Your Turn to Host Supper Club

By Anna Dantoni

Supper club evenings are popular in neighborhoods of young families who want entertainment and social interaction with other adults but are on a tight budget. Progressive dinners where guests enjoy a course at each house along a planned route are fun. But so is the supper club format. This is when one host presents the entire meal. That host cooks everything or guests volunteer to bring certain dishes. Either way, the whole evening is spent at one location. The host sets the stage and chooses the theme.

If you have a friend who loves the supper club concept but gets stressed by the reality of organizing such an event, you might want to present her or him with the new book Friends at the Table by Debi Shawcross, a cooking instructor and home entertainment expert. Her book breaks down the whole supper club experience into menu, grocery list, recipes, themes, table settings, and what can be done the day before, eight hours, six and two hours before the guests ring the doorbell. She divides the book into the four seasons of the year with tips and recipes that are not complicated but seem plenty fancy enough to impress friends. Here are a few you might want to try.

Citrus Scented Orzo Salad with Fresh Fennel
(eight servings)
2 ¼ cups uncooked orzo (about a pound)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons minced lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pot of boiling water, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain orzo and transfer to a medium bowl. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat olive oil. Add the fennel and saute over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Transfer fennel to the bowl with orzo and toss well with the lemon zest and juice to combine. Allow to cool to room temperature, than add Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve.

Crispy Potato Cakes
(serves eight)
Three medium russet potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
5 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup finely chopped water chestnuts
¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water cook the potatoes until tender when pierced with a knife, about 40 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. Peel the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into large pieces and place in a medium bowl. Add the green onions, cilantro, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper; mash potatoes until well blended. Mix in the egg. Add sesame oil. Form potato mixture into eight 1 ¼-inch-diameter patties, each about ¼-inch thick. Place the potato cakes on a platter. Sprinkle both sides of cakes with sesame seeds. Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working batches, add potato cakes to the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

Note: These cakes can be prepared up to six hours ahead. Cover with plasticwrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Tequila Marinated Halibut with Grapefruit Avocado Relish
3 garlic cloves
3 green onions
1/3 cup tequila
13 cup lime juice
1/3 cup triple sec
1/3 cup orange juice
13 cup soy sauce
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
8 (6-ounce) pieces halibut

Prepare the marinade: Combine the garlic, onion, tequila, lime juice, triple sec, orange juice, and soy sauce in a food processor. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil in and blend until smooth transfer to a glass jar. Place halibut in a zip-lock bag. Add enough marinade to cover. Refrigerate and marinate for 30 minutes.

For the halibut: Preheat a slightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. Pat the halibut dry with a paper towel and cook until just barely firm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked fish to plates and top with Grapefruit Avocado Relish.

Grapefruit Avocado Relish
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ medium red onion, fienly diced
¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
¼ cup finely diced yellow bell pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
¼ cup orange juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 ruby red grapefruits, peeled and segmented
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil. Add the onion, peppers and jalapeno and cook for a few minutes, until they just begin to soften. Add the juices, salt and sugar and heat through. Add the grapefruit sections, avocado and cilantro, tossing well to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to garnish the fish.

(Friends at the Table: The Ultimate Supper Club Cookbook by Debi Shawcross, Franklin Green Publishing. $24.95)

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