Melon Wrapped in Prosciutto
Gathering around the table with friends is absolutely one of my favorite things to do. Part of what makes it a joy is that I am very fortunate to have friends who like to bring their own dishes to share. Great anticipation builds while we wait to see what food will make its way onto our table. This weekend, Roger and I had the pleasure of hosting Julie and Ken.
We selected an Italian theme for our dinner. This encouraged me to serve something incorporating the fresh ricotta made from my home cheese making experiment. So, what to do with that cheese? Make Baked Rigatoni with Fresh Ricotta. Delicious!
Here is one of my secrets. I don’t always make everything from scratch. I aspire to. However, when preparing multiple courses, I often find it best to make a couple of dishes of my own. Then, the menu gets rounded out with food made from scratch by local purveyors. This way, I don’t get stressed and our guests are able to eat at a reasonable time. For example, the tapenade served on this occasion came from my local PCC Natural Market. The Smoked Tomato Sauce for the rigatoni came from Cucina Fresca based in Pike Place Market. The fresh pasta from La Mondellina, a small shop in Magnolia.
Whenever possible, I choose recipes for a dinner party that can be prepared ahead of time, and need only be put on the table or in the oven when guests arrive. Both the Baked Penne and the Tarragon Chicken can be assembled in advance, then wait in the fridge until it comes time to put them in the oven. So, before guests arrive, it’s important to be sure the oven is preheated.
A prepared appetizer plate is also ready and waiting for our guests’ arrival. I recommend always having food and beverages ready to offer your guests right away. Don’t offer them drinks until some food is ready. I mean it! Why? I’ve been to that party where everyone got drunk at the start of the evening. Drunk and hungry. Hungry and….let’s say, less polite than usual.
On this evening, I breathed a sigh of relief as our guests enhanced our menu with Melon Wrapped in Prosciutto and chocolate truffles from Oh! Chocolate.
The Time Table
Up to one week in advance make the fresh ricotta.
Up to 2 days in advance boil the fresh penne until just al dente, and assemble the pasta dish with the ricotta. It can be tightly sealed and refrigerated until ready to bake.
Up to 1 night in advance begin marinating the chicken.
The afternoon of the dinner finish any prep work for the pasta and chicken dishes. Refrigerate them until time to bake.
One hour before guests are scheduled to arrive plate the appetizers.
Fifteen minutes before guests arrive, preheat the oven to 375°.
When guests arrive, serve the appetizers.
Upon completion of appetizers, place the pasta dish in the oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes.
Serve the melon and prosciutto.
Take the pasta out of the oven when ready.
Remove plastic from the chicken dish and put it in the oven.
Serve the pasta at the table.
Serve the chicken when ready.
The opening wine for the appetizer platter and melon was Boomtown Pinot Gris. This light, crisp wine paired very well with the variety of foods.
Our friends brought a bottle of Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva. This red wine offers plum on the palate and a nice, velvety finish. It is a food friendly wine that doesn’t overpower. We enjoyed it with the pasta. In the spirit of experimentation, we also tasted it with the chicken, which brought out nice smokey notes in the wine.
Syrah is our favorite variety to pair with the Tarragon Chicken. So, we left Italy momentarily, returning to the Northwest for a Nefarious Cellars 2006 Estate Syrah. As always, a terrific pairing.
Our thanks to our guests for joining us at our table.