Streamline preparation to simplify your next dinner party

December 05, 1990|By Sherrie Clinton | Sherrie Clinton,Evening Sun Staff

Every once in a while even the most practical person decides to throw caution to the wind and produce a show-stopping meal.

Any successful dinner party requires careful organization, but a dinner that requires last minute work, like our Fettuccine Alfredo makes planning essential.

Follow these tips and you can have dinner ready in the time it takes to cook the noodles.

* Keep it simple. An elaborate main course calls for no-fuss side dishes, such as good quality bread, a fresh salad and a simple oil and vinegar dressing -- all elements that can be prepared or purchased ahead of time. A simple dessert, such as store-bought pound cake with fresh fruit or a scoop of good-quality ice cream would make a perfect ending.

* Break it down. Read the recipe and decide which parts can be done ahead of time. For this recipe, that includes cleaning the seafood, slicing the onions and lemons and bringing the butter to room temperature.

* Organize. Make a detailed list of what food has to be made when, for example the bread can be made day the before. A careful list will also keep you from forgetting small details such as the salad dressing.

* Inventory. Double-check your pantry and write a detailed grocery list. You won't have time to run back to the grocery store if you find you've forgotten to buy cream.

This dish will serve six to eight people. The bread and dessert can be made the day before. The salad and dressing can be purchased or made the morning of the party. Be sure to dry the salad ingredients carefully so that the salad doesn't get soggy. Remember to shake the dressing before serving.

Note: The recipe calls for one pound of shrimp and one pound of scallops. Make substitutions and alterations according to your taste and your budget. You could skip the scallops and use just one pound of shrimp. Stretch the shrimp by butterflying them. To do this, peel and clean the shrimp and make a full length cut along the backs, about halfway though the flesh. Remove the dark intestinal vein that runs along the back and open out the shrimp for cooking.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Green onions, green part only, sliced finely, for garnish

2 lemons, quartered, for garnish

1 pound shrimp, medium-size (see note above)

1 pound scallops, medium-size

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 package (12 ounces) fettuccine noodles

1 cup heavy cream or half and half

2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

Additional butter or margarine for sauteing seafood

2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed, or to taste (garlic powder can be substituted to taste)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Early in the day: Clean seafood, pat dry with paper towel, cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until needed. Slice lemon wedges, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Ditto the green onions.

About 30 minutes before serving: Assemble ingredients, except the seafood. Grate Parmesan if using fresh cheese. Warm the oven to about 200 degrees.

Immediately before serving: Cook fettuccine according to package directions, being sure to add a drop or two of olive oil to the water so that the noodles won't stick together.

While water is heating, in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan, heat cream and butter over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Keep warm. Be careful not to burn the sauce.

Once water begins boiling and you start cooking noodles, melt two tablespoons or so of butter, margarine or oil, in non-stick frying pan. Quickly saute the garlic. Saute about one-third of the seafood at a time, do not overcrowd pan. Sauteing takes about two to three minutes for medium-sized seafood. Seafood is done when it loses its transparency. Once cooked, remove with a slotted spoon to the casserole dish in the oven. Keep warm. Continue until all seafood is cooked.

Drain noodles and add to casserole. Remove sauce from heat and stir in cheese, salt and pepper. Pour over noodles and stir to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with green onions.

Serve immediately with the bread. Pass bowl of lemon wedges.

Vinaigrette Dressing

This tart, fruity dressing makes a wonderful counterpoint to a rich main course. It will last up to one week if refrigerated, be sure to bring it to room temperature and give it a good shake before serving.

This recipe makes 2 1/2 cups of dressing, more than enough for eight people.

Whisk together:

1/2 cup raspberry vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1 1/2 cups good quality olive oil

Basic Yeast Dough

5 to 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided

3 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 package dry yeast

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup water

5 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided

Combine two cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl; stir well. Combine milk, water and three tablespoons butter in a saucepan; cook over low heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally. Cool to 120 to 130 degrees.

Gradually add liquid mixture to flour mixture, beating well at high speed of an electric mixer. Beat an additional two minutes at high speed. Gradually add three-quarters cup flour, beating well. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Shape into a ball, and place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, one hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly four or five times. Shape dough into 1 1/2 -inch balls and place in two greased nine-inch square pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees) free from drafts, 35 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with butter, makes 3 1/2 dozen. Leftover rolls can be frozen.

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