No Fuss Friday Night Dinner Party

With the temperatures dropping, weekend
entertaining gets cozy and moves indoors.
But don’t worry, this doesn’t have to mean
keeping tabs on all four burners and the
bar while guests arrive. These do-ahead
recipes free you up to enjoy a cocktail and
conversation while still pulling off a meal
to remember. A do-it-yourself bruschetta
bar highlights seasonal produce, and slowcooked
pork pairs with hardy local greens
for a satisfying supper. Scoops of your
favorite ice cream make for a seriously sweet and easy finish.

Drinks

Ciderhouse Whiskey

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. cider syrup*
  • Dash of whiskey barrel-aged bitters
  • Strip of lemon zest

Combine bourbon, syrup and bitters over ice and stir gently. Twist lemon zest,
drop into drink and serve.

*Cider syrup can be made ahead by boiling apple cider until it has reduced to
an eighth its original volume (about two hours for a gallon to reduce to 2 cups).
Or you can substitute maple syrup.

Bruschetta Bar

For the bruschetta, toast bread, rub with a garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil. Toppings can all be made a day
ahead and served at room temperature. Serve them in bowls for easy self-service. Complement with a variety of
olives, cured meats, nuts and cheeses.

Sauteed wild mushrooms
with thyme

(pair with Parmesan)

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lbs. mixed mushrooms, such as
    button, shiitake, king oyster and crimini,
    sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • Salt & pepper

In a large skillet, melt the butter in the
olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook
over moderately high heat, without
stirring, until browned on the bottom,
3 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring
occasionally, until browned and tender
(6-7 minutes longer). Add garlic and
cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in thyme and season with salt and
pepper. Transfer to a bowl and serve at
room temperature.

Chickpea and Broccolini
(pair with ricotta)

  • 1 8-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and
    drained
  • 1 bunch of broccolini, trimmed and
    chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/2-tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch
the broccolini for 3 minutes. Remove
and immediately shock in a bowl of
ice water. Remove from ice bath and
drain. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over
medium heat saute the garlic, red pepper
flakes and lemon zest in the olive oil
until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add
chickpeas and drained broccolini and cook
for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer
mixture to a bowl and squeeze lemon juice
over it. Serve at room temperature.

Butternut squash and sage

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and
    cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. light brown sugar
  • Salt & pepper
  • 24 fresh sage leaves

The Main Event

Orecchiette with Pork Ragu
Serves 8

  • 1-1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 each of the following: small onion, carrot, celery stalk and
    garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 square cheesecloth
  • 1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed,
    torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 1-1/2 lb. orecchiette or other medium-sized pasta
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season pork with salt and
pepper. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large heavy pot, or Dutch oven over
medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook meat, turning
occasionally until browned. Transfer to a large plate.
Drain all but 2 Tbsp. fat from pot and reduce heat to medium.
Cook onion, carrot, celery and garlic, stirring occasionally until
golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.
Inside the square of cheesecloth, wrap up and tie the rosemary,
oregano, bay leaf, cloves and peppercorns with kitchen twine.
Add to pot along with pork, tomatoes and wine. Add water to
just cover the meat and bring to a boil. Cover and cook in the
oven until meat is very tender, 4-5 hours.
Discard herb bundle. Using two forks, shred meat in pot, cook,
uncovered over medium heat until sauce is thickened, 8-10
minutes. Add kale and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water
until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
Add pasta to pork, cooking over medium heat, adding reserved
pasta water as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Mix in butter
and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Serve pasta
drizzled with more olive oil and topped with more Parmesan.