Throw This Party: Progressive Dinner Caravan

Ugh, I am so sick of dinner parties!

Actually, that is a complete lie, I will never be sick of dinner parties. BUT I am always looking for a way to make the traditional dinner party even more exciting. My friend Dayna was inspired by an episode of Top Chef in which the cheftestants were challenged to throw a progressive dinner party; basically, they each had to host and serve one course before moving on to a different location, where a different chef would host and cook. Well, if they can do it, why can’t we? And so the posse of progressive dinner party friends was formed.

We suggested our idea to friends who live in our neighborhood. The rules were simple: pick a dish and a drink to go with it, and prepare most of it at home ahead of time, with decor, music, etc…selected to enhance the dining experience. We would caravan from apartment to apartment, spending an hour in each kitchen while we took turns hosting and serving our creations. At first our friends were a bit hesitant about the complicated nature of this party, but we promised it would be a worthy endeavor, and it was.

How it worked, plus my dinner party veggie recipe, after the jump.

Destination numero uno was Kimmy’s place. Since she was the first house, she wisely chose to serve us a lavish appetizer spread, along with a variety of wine, champagne, homemade spiced cider, and yeah, photos can’t lie: a huge jug of Bacardi Limon, whatever. We enjoyed a variety of cheeses and breads, along with two types of stuffed mushroom: pancetta and cheese, and sundried tomato with truffle oil.

Next up: my apartment! I decided to go with a “hot fun in the wintertime” theme, serving my friends Dos XX cervezas and pumpkin-chipotle tacos with caramelized veggies and smoky corn salsa (see recipe below!) We blasted Gipsy Kings and talked about how much we wished it was Cinco De Mayo.

Third stop was Sarah’s place. She was inspired by my Mexican plans to make a third course with a slightly similar flavor profile: hearty veggie chili topped with fontina and a variety of meats and vegetables of our choosing. The chili and toppings bar was amazing, but I think my favorite part was her from-scratch bacon cornbread. Alongside some hard cider and pop throwback tunes (*Nsync, I’m looking at you), our main course was perfection.

The grand finale was dessert at Joe and Dayna’s. They wowed us with a buttermilk spice cake topped with candied nuts, along with coconut milk eggnog spiked with brandy. By this point we were starting to realize the one pitfall of the progressive dinner party: portion control. I had tried to hold back as much as possible at each stop, but by the time I got halfway through my hearty slice of cake, I was starting to feel the pain. The pain of four dinners. Every bite was worth it, though.

Our progressive dinner was a huge success. We plan to do it again (and again and again), hopefully with different themes and possibly different friends thrown into the mix. These parties are great, because everyone takes turns being a host as well as being pampered as a guest. In all honesty, our night was even more fun than watching a Top Chef marathon, and for me, that’s saying something.

Oh yeah, here’s the recipe…

Smoky Chipotle-Vegetable TacosĀ 

These are delicious and quite easy… and kind of go against my beliefs as a steak-taco-loving girl, but hey, we had a couple vegetarians in our party. And I have to say, this is such a great flavor and texture combination that you don’t even miss the carne.

1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/2c pumpkin puree
1c sour cream
1 can corn
1 red pepper, chopped
1 onion, sliced
2c sliced crimini mushrooms
small corn tortillas

Set the oven to low and put your tortillas in to keep warm while you prepare their fillings.

Heat some oil in a pan on medium and toss in your onion slices. Cook until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Throw in your mushrooms and a couple pinches of salt, and let them all hang out together while you prepare the rest of the toppings.

Open the can of chipotle peppers. Drain, reserving the adobo sauce. Chop up two of the chipotle peppers and mix them with the corn and chopped red pepper. Add to a small skillet and toast on low heat, stirring occasionally.

Mix together your pumpkin, sour cream, and some of the reserved adobo sauce – I’m not going to tell you how much, mix in a little bit (about a teaspoon or so) to start and see where your spice level is at. I like my tacos pretty spicy, but one time I made the mistake of adding a lot of adobo, and my friend’s mouth almost blew up. So… add with caution.

Assemble the tacos: spread with a layer of adobo-pumpkin filling, top with a scoop of caramelized onions and mushrooms and a healthy sprinkle of corn salsa. Garnish to taste; I like a thin lime slice, avocado slices, cojita, and a teensy bit of cilantro.

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  • Libbie January 11, 2012  

    Does this mean I have to make friends with my neighbors and then force them to throw a dinner party? Because I think that’s what I’m going to do.

  • Emily January 12, 2012  

    Libbie: Yes, that is exactly what this means.
    (Plus, nothing converts neighbors into friends quicker than delicious food & drink!)

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