I’ve had the good fortune to join a dinner/cooking club with a lovely group of women. Our founder, Jill Warren Kahn, is a talented interior designer based in Chicago who had the idea of canoodling (I know, seriously…I’ve never used that word in a sentence) with her foodie friends once a month for conversation, recipe exchange and of course, food and wine consumption.
The idea is simple: each month the host chooses a theme, and the guests bring a dish based on that theme. Cooking clubs have gained popularity over the recent months, of course out of the food-lover’s goal of stretching the dollar. Culinary magazines are featuring articles on the concept; Bon Appetit even offers this handy Cooking Club Starter Kit.
For our first meeting, the “Domestic Diva Dinner Club” exercised their cooking chops with the theme of “Modern Comfort Food.” What follows are samples of some of our recipes, plus some rather fabulous photos, if I do say so myself.
Viva les Divas!
Fried Macaroni and Cheese Croquettes, brought to you by Jill
Prepared macaroni and cheese
About 2 eggs
About 2-3 cups bread crumbs (half panko and half traditional italian-seasoned)
About a teaspoon dried parsley flakes (mostly for color)
About ¼ cup flour
Peanut oil, for frying
Prepare your favorite homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, pour into a pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Take out of refrigerator and shape into meatball sized balls. Place on wax paper and freeze overnight. Mix the bread crumbs and parsley flakes together in a small bowl. Put the flour in a separate small bowl. Whisk the eggs together and place in a separate small bowl.
Dredge the frozen balls in the flour first, shaking off any excess flour. Then place them in the eggs, and last in the bread crumb mixture. Place back in the freezer, until you are ready to fry. Heat peanut oil to 350 degrees F (preferably in a deep fryer, but you can also do this in a frying pan on the stove.) Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until croquettes are warm all the way through. Use your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.
Time to make: 1 hr
Almond Crusted Chicken Fingers, brought to you by Sheila (& EatinWell Magazine)
½ C sliced almonds
¼ C whole wheat flour
1-½ tsp paprika
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp ground pepper
1-½ tsp olive oil
4 large egg whites
1 lb chicken tenders
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Line baking sheet with foil. Set a wire rack on baking sheet and coat it with cooking spray. Place almonds, flour, paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a food processor; process until the almonds are finely chopped and paprika is mixed throughout. Drizzle in the oil and process until combined. Transfer to a shallow dish.
Whisk egg whites in a second shallow dish. Add chicken tenders and turn to coat. Transfer each tender to the almond mixture and turn to coat evenly. Place tenders on prepared rack and coat with cooking spray. Bake chicken fingers until golden brown, crispy, and no longer pink in the center, 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve with a variety of dipping sauces.
⅓ C extra-virgin olive oil
12 oz. brie cheese, thinly sliced
1 (12 oz) bag semisweet chocolate chips
⅓ C thinly sliced basil leaves
Preheat the panini press. Brush both sides of bread with oil. Place in the press, close, and grill bread slices until they begin to turn golden, 1-2 minutes. Remove from panini press and places 2 slices cheese on one slice of bread, top with ⅓ C chocolate chips, and sprinkle with basil. Top with another slice of bread. Repeat with other sandwiches. Return sandwiches to the panini press until chocolate begins to melt, about another 2 minutes. Cut the sandwiches into triangles and transfer to serving platter.