With this gathering my focus was simplicity. I sourced my ingredients and prepped all the items within three hours. Having people over shouldn’t feel like an endless chore and I know if the tasklist gets too long, I’ll stop hosting people as often as I’d like. To stretch a budget, this dinner uses common ingredients and a variety of cooking methods to elevate them.
Our table was simple and understated. With a few white mini pumpkins, a piece of driftwood and a feather, most of these items were found favorites from adventures in the region and past summer days by the lake. Paired with a white linen table cloth, chambray napkins (similar here), our white plates and gold flatware boasts a casual elegance, embracing the golden hues of fall leaves and golden hours. I love the juxtaposition of the causal textures and dinnerware, boasting sophistication and effortless elegance.
This menu elevated fall flavors in a non-traditional way. I had just purchased a beautiful enamel coated cast iron dutch oven (you can snag yours here for under $50) and decided to braise a whole chicken. Rather than going pumpkin crazy, I decided to play with fresh citrus and middle eastern notes. With flavors of cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, and coriander, we embraced the spices of autumn with a bit of flair. By choosing a more economical cut of meat, I was able to afford an organic protein for a group. With braising and roasting in the oven, the chicken was tender and fell off the bone, boasting phenomenal flavor. (Get the braised chicken recipe here.) I always love to begin with drinks and a cheese course, perfect for grazing while the last steps of cooking are happening. As an additional course, I served a platter of spiced lentils with roasted carrots and whole yogurt. For dessert I experimented with a new recipe and made an apple galette with bourbon caramel sauce.
One of my favorite parts of this dinner? Intentionality. It’s easy to have schedules become so full, that we run away from the very connection we truly desire. To set aside four hours where work was no longer the subject and we finished the evening with dessert on the porch, having conversations, telling stories, and endless laughter, I was so thankful I chose to press pause. There are times I regret running after a project, but there are never times I regret choosing connection.
Our night finished with hugs, knowing I had phenomenal leftovers in the fridge, and having made a few new friends along the way. Use fall to your advantage, embrace the long evenings, and have a cozy night in with friends around the table.
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