.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low-speed until blended.

Shape the shortbread dough into 2 (7-inch) logs.

Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill 4 hours, or freeze logs in zip-top plastic freezer bags up to 1 month.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

If frozen, let logs stand at room temperature 10 minutes.

Cut each log into 1/4 inch t slices. Place shortbread slices 1 inch apart on lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake the shortbread slices for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges of slices are golden.

Remove shortbread from the baking sheets and place on wire racks; let cool completely (about 20 minutes).

Store in airtight containers or in the freezer.

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