Ready to Entertain: A Halloween Postscript

We had Mike’s Halloween Birthday Party on Saturday evening. Here’s an illustrated narrative.

When guests arrived I was ready to entertain.


The sink was empty.


And the dishwasher was empty.


Gracie had set the table earlier that afternoon. I carved the Halloween totem pole the night before.


Our house cocktail of champagne and pear nectar, a fall variation on a bellini, was ready for guests. This recipe plus three other seasonal champagne cocktails are in At Home.


Hors d’oeuvres in place on the coffee table, including a basket of English walnuts I picked up that morning at the Rittenhouse Square farmer’s market, a fall olive mix,  duck rillettes and crostini that I bought at Talula’s Table and Noah’s whole roasted pumpkin seeds. To the left and right of the jack-o’-lantern were glass bowls of beautiful autumn-hued dried pasta also bought from Talula’s Table.


In order to force myself out of the kitchen while everyone else was eating, I set up the buffet right in the kitchen. Turkey and Black Bean Chili was simmering on the stove and everything else was waiting patiently at room temperature. Chili Bar  toppings included a Bowl of Green (recipe in At Home) and a Bowl of Red (see below), sour cream, grated sharp cheddar, diced red onion, and torn leaves of cilantro. Also on the counter was Roasted Corn & Brussels Sprouts and a simple arugula salad with dried cranberries and apples. We served beer with dinner.

Dessert was a “Happy Birthday Mike—Go Phillies” Carrot Cake from my Frog Commissary bakery.

My goal was one relaxed hour for myself before guests arrived. An early guest arrival time of 5 PM added to this challenge as did my last-minute decision to carve an extra jack-o’-lantern and make the pumpkin seeds. So, I settled for a relaxed half-hour before guests arrived. Hey, that’s halfway to my goal, right?

Bowl of Red
The opposite of the Bowl of Green and its fresh, uncooked green tomatillos and chilies, Bowl of Red gets its deep, earthy flavor from dried ancho chilies cooked with vegetables and tomatoes. It can also be used as a condiment for grilled meats.

do ahead Bowl of red may be made up to a week ahead.

2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and halved (See note below)
1 cup boiling water
2  garlic cloves, crushed
2/3 cup diced red onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 In a heavy pan over moderate heat, toast chiles, turning frequently until they become pliable, about 2-3 minutes. Add to boiling water and remove from heat. Steep 30 minutes. Remove chiles, reserving soaking liquid, and cool.

2 Heat oil over moderate heat in a medium sauté pan. Add garlic,onion, celery and green pepper and cook, covered, until vegetables release some liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and lower heat, cooking slowly until mixture turns golden, about 15-20 minutes.

3 Add tomato, cumin, oregano and strained soaking liquid from dried chiles and continue to cook over low heat until mixture gets quite thick and tomatoes break down, about 20-30 minutes. If it gets too thick and tomatoes have not broken down, add back a little bit of water and cover.

4 While vegetables are cooking, scrape the fleshy part of the soaked chilies away from the skin. Add the flesh to the cooking vegetables.

5 Transfer mixture to the work bowl of a food processor.  Add red wine vinegar and salt. Pulse until smooth.

Yields 2 cups

All seasons

Note: Dried chiles are hard and brittle. Before toasting you want to remove the stem and seeds. With a sharp knife, cut across the top of chile, cutting away a small portion of the flesh that surrounds the stem. Pull away the stem. Slit chile in half. Scrape away the seeds and discard. Be careful as the chile seeds and membrane are hot and while they will not hurt your fingers, they can cause discomfort if you touch your fingers to your eyes, lips or other soft tissue. Wash hands after handling chiles. After you have removed the seeds and membrane, toast chile in a dry pan over moderate heat. The chile will become softer and pliable as it toasts. Turn chile several times to toast evenly. You will then re-constitute the chile following the directions above. (At Home is loaded with tips like this.)

Reading Terminal Market this Saturday, November 7th.
I will be at Reading Terminal with a little At Home roadshow on Saturday, November 7th from 11 AM to 2 PM. I will work with selected Reading Terminal merchants on making your Thanksgiving better and easier. At Home will be available for sale.

Looking for Owners of The Frog Commissary Cookbook
If you know anyone who owns The Frog Commissary Cookbook—and you think they should know about At Home, please direct them to our website.

Giving Thanks by Giving At Home
Simple math suggests that far more people are Thanksgiving guests than Thanksgiving hosts. The perfect house gift for your Thanksgiving host is to bring them a copy of At Home. At Home is not available in bookstores so you will need to go to our At Home Shop to purchase it.

1 Comment

Filed under Entertaining at Home, Family and Friends, Holidays, Recipes, Tips

One response to “Ready to Entertain: A Halloween Postscript

  1. I read somewhere in your postings that you had to have lime leaves flown in. You can get them, albeit frozen, at the large Asian supermarket on Washington between 12th and 13th in Phila.

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