Each summer we dutifully consume every tomato, peach, and ear of corn that finds itself within arm’s reach of me. While there are few greater pleasures than standing over your kitchen sink eating a perfect peach, as the shorter days give way to cooler nights, we start daydreaming about slow braises, mountains of roasted vegetables, warm spices, and long, cozy dinners with friends over big red wines. Fresh vegetables are nice, but have you tried butter?
The fall dinner party recipes below have been developed to capitalize on the changing of the seasons, leveraging the last bit of summer’s bounty to deepen the flavors of the fall produce as it hits the markets. Pair the last of the figs with winter squashes that are just starting to appear at the market, make the most of the fresh herbs in your window box before the first frost takes them away till next year.
We’ve structured these recipes so that they can all easily be prepped together—a seasonal feast without breaking your back so you can focus on the important stuff, like celebrating the crispness in the air, the brilliant fall light, and the snuggliness of your favorite sweater. Light some candles, fill your house with heavenly smells, and settle in around the table with good company; it’ll be time to hibernate soon enough.
Ingredients: 6 oz. aged rum
6 oz. apple cider
6 oz. chilled ginger beer
1 lemon, juiced
6 slices of apple
6 sprigs of rosemary
Directions: Combine all ingredients except garnishes in a carafe.
Porchetta Spiced Pork Shoulder
Traditional porchetta is a Roman dish comprised of a roast suckling pig seasoned herbs, spices, and lots of garlic. Instead, we use a more widely available and much less expensive pork shoulder, which can be found at almost any grocery store. Pork shoulder is great for a crowd—it's inexpensive, impressive, and hard to mess up. You’ll need to start this dish the day before, as it needs to marinate overnight.
7 to 10-pound bone-in or boneless pork shoulder (fresh picnic), tied
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
2 tbsp. fennel seeds
2 tbsp. coriander seeds
2 tbsp. fresh sage leaves
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Zest of 1 lemon (save zested lemon for Brussels sprouts below)
5 garlic cloves, grated or mashed to a paste
2 tbsp. salt
Water, as needed
Directions: Combine rosemary, black pepper, fennel seed, coriander, sage, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, garlic, and salt in food processor. Slowly pour in oil with processor running until it forms a paste. Score skin and rub spice paste all over pork, pushing into slits. If using a boneless shoulder, tie with kitchen string at two-inch intervals. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place on a large plate in the refrigerator for at least six hours (preferably overnight.)
Two hours before you want to cook the shoulder (and at least four hours before you want to serve), take the shoulder out of the fridge and set it on the counter to warm up.
Green Salad with Kabocha Squash, Pomegranate, Figs, and Chèvre
1 winter squash, preferably kabocha (delicata, acorn, and butternut all work too)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1 tbs maple syrup or honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 pomegranate, deseeded (trick to do so easily!)
3 oz. chèvre, room temperature
4 oz. (or 1 pint) of fresh figs, halved
4 cups baby arugula
1/4 cup lemony balsamic dressing
Directions: While the pork shoulder is in the oven, take the chèvre out of the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature, this will make it easier to handle.
Halve and deseed the squash. If you’re using kabocha or delicata squash, the skin is thin enough that it will be edible after cooking. If using acorn or butternut, peel first. Then, cut the squash into wedges and place into a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and red pepper, tossing to coat, then drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup, tossing again.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you’ll thank yourself later when you’re doing the dishes) and spread the seasoned wedges out on a baking sheet so that they aren’t touching. Bake in oven with pork shoulder (on a separate rack) for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping pieces halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Dates, Pistachio, and Lemon
1 lb of Brussels sprouts, bottoms cut off and halved.
1/4 cup toasted salted pistachios
1/2 cup of pitted dates, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Directions: Another dish that can piggyback on the long roast of the pork shoulder. Clean and prep the Brussels sprouts, placing halves in a large bowl. (Using the same one you used for squash is fine.) Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange on a baking sheet cut-side down (again, save yourself some dishes and use the same one!) and roast in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Almond-Cardamom Apple Cake
1/2 cup canola oil, plus additional for pan
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2 Granny Smith apples
1 tbsp. almond extract
4 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp. almond flour
2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 to 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Directions: Make the day before or, if you’re particularly efficient, with the roast pork.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Oil a 9-inch round pan or cast iron skillet.
Using an electric or stand mixer, whisk egg whites until stiff (but not dry) and set aside.
In another bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar, and whisk to blend. Whisk in almond extract and oil. Add almond flour and cardamom. Gently stir a third of the whites into the batter then gently fold in the rest until just incorporated.
Core and halve apples. Slice into 1/4-inch slices while keeping them side by side.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Push apple slices in one-by-one next to one another so that there is a bit of batter between each. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Allow to cool. To serve, dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Make cake and season pork.
Seven hours before:
Take meat out of the fridge.
Set table (We promise, this is the best time to do it!).
Six hours before:
Start prepping vegetables.
Five hours before:
Start roasting pork shoulder.
Bake cake if you didn’t the day before.
One hour before:
Lay out serving platters and utensils.
Let meat rest.
Preheat oven to warm things up.
30 minutes before:
Warm up brussels.
Warm up pork.
Et voilà! It's dinnertime! Light some candles, make sure everyone's glass is full, plate, and serve. Is it a lot of work? Sure. Is it rewarding and great fun? You bet. Should you take the guests up on their offer to do the dishes? Absolutely.
For more fall dinner party ideas, check out these globally-inspired eats: