Now that we've had a real taste of winter, and found out we're rather wimpy after all, we can give ourselves over to indoor entertaining with the cold months in mind. Our menus du jour will undoubtedly reflect our goal of fixing tummy warming treats for family and friends, with a secondary goal of spending some pleasant evenings in good company.
For our first "special dinner" of this new year, we plan a toasty feast by the fire – wood or gas is fine. (And failing that, crank up the indoor space heater.) Our menu for eight includes seafood and beef and other goodies in rather simple preparations designed to please the eye and please the palate even more. Begin the festivities early so that you can linger over coffee and dessert, and perhaps even a favorite card game – something simple so you don't have to think too much.
One entertaining resolution that lingers from year to year is to invite guests who enjoy employing the skills it takes to create, and savor, good food in good company. That way, you can feel comfortable asking them to prepare one of the dishes you've planned. A savings for everybody, and one they'll undoubtedly thank you for. (Well, probably.)
This bill of fare includes a first course of scallop and shrimp cakes with a Tex-Mex mayonnaise. You can serve a warmed, citrus-y white sangria with this, or white wine with a twist of lime. Or, of course, beer.
Our main course features chili-infused lamb chops sided by rice pilaf and sauteed winter greens.
And the dessert over which to linger? Caramel nut bars with ice cream. And coffee "warmed" with the addition of a favorite liqueur, e.g. Tia Maria.
Scallop and shrimp cakes
This whole dish only takes about 45 minutes (or less), but you can prep in the morning, then sauté the cakes just before serving.
If you haven't used canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce before, remember to be cautious with the suggested amount we use in the accompanying mayonnaise. Start with half, then add as you see fit.
1 pound sea scallops, tough muscle removed if necessary
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons finely chopped vidalia onion
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped (1/4-inch pieces)
About 1 cup each, plain dry bread crumbs and panko crumbs
About 3/4 cup vegetable oil