Last year we hosted our first New Year’s Eve sit down dinner party for 12 people and I shared the details of the dinner menu and the decor/ambiance/party planning tips on the blog. The New Years’ dinner party has now become a tradition and we hosted our second dinner party this year. Today, I’m sharing details on the menu that we selected and recipe recommendation/tips based on our party. I will be sharing details about the party planning tips, decor, and drinks in an upcoming blog post – – stay tuned because there are a couple of fun “out of the box” ideas including a ballon drop!
This year I was a bit more ambitious and decided to serve stuffed tenderloin as the “shining star” or main entree for the dinner party. Because I wanted the beef to be the main attraction, I opted to keep appetizers on the lighter side (so people wouldn’t fill up and not have room for the main course). I served one hot appetizer Balsamic Bacon Wrapped Dates and a meat and cheese plate. For the main course I served Salad, Stuffed Beef Tenderloin, and Roasted Brussel Sprouts With Pecans and Cranberries. We closed out the decadent meal with Salted Caramel Fudge Bacon Brownies, prepared by my friend Rajul.
I am lucky that my best friend Jen, The Balaboosta Chef, is an amazing chef who provides private cooking parties and classes and is my “go-to” for all recipes (if you are located in Westchester County NY you should check her out)! She helped me put together this fabulous menu and provided most of my recipes. I’ve included Jen’s recipe for bacon wrapped dates below and have pulled other recipes similar (but probably not as good!) to the recipes that I used.
When planning for the meal, Jen and I went back and forth on timing. I really wanted to make it a coursed sit-down meal – a salad course, followed by a pasta course, then a meat/veggie course, and finally dessert. We brainstormed and tried to make it work but the timing was just not working out – particularly, if I wanted to actually sit down with my guests. I realized that it was okay to serve everything together, less stress for me, and it actually allowed me to dine with my guests. Plus, it ensured that everyone enjoyed the meal and didn’t fill up too much on courses before the main dish.
Would love to hear from you if you use some or all of these recipes or your recipe recommendations! Tweet me @anjvarma or comment in the box below!
Balsamic Bacon Wrapped Dates (See recipe below)
You can’t go wrong with cheese, dates, and bacon all rolled into one – sweet and salty, one of my favorites! My sister in law made these and they turned out great. We actually tested on Christmas so that we were sure we had it down for our dinner party. The trick is to find the Medjool dates so they are large enough to stuff. And the Ziplock piping bag sounds more complicated than it actually is! Make sure you keep an eye out on these and don’t overcook (we did that the first time!). And yes, I had my sister in law take the lead on these – when you are hosting an elaborate meal, don’t be afraid to outsource courses or dishes – you can only do so much!
Speaking of outsourcing, salad is one of my favorite dishes to outsource! Its a lot of cutting and prepping and its the perfect dish for someone to bring over because it is served at room temperature so there is no fighting for the oven/range. We kept the salad simple this year but here are more elaborate salad recipes if you want to mix it up.
I elected to serve pasta because I am a fan of serving the carb/veggie/protein combo and I wanted to provide an option for guests who may not eat beef. Because the tenderloin was more complex I tried to keep the pasta on the simpler side. This recipe from The Barefoot Contessa was a hit and so easy to make right before serving dinner. I timed this dish so that I was prepping the pasta while the tenderloin was in the oven/resting. The key is to boil the pasta 80% before your guests arrive and keep the pasta water on the stove (instead of draining). Once you are ready to prepare your pasta, cook in the boiling water for another 1-2 minutes so that it is hot and proceed with the recipe. It looks very plain at first glance, but it was delicious and would make an excellent main course as well. We had leftovers and it was a hit with my kids as well!
For this dish I used Jen’s recipe but the recipe provided above has many of the same elements. This dish was delicious – perfect for fall/winter. I recommend buying pre-cut sprouts at Trader Joes’ or your local grocery to save yourself time the day of – or cut the sprouts the night before like we did. Make sure you know if you have any nut allergies beforehand so you can prepare a small portion without the pecans for those guests.
So my tenderloin turned into quite the saga on New Years evening but it was still a hit with the guests!
First of all, if you are considering tenderloin you should know that it is definitely on the pricey side. To get a tenderloin that is cleaned and ready to go from somewhere like Whole Foods or your local butcher it is going to cost around $29/lb! You can purchase “un-cleaned” (not the official term but you get my point!) tenderloin at Costco for much much cheaper but you will have to cut and clean it yourself ($12/lb). There are YouTube videos and cooking sites which will show you how to cut/clean correctly but it is a very tender/expensive cut of meat and there is definitely room for error! Originally we were going to go with the cheaper option and do ourselves but I got worried of butchering and wasting so I opted for the expensive meat that was ready to go. The additional benefit of the prepared meat is that you can also have your butcher butterfly the meat for you so it is ready to be stuffed.
I was worried about stuffing and cooking the tenderloin perfectly so I did a test run before the big evening. I purchased a 2 lb tenderloin and prepared a meal for my fam. I highly recommend testing most of your dishes before a dinner party just to make sure you have the timing/prep/cooking down pat (although, read below and you will see it doesn’t always work out exactly as planned)! The test run was perfect – searing and stuffing was easy – and the meal turned out delicious.
In order to make New Year’s night as smooth as possible, I stuffed the tenderloin the morning of. The stuffing is super easy to make and once you have butterflied it is easy to stuff. We stuffed and tied with twine and kept wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge until the evening. The key is to take out at least an hour before searing so that the meat is at room temperature and ready to sear. Speaking of prepping ahead, I also made a horseradish sauce for the tenderloin the night before so that is was one less thing I had to do the night of.
Well, my test went a bit better than the night of (although the night of was still pretty tasty – check out the pic)! I think the main issue that I faced was that I was working with much more meat on New Year’s (7 lbs) versus my test (2 lbs)! The meat took much longer to cook than I anticipated and my meal was delayed by much longer than anticipated. In the end, the tenderloin tasted fantastic and my guests were impressed. However, it took an army of people to help me in the kitchen and a ton of stress. And I think I put the added pressure on myself for everything to be perfect because I spent so much on the meat!
Next year, I think I will be going back to serving two pastas because it is easier to time and prep (and much cheaper as well!). As much as I wanted everything to be “high end” and perfect, by the time we get to dinner everyone has had a few drinks and it is a much easier crowd to impress!
Salted Caramel Fudge Bacon Brownies (see below for recipe)
I always “outsource” or buy dessert because it is definitely not my forte! I am lucky that my friend Rajul is quite the dessert maker, her brownies were to die for! Simple and decadent – a real crowd pleaser! My friend Rajul’s personal recipe is included below. She served these with salted caramel and french vanilla bean gelato.
In the end, the dinner party was a ton of fun and a delicious meal enjoyed by all. Would love to hear from you if you try any or all of these recipes and tips! Please tweet me @anjvarma or comment below!
Stay tuned for my follow up post with drink, decor, and activity recommendations for your dinner party! Subscribe to my newsletter and YouTube channel and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for regular updates!
Click here, for last year’s post on Dinner Party Menu recommendations.
Click here for last year’s post on Dinner Party Drinks/Decor/Ambiance recommendations.
Bacon Wrapped Dates Recipe
1lb bacon, cut in half
24 Medjool dates
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup shredded parmesan
balsamic glaze (sold in the supermarket near the vinegar)
salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
To remove the pits from the dates, insert the skewers into the dates and push until the pit falls out the other end. Place the ricotta, parmesan and salt and pepper into the bottom corner of a plastic Ziploc bag and seal tightly. Use a scissors to cut a small hole in the corner of the bag. Use the bag like a piping bag to fill the dates with the cheese mixture.
Wrap the cheese stuffed dates with a half slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick through the belly of the date. Arrange the dates on a parchment lined baking sheet, well spaced apart. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes or until the bacon is almost brown and crispy. Remove, squirt with balsamic glaze and return to the oven for another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from oven, gently remove the toothpicks and serve.
Salted Caramel Fudge Bacon Brownies Recipe:
Mix Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix into smooth batter. Fry about 6-8 pieces of bacon, chop up then added to the batter. Pour the batter into muffin tins halfway and keep remaining batter and muffin tins to the side.
Then make a salted caramel sauce using 1 cup brown sugar, half cup of half and half, 4 tablespoons of butter, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Bring caramel sauce to a simmer until it thickens. Add caramel layer to batter in muffing tins, then layer more batter on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 mins. Serve with any flavor gelato.