A night out isn’t always required for a gourmet dinner. Depending on who you’re trying to impress (and how much you’re willing to spend), you can transform your kitchen into a three-, four-, or five-star venue with these simple tips.
No venue earns three stars without serving excellent food, and this lasagna is sure to impress anyone with an appetite for seafood. Rich in flavor, this dish can be served alone or with a simple side of garlic bread or a light and refreshing vegetable such as sautéed asparagus or mixed greens.
The Recipe: Seafood Lasagna
Adapted from Taste of Home magazine
- 6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
- 1/2 green onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon plus1/4 cup butter (These will be used at separate times, so don’t combine them.)
- 1/2 bottle (4 ounces) clam juice
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 pound peeled lobster tails
- 1/2 pound peeled uncooked shrimp
- 1/2 package (4 ounces) imitation crabmeat, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (add more to taste)
- 1/2 cup or more spaghetti sauce (Add until sauce becomes light pink, like the color of cooked salmon.)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
- Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook and drain lasagna noodles according to instructions on box.
- In a large pot, sauté onion in oil and 1 tablespoon butter until fully cooked and tender.
- Add broth and clam juice, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Add lobster, shrimp, crab, and white pepper. Return to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain and reserve liquid.
- In a medium skillet, melt the remaining butter, and stir in flour until smooth. Add milk, reserved cooking liquid, salt, red pepper, and spaghetti sauce. Bring to a boil, then cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
- Remove from heat. Stir in cream and half measure of Parmesan cheese (reserve other half for topping). Add sauce to seafood mixture and stir.
- In a glass casserole dish, layer seafood mixture with lasagna noodles. Top with remaining Parmesan.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly and lightly brown. Yield: 6 servings
Budget-saving tip: Let’s face it, seafood is expensive. Lighten your load by co-hosting the dinner with a friend or significant other, and have that person split the grocery bill with you. Regarding your guest list, invite two mutual friends or one friend apiece. Both of you still get to treat a friend, and your wallets will be half as empty. Then, as long as you and your guests eat just one serving apiece, each host can take a slice of lasagna for the road.
If you haven’t completely blown your budget on shellfish, pick up some fresh flowers, a bottle of white wine, and a garnish (like parsley) the day you plan on playing host. Also make sure you have a nice vase, long-stemmed wine glasses, a wine stopper, and cloth napkins on hand. Notice that I don’t mention placemats or napkin rings. Why? Because, really, they’re just fluff. If you have them, use them. Otherwise, just make sure your guests have something other than the cheapest napkin you can find to lay in their laps.
Budget-saving tip: When your guests ask if they can bring anything, ask them to bring the wine. (You can also ask them to bring their favorite wine glass if you’re afraid you won’t have enough.) Just make sure they bring a dry white wine, like Chardonnay, otherwise you’ll risk overwhelming everyone’s taste buds.
Anyone with a penchant for serving gourmet dinners should consider investing in a set of crisp, white, square dinner plates. Though certainly not essential to throwing a successful dinner party, they add an extra layer of flair that simply cannot be matched. I’ve found white, square dinner plates for as little as $3 apiece or $20 for a set of six at Wal-Mart, though you’re welcome to spend more if you feel like splurging.
Budget-saving tip: Scour your local thrift store for crisp white plates of any kind. If your local store is anything like mine, you’ll probably find exactly what you’re looking for, but even if you don’t, I bet you’ll still find something nice. Don’t be afraid of lightly-colored and sparse patterns or mismatched plates. Just make sure that anything you buy feels crisp and elegant. Who knows? Your guests might even enjoy choosing their own, unique dinner plate.