I decorated the table with our school colors, cream and crimson.  Go IU!Last week on March 19, senior medical students all around the country learned where we would be going for our residency training.  It was an exciting day for myself as well as my friends!  Amazingly, in my group of close friends, every single one of us ended up matching here in Indianapolis.  We have a wide range of specialties represented within our group – psychiatry, OB/GYN, pathology, ENT, anesthesia, family medicine and neurosurgery!  I am so proud of us all for making it through medical school and getting our first jobs as M.D.s, so a celebration was clearly in order.

For a formal yet fun touch, I made Doctor place cards for each person.Since reaching this milestone is a huge accomplishment for us, I decided to make the event accordingly fancy.  And, since champagne is the signature drink of celebratory affairs, I created a menu with lots of delicious food including a few items incorporating the bubbly beverage.

The menu was as follows:
Blackberry Champagne Cocktails
Chicken-Stuffed Mushrooms
Caprese Tarts
Spinach Salad with Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette
Lobster Ravioli in a Champagne Cream Sauce
Chocolate Raspberry Tarlettes

It is safe to say, everyone thoroughly enjoyed this meal.  From the champagne cocktails to the last bite of dessert, everything turned out very well and went together nicely.  This dinner felt like a real achievement for me because I came up with several of the recipes on my own with no real recipe to go by.  A lack of recipe used to terrify me to the core, but now I am a much more confident cook and it turns out I do pretty well coming up with things myself.  I did take careful notes while I cooked though, so that I could share the recipes with you!   It wasn’t easy to get good photos before the food was gobbled up, but I did my best.

These champagne cocktails were a perfect specialty drink for the evening.  Some sugar cubes, a touch of blackberry puree and a few fresh berries made for a delicious and pretty beverage.

Blackberry Champagne Cocktails
Sugar cubes
Blackberries (fresh or frozen), for puree
Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
Fresh blackberries, for garnish

Place 1-2 sugar cubes in the bottom of each champagne flute.  Puree fresh or frozen blackberries in a blender or food processor.  Strain through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds.  Fill flutes with chilled champagne.  Top each glass with a tablespoon or so of the blackberry puree and garnish with two fresh blackberries.

Source: inspired by Williams Sonoma

A few weeks ago Ben and I had dinner at a local winery and had chicken-stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer.  They were fantastic and so I decided to try to recreate them at home.  My regular stuffed mushrooms are a favorite among my friends, and these are now a favorite as well.

Chicken-Stuffed Mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
2 chicken breasts, cooked (I poached them)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Black pepper
Stuffing mushrooms (I used about 30)

Place garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until finely minced.  Cut chicken breasts into large cubes and add to the food processor.  Add cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to the bowl as well.  Process in pulses until the chicken is cut to very small pieces.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Clean the mushrooms gently.  Remove the stems from the caps, and chop the stems finely.  Add some of the chopped stems to the chicken mixture, if desired.  Fill each mushroom cap with the chicken mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Serve warm.

Source: Annie’s Eats

I am of the mind that basically anything with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil can’t be bad.  So I took some squares of puff pastry and added the three magical ingredients for a quick, easy and delicious appetizer.  These went quickly as well, so quickly that I didn’t even get to taste one myself.  I heard they were very good though!

Caprese Tarts
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Cherry tomatoes, sliced thinly
Fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
Fresh basil, minced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Using a round biscuit cutter, cut rounds of puff pastry.  Transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush the puff pastry rounds lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Top each round with sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.  Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden.  Serve warm.

Source: me! (Annie’s Eats)

Spinach Salad with Strawberry Champagne VinaigretteI love spinach salads, but traditionally I am not a huge fan of sweet salad dressing.  I have had strawberry spinach salads in the past and enjoyed them, but this salad was in a class of its own.  I LOVED it!  I think that the strawberry puree as the dressing rather than strawberry slices really makes it perfect because there is strawberry in every bite.  The dried cranberries and apple slices on top were excellent as well.  I will be making this again and again!

Spinach Salad with Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette
For the vinaigrette:
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
2 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. Champagne
1 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt

For the salad:
Baby spinach leaves

For topping:
Chopped walnuts, toasted
Dried cranberries
Green apples, thinly sliced

To make the vinaigrette, combine the strawberries, apple cider vinegar, champagne, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Store in an airtight container.

To make the salad, place some baby spinach in a bowl.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Add more dressing if needed.

Transfer individual serving portions of the spinach to salad plates.  Top each portion with a few chopped toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, and a few slices of green apple.

Source: inspired by Epicurious

Lobster Ravioli in Champagne Cream SauceSince this was such a special occasion, I wanted an entree that was worthy.  Lobster immediately came to mind, but I’m not made of money so serving whole lobster to 10 guests was just not an option.  This lobster ravioli with champagne cream sauce seemed the perfect solution.  I used four lobster tails and wanted to make sure that the filling would go far enough to make ravioli for 10 people, yet I also wanted to be sure that the lobster flavor was prominent and not overshadowed by the other filling components.  I think I really achieved the right balance with these and will definitely make them again.

I made the ravioli a couple days in advance of the party and froze them.  Then just before dinner all I had to do was toss them in the boiling water and cook for a few minutes.  This really helped free up the day of the party so I could focus on other tasks.  The sauce was excellent as well.  Unfortunately my recipe for the sauce is not very exact because dinner was stalled by a couple late arrivals, and I kept having to make alterations and additions to ensure that the sauce came out okay.  I will give the best description I can, hopefully it will do!

Lobster Ravioli in a Champagne Cream Sauce
Yield: about 70 ravioli

4 lobster tails
4 tbsp. butter
3-4 shallots, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 oz. cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
2 1/2-3 batches homemade pasta

For the sauce:
6 tbsp. butter, divided
2 shallots, finely minced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. tomato puree
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup Champagne
3 tbsp. flour
Heavy cream

Remove the meat from the lobster tails.  Roughly chop and set aside.  In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and saute for a few minutes.   Add the chopped mushrooms and saute a few minutes more.  Once the shallots are tender, add the lobster meat to the skillet and cook, stirring, just until cooked through (this only takes a few minutes).  When the lobster is cooked, transfer the mixture to a cutting board and chop fine with a large knife.  Transfer to a bowl.  Add the ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Roll out pasta into long sheets.   Scoop a couple teaspoons of the lobster filling and roll into a ball.  Place on one sheet of the pasta.  Continue topping with filling balls every few inches.  Once the sheet is covered with filling balls, lay another long sheet of pasta over the top.  Press the top sheet down and mold around the filling balls (if the sheets don’t stick together easily, wet your finger with water or egg and brush lightly between the two sheets).  Cut the ravioli into desired shapes with a pastry or ravioli cutter.  Repeat this process until the remaining filling and/or pasta is used up.

(At this point, you can cook the ravioli in boiling water or freeze them.)

If freezing, transfer finished ravioli to a lightly floured surface and allow to dry for 30-60 minutes.  Place in a plastic freezer bag and freeze until ready to cook.  To cook, drop frozen ravioli into boiling water and boil until cooked to your liking (about 7-9 minutes).

To make the sauce, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet.  Add the shallots and carrots and saute until the shallots are tender.  Add the tomato puree to the skillet, stir, and cook until the tomato has begun to caramelize a bit, 2-3 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock and champagne and stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to reduce to about 1/3.  Once the sauce has reduced, in small saucepan melt the 3 tablespoons of remaining butter.  Add the flour and whisk, cooking 2-3 minutes to form a roux.  Add the roux to the skillet and mix well.  Whisk in heavy cream until sauce has reached the desired consistency (I also added in more champagne at this point).  Pass the sauce through a strainer to remove the carrots and shallots.  Serve warm atop the ravioli.

Source: inspired by Fotocuisine

I originally had a completely different dessert planned for this party, but after I started making it I quickly realized it wasn’t going to work out.  I decided to cut my losses and make something else.  These little cuties have been on my list to try forever, and they fit all the requirements of what I was looking for – something chocolate, personalized, and something I already had all the ingredients for.  Honestly, I am kind of glad that my original plan did not work out because these were phenomenal.  The crust was light and buttery, the chocolate filling was smooth and perfectly accompanied by the raspberries.  I considered skipping the raspberry jam underneath the chocolate filling but it was a delicious addition so I would recommend using it.  What a great way to finish off a great meal!

Chocolate Raspberry Tartlettes
Yield: 10 (3 1/2 to 4 inch) tartlettes

1 1/2 recipes basic tart dough
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
Fresh raspberries, for topping

Roll out the tart dough and use it to line 10 mini-tart pans (yield may vary depending on the size of pans you use – mine were 4 inches).  Trim off any excess dough.  Refrigerate the shells until firm, about 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Place the mini tart pans on a baking sheet for easy transfer.  Line each shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with baking weights.  Bake until the shells are pale gold, about 15 minutes.  Remove the weights and the foil and continue to bake until the shells are golden, about 5 minutes more.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

In the top pan of a double boiler over simmering water, combine the butter, chocolate, and corn syrup.  Melt and stir until smooth.  Remove from the heat.

Spread a few teaspoons of raspberry jam in the bottom of each shell.  Fill as full as possible with the chocolate mixture.  Let the filled tartlettes stand at room temperature until set, 1 to 2 hours.  Before serving, top each tarlette with fresh raspberries.

Source: adapted from Williams Sonoma