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Fall Festival Feast with Friends

by Liz Turner, The Blue Apron Cooking School

Is there anywhere you could find that is a better place to be in early fall than the White Mountains of Arizona? With almost guaranteed perfect weather—crisp, cool, clean mountain air and warm gentle sunshine, brilliant deep blue skies, and the oak and aspen just changing into their fall finery—it is truly nature at its peak!

This is the time of year we most like to show off our beautiful town by inviting friends for a visit. And if they are coming from where there is not even a hint of cooler weather on the way, they jump at the chance. If we can pull this all together during our fabulous Fall Festival, well that is just the icing on the cake, so to speak! There are so many fun activities and things to do during this time, there is sure to be something for everyone’s interest.

HOWEVER, the one problem that can occur is finding a place to eat! With so many visitors the restaurants get packed, and waiting a long time for a table can take the fun out of a perfect day. But with just a little pre-planning and preparation, I find it is easier and more fun to plan dinner at home. This year I envision eating outside, next to the fireplace, where everyone can enjoy a leisurely meal, relaxing, visiting and telling stories about their adventures of the day.

Of course the key to the success of this event is to remind myself to – keep it simple! I’ll prep and prepare most everything ahead so my guests don’t feel like they should be helping, or that they are putting me out. But also, I want to be having fun all day and not fret about getting a complicated dinner on the table. Here is the menu that I’m planning, along with a few recipes that should fit the bill. I hope you might be inspired to host your own Fall Celebration with friends and family to savor some great food and make a toast to this glorious season.

Menu (outdoor dinner party for 10)

  • Assorted nuts, cheeses, dried fruits and crackers
  • Simple salad greens with Italian vinaigrette
  • Sticky sweet & spicy oven (or grill) BBQ ribs
  • Macaroni and cheese with mushrooms (in a rice cooker!)
  • Crusty French or Italian bread
  • Good quality store bought ice cream served with homemade cinnamon crisps

Sticky Sweet & Spicy Oven (or Grill) BBQ Ribs

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups catsup
  • 4 large cloves minced garlic
  • 4 Tbs. dried minced onions
  • ½ cup soy sauce, more or less to taste
  • 10 lbs. pork spareribs

Sauce

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a microwave safe bowl and cook on High for 8-10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Taste and add more sugar for less tart taste.

Ribs

Precook ribs in a large pot covered with water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 45 mins. Coat cooked and cooled ribs with sauce. Marinate overnight in refrigerator. Place ribs on large baking sheets lined with foil and cook ribs in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-45 mins until glazed and tender, or finish off on hot grill. Serves about 10.

Macaroni and Cheese with Mushroom (in a rice cooker!)

  • 1-½ Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium shallots
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ lbs. mushrooms, cut into bite-size thick slices
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups elbow macaroni
  • 2-½ cups chicken broth
  • 1- ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2-¼ cups shredded Fontina cheese
  • Drizzle of black truffle oil, optional

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, don’t let burn!

Stir together for a minute, add the mushrooms, parsley, ¾ tsp salt & pepper to taste. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are moist and have begun to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasonings. Place the macaroni, chicken broth, 1 ½ tsp salt, and ¾ tsp. pepper in the rice cooker. Stir to mix. Secure the lid and press to start. Cook until the rice cooker switches to “keep warm,” about 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the lid and add the cooked mushrooms, cream, cheese. Stir together.

Secure the lid, press cook again. When done the pasta should be just tender, and the bottom layer is lightly browned. Unmold onto a platter, so that the browned bottom layer is on top. Serves about 10.

Cinnamon Crisps

  • 3 pita breads, cut in half and sliced into thin strips
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar blended with 2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pull apart pita strips and place in a heavy Ziploc bag. Pour butter over strips, close bag and shake well. Sprinkle on cinnamon-sugar and shake well. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake about 15 mins or until crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature. (hint— don’t cover or the crisps will become soft)

Article and recipes provided by Liz Turner, The Blue Apron Cooking School.

The Blue Apron Cooking School Upcoming Classes

Fall Flatbreads and Pizzas ($50 Tue. 10/25 @ 10:30am or Wed. 10/26 @ 10:30am)

We will have fun making a wide variety of pizzas and flatbreads! They are so easy, fast and always a crowd pleaser. So versatile, they can be made into smaller portions for appetizers and snacks, or can be the main course for dinner or a party. Starting with some homemade doughs we will create such fun and delicious varieties as, Caesar Chicken Pizza, Italian Style Flatbread with PuttanescaTopping, Caramelized-Onion & Gorgonzola Pizza, Grilled Flatbread with Goat Cheese and Marsala-Fig Preserves, Sausage, Red Onion & Mushroom Pizza, Greek-Style Party Pizza, Rustic Applewood-smoked Bacon Rustic Flatbread Pizza and Walnut-Apple Pizza. Let’s Party!

Hearty Fall Harvest ($50 Wed. 11/9 @10:30am or Thur. 11/10 @10:30am)

The cool crisp air of fall makes being in a warm cozy kitchen such a pleasure. The fall harvest gives us the wonderful produce that is so perfect for the rich hearty dishes we’ve waited for all year. In this class we will make such dishes as Butternut Apple Soup,  Roasted Parsnip Salad with Hazelnuts, Blue Cheese & Pumpernickel Crumbs, Sweet Potato Curry,  Pomegranate & Fennel Glazed Lamb Chops,  Winter Herb & Lemon Spaetzle, Skillet Roasted Chicken with Winter Veggies,  Pumpkin Enchilada Casserole, Crusty Country Herbed Bread and the best dessert—ever, Toasted Pecan Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Gelato & Salted Maple Caramel Sauce!

Grand Finale – Holiday Brunch and Tea Party! ($50 Tue. 12/6 @ 10:30am or Wed. 12/7 @ 10:30am)

Come for the fun and stay for the food! We’ll kick off your holiday food planning with such a  festive array of delectables as, Pear & Gruyere Tea Toasts, Double Cranberry Crostini, Mini Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes, Bacon Cheddar Scallion Scones, Tarragon Chicken Tea Sandwiches, Cappuccino French Toast Sticks with Coffee Cream, Red Velvet Holiday Fudge, Coconut-Cranberry-Pecan Scones, Maple French Toast & Bacon Cupcakes and a selection of Holiday Teas and Cocktails.

To register or check current space availability, please visit our website at www.blueaproncooks.com. You can also call (928) 369-4664.