Special Occasion Dinner at Home

Friday, March 7, 2014

This year for Jimmy's birthday dinner I decided to make a little feast at home instead of dining out.  I was racking my brain over a menu I could create at home that would be both impressive enough to make him not miss going to a restaurant but also doable in a few hours.  Here is what I came up with and it was hit!  {Side note: Jimmy usually eats super clean.  As in, he washes his 99% lean turkey in a collider after cooking it to get the rest of the fat out.  So relative to his usual eating habits this is all quite indulgent!}

Bone-In Prime Rib Roast {5.3 lbs} 
I decided on a classic Chicago winter meat option.  We would have purchased this cut of meat at a restaurant. This boy also loves leftovers so I knew we could keep this birthday meal going for a least one more night with this sized roast.
Whipped Sweet Potatoes His favorite
Roasted broccoli tossed in Trader Joe's Sweet Chili Sauce (its delicious on everything!)
Homemade French Bread with roasted garlic butter - I found a great 1 hour recipe I'll link below
6-inch Carrot Cake - I made cakes earlier in the afternoon so they could cool down to frost while the roast was cooking

Prime Rib Roast 
I chose this cut because I could put it in the oven and not have to think about it for 90 minutes. I seared it in frying pan with oil to brown up the sides and then placed it bone side down in a glass Pyrex dish.  In the bottom I added a few cloves of garlic, half an onion and a little water.  It cooked to a perfect 135° internally at 375° in 90 minutes.  It rested for about 30 minutes while we opened presents :)

Tip: Take a peek at the roast periodically to make sure there is still liquid on the bottom of the pan so you have something to work with for a sauce.  If its getting dry add cup of water at the 45 minute mark.  

For an easy sauce, I took the drippings and onions from the pan and dump them into a sauce pan.   Mix 1 tablespoon of flour and enough water to make it about the consistency of whole milk.  Pour the flour mixture into the sauce pan and mix until its all combined.  I kept it on low until everything was plated so it was nice and hot when we sat down.

Roasted Garlic Butter
The easiest but yummiest spread for your bread!  Take a small piece of foil and fold up the sides a bit.  Place 4-5 cloves of garlic with a drizzle of olive oil and a little pepper to the foil pouch and seal it shut.  Pop it in the oven when the roast has been cooking for 45 minutes.  Let it cook in its little foil pouch until you take the roast out.  Smash the roasted cloves (they'll be super soft) and mix them with a few tablespoons of butter and you're done.  You could also just skip the butter and spread them right on your bread.  So so good!

Whipped Sweet Potatoes
I added a little pure maple syrup and a 2 tablespoons of Keri Gold butter to the boiled potatoes.  I used my emulsion blender to make them super smooth!

Roasted Broccoli
This is one vegetable I actual crave pretty frequently.  I just love the flavor and the crunch of roasted broccoli.  All you need to do is toss the cut crowns in olive oil, salt, pepper and a few tablespoons of Trader Joe's Sweet Chili Sauce.  Place them on a foiled cookie sheet in the oven at 400° for about 15 minutes or until the edges are dark brown and crispy.  We make this side dish regularly but the sweet chili sauce really changed it up!

Quick French Bread Recipe
I tried Keep Home Simple's 1 hour recipe and it was pretty good!  It was a little denser than I was hoping but it still made for an easy soft dinner bread.  This recipe makes 2 beautiful loaves.

You can see its a little denser than your typical French bread

6-inch Carrot Cake
I made the cakes earlier in the day because I only have one oven and you can't cook carrot cake and a rib roast at the same time :)
Buying 6-inch cake pans was one of the best baking purchases I've ever made.  I find that I use them so much more now than I ever used 8" rounds.  Plus they make for an adorable mini cake that easily feeds a small gathering.  You can find Fat Daddio's 6"x2" pans on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Daddios-Anodized-Aluminum-9-Inch/dp/B0000VLIHI

I only ever make one carrot cake and its Fannie Farmer's Rabbits Carrot Cake.  It's just one of those recipes that fall into the "if its not broken, don't fix it" buckets.  It fills two 6" rounds with about ¼ cup batter left over.  

Rabbit's Carrot Cake
{Fannie Farmer}
1½ cups grated carrots (This is about 3-4 carrots)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup crushed pineapple
1½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each allspice, cloves, nutmeg 
¾ cup vegetable oil 
3 eggs
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup walnuts

1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Now is also a good time to set out your butter and cream cheese to soften for your frosting.
1. Combine grated carrots, lemon juice and pineapple in a small bowl.  Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add the oil and mix well.
3. Add your eggs to the flour/oil mixture and continue mixing the batter until it is smooth.
4. Now add your raisins, walnuts and the carrot mixture to the flour mixture.  Mix until it is smooth.

Grease your loaf or cake pans and divide the batter equally.  Bake for 50 minutes or until your knife comes out clean. I had about ¼ cup of the batter that would not fit in the cake pan.  I just tossed it.  

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting
I don't like having to ration my frosting when I'm making cakes so I usually double most recipes.  This recipe will cover a double layered 6" cake with enough to frosting to fill the middle (and a little left to spare.)  You could probably save your left over batter and frosting to make an emergency cupcake :)

2 packs of cream cheese (16 ounces), softened
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Option: I also added a few drops of lemon extract but you could also add the zest of a lemon too.

Beat the cream cheese and butter together.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar until smooth.  Mix in your vanilla and lemon and you're done!

Add a little carrot swirl, walnuts and cinnamon for garnish

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