Dinner Club recipes
By Stephanie Williams Dean
Bless Your Spoon
Like food, friendship cures over time. When three former members of Bermuda Run Dinner Club came together and reminisced 10 years of food and fellowship, they agreed on one thing. The moments were memorable.
For Carol Quinn, Earlene Ferguson, and Tammy Fairchild, memories of dinner club stand out as some of their best. What made the memories special was camaraderie with neighbors – and how, over time, those folks became best friends.
The history of dinner club is almost as old as the Bermuda Run neighborhood. The idea took shape after residents were inspired by a couple who had moved to the area from New Jersey and knew the ins and outs of running a dinner club. At that time, there were less than 50 families living there.
“It was so small, we had to pick up our mail at the gate,” Carol said.
Other than the occasional newcomer’s coffee, there wasn’t a good way to meet new folks moving in. The seed was planted – and dinner club grew and flourished from 1978-1988.
All members were neighbors. Many were from Winston-Salem, but the majority were from out of state. Residents moved from the north and Midwest after being hired by Sara Lee or Reynolds Tobacco, creating a diverse group. Many had young children and were eager to get acquainted with other families.
If you grew up in the south, you know southern hospitality has a unique flavor and personality. New residents jumped right in and welcomed the social interaction with neighbors. The club was inclusive. Everyone was welcome.
“The club was about trying new recipes and making friends. You get to know people on a very personal level when you have them in your home,” Earlene said.
Some members of the club already entertained at home, but there were others who did so only because they belonged to dinner club.
Being one who was comfortable having folks over, Carol shared: “I loved entertaining. Sometimes the hardest part was making up a guest list and deciding what to serve. The best part was much of the work was done for you – and it was fun to try something new.”
Earlene and Carol met in 1975, and Tammy joined their friendship in 1977. At the time, these ladies were just getting to know one another – they were mere acquaintances – but not yet good friends.
Dinner clubs were the thing back then – and the idea sparked because it was a good way for people to meet one another. Southerners enjoy inviting strangers into their homes, baking a cake, and serving it on Grandma’s dessert china. It’s just part of who we are.
Today, there’s a revival taking place with what’s known as a supper club, but don’t get the two confused. Supper clubs are private events held in a restaurant where a celebrity chef prepares the meal. The club might be secret or underground with a guest list of epicurean insiders. And then there’s the progressive dinner, a popular tradition where guests are served one course at several homes as you “progress” through the dinner menu.
For Bermuda Run Dinner Club, there would be four to five host homes on dinner night. At one time, there were as many as 50-60 members in the group. The date of the dinner would be set on the calendar. Members would either commit to attending the upcoming night or decline. A week before the dinner, each member received the menu and the assigned recipe they were to prepare.
“The same members wouldn’t do it every year. We would take turns,” Tammy said. “One night, we had four homes, and each one had at least 12 people. It was a big group of people.”
Members served on a committee, and they’d be in charge of coming up with a menu. Recipes came from southern cookbooks, tried and trusted personal favorites, and old family recipes– ones they knew were good. The menu was carefully selected so that each dish would complement another. Deciding upon appropriate recipes took a little practice. Sometimes a recipe hadn’t been tested and was a flop.
“There were times when you might have to double or triple a recipe according to how many people were attending,” Earlene said.
One person was responsible for purchasing all the meat and wine, so the quality of the main dish and libation was the same. Then all hosts would go to that person’s home to pick up the provisions. The group absorbed the cost for both – and everyone paid the same amount.
“It was 8-10 dollars per couple – it was really cheap back then,” said Tammy, who was on the committee. For years, she typed the menus on an old typewriter. “It takes organization when you have 50-60 people in a dinner club.”
Those in charge tried to mix people up, sending them to a host’s home where they had not dined before. Some homes might have up to 12 people and other hosts might request a smaller number depending on the size of their home. Putting their best foot forward, a host took pride in setting the table using their best china. And even if someone didn’t use fine china and sterling silver, the table was creatively set. When the menu and circumstances called for it, rules of etiquette relaxed, and hosts didn’t mind pulling out paper plates.
Sometimes things didn’t go as planned. Members were supposed to follow the recipe given – but that didn’t always happen.
In May of 1983, it was Earlene’s time to host when things didn’t go as smoothly as usual. The theme was a luau, and one of the recipes was for peanut butter soup. A male guest, believing he had a better recipe than the one given, brought an imposter. “Guests were pouring it out. I found signs of peanut butter soup in the bushes the next day – it looked like a lot of gravy,” Earlene said.
Tammy passed the recipe book over to me and pointed out the notation she had made right beside the peanut butter soup recipe. “NOT GOOD” was inscribed beside it.
Apparently, the man prepared a different recipe. That evening, there were four other people responsible for taking peanut butter soup recipe to a host’s home. That made it easier to identify the culprit and cited him with recipe fraud. Each member had a 3-ring binder where they kept years of club dinner menus, assignments, and recipes. Tammy’s book contained almost every meal spanning the 10-year period. With each page neatly typed, it was evident that much planning had gone into each dinner.
“Forty years later, my family is still using recipes from supper club days. Some of the recipes made memories,” Earlene said. “Even today, our children and their friends have memories of coming to our home and eating Stromboli – and they still ask for that.”
Years of trying new recipes gave members a chance to discover ones they liked. The club’s dinner meal was often planned around a theme. Recipes were more complicated than most of them make today. Today’s trends lean more toward simpler food and less complicated recipes.
“The combination of taste and ease, and knowing that the recipe’s going to turn out – that was key,” said Carol.
Another good thing about dinner club was that conversations flowed – there was much talk about the food. And when greeting a newcomer, the décor and table setting were good ice breakers. Even with all the beautiful homes, delicious meals, and stunning table styling, there was a greater takeaway – that of friendship.
“Well, here we are,” said Tammy, reflecting on how their friendships have stood the test of time.
When they met, Earlene was moving to Bermuda Run and building a home. She was given Carol’s name, and the two began carpooling to First Christian Church in Winston-Salem.
“Our children have grown up together. We attended our children’s weddings and baby showers. Pretty much every memorable event in my friend’s life, I’ve been there,” Earlene pointed out.
The friends remained strongly connected over the years – through family crisis, death, sickness, and divorce. They play bridge together. They know each other’s extended family. Carol and Earlene, along with their husbands, have traveled the world together. Tammy and Earlene have traveled together to weddings.
“We’re all still friends. We’re just there for each other. We’re the oldies, but goodies…we’re here to give each other a hug,” Carol said.
Over time, there came a time when no one wanted to be in charge of dinner club. Their children were growing up and going off to school. Since most of the members were close to the same age, other things, like kids in college, took precedence over the club.
Noting why dinner club came to a close, Carol said: “Our children were younger at the time, and we stayed in the area more. But as they became older, our interests moved outside the neighborhood. We had established friends by that time – we weren’t out looking for new friends anymore.”
And when the Crosby came in 1988, there were more things to do. The ladies had smaller groups of friends within the area – and newcomers began to form their own groups.
I’m calling for a revival of the at-home dinner club where people can experience the joy of new friendship in the comfort of someone’s personal home, and share a scrumptious meal while sitting down to a beautiful table.
If you’re inclined to start one, keep the menus simple and recipes. You will need folks who are committed to planning and organization. When people leave your home, make sure each person has had the same quality of food and fun experience.
From the hymn, “Would You Bless Our Homes and Families”
“From the homes in which we’re nurtured, with the love that shapes us there,
Teach us, God, to claim as family, every one whose life we share.
And thro’ all that life may offer, may we in Your love remain;
May the love we share in families, be alive to praise Your name.”
There were many good recipes prepared by the club over the years. I included a few favorites.
¼ lb. salt pork
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups corn kernels
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. white pepper
2 cups light cream
Place salt pork in a bowl and pour boiling water over. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain. Dice the pork. Cook pork pieces in a kettle until crisp. Remove the pieces and reserve. Saute the onion in the remaining fat until it is tender. Add the potatoes and broth. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are barely tender, about 15 minutes. Add the corn, salt, and pepper and cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in the cream and heat to boiling. Sprinkle the top with reserved pork pieces before serving.
SHRIMP AND CRABMEAT AU GRATIN
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and cleaned
9 oz. frozen artichoke hearts
2 Tbsp. salted butter
½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. chopped shallots
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh dill
¾ cup whole milk
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2 cup dry white wine
15 oz. crabmeat
2 Tbsp. seasoned cornflake crumbs
Cook shrimp in boiling salted water for 3 minutes or until pink. Drain. Cook artichoke hearts according to package directions and drain. Heat butter in a skillet, add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Heat 2 Tbsp. butter and add garlic and chopped shallots and cook for 5 min. Remove from heat. Stir in flour, pepper, and dill, and then stir in milk. Bring to a boil while stirring, then remove from heat. Add half the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in wine. Drain and clean crabmeat. Combine sauce, crab, shrimp, artichokes, mushroom, and remaining cheese in greased casserole and mix lightly. Sprinkle with cornflake crumbs and dot with butter. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly and crumbs are browned.
3 pounds veal scallops, pounded thin
2/3 cup butter
½ cup chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, sliced paper-thin
Cut veal into pieces about two inches wide and three long. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute the scallops over medium heat for 10 minutes or until they are brown and tender, turning once. Use butter as needed. Pour off the fat from the skillet, add the chicken broth, stirring to deglaze the pan, then put all the pieces of veal back in. Before serving, add lemon juice and parsley. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until hot. Transfer to a platter and garnish with lemon slices. Do not overcook veal.
PARTY CHICKEN WITH SHRIMP
4 boneless, skinless, cooked, cubed chicken breasts
2 lbs. boiled, peeled shrimp
1 can plain, quartered artichoke hearts
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sautéed in butter
1 stick salted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
½ pint whipping cream
½ cup sherry
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix chicken, shrimp, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms. Put into a buttered 9 x 13 casserole. Melt butter, blend in flour, add chicken broth and cook and stir until thick. Stir in cream, sherry, salt, and pepper. Pour thickened sauce over meat mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until hot through. Uncover and bake or broil until the top is golden. Serve with rice.
APRICOT GLAZED CORNISH HENS WITH DRESSING
6 (1-1 ½ lb.) Cornish game hens
12 oz. jar apricot preserves
½ cup water
Remove giblets. Rinse hens and pat dry. Sprinkle cavities with salt. Tie legs together with string. Place in 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan. In saucepan, combine preserves and water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Set aside. Bake hens in a 350-degree oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until tender. Taste frequently with preserves mixture. Remove strings before serving.
WILD RICE AND SAUSAGE DRESSING
5 cups water
2 tsp. instant chicken bouillon cubes
1 ½ tsp. salt
¾ cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed
1 ½ cups uncooked, regular rice
1 lb. pork sausage
1 ½ cups chopped celery
¾ cup chopped onions
In saucepan, combine water, bouillon, and salt, and bring to a boil. Add wild rice. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add regular rice; cover and simmer additional 20 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. In a skillet, brown sausage, celery, and onions; Drain. Combine sausage mixture and rice mixture. Serve hens over a bed of dressing.
ROAST LOIN OF PORK
4 lbs. of pork loin
1 cup Dr. Pepper
½ cup orange marmalade
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. ginger
With paring knife, make several slits in pork. Insert 1 Tbsp. ginger in slits. Combine Dr. Pepper, marmalade, soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp. ginger. In shallow roasting pan without rack, arrange loin fat side up. Brush with part of mixture and frequently baste during baking. Cook 2 hours in a 325-degree oven. Let set 20 minutes and then carve.
BEEF TENDERLOIN WITH ROQUEFORT AND MIXED NUTS
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 ½ lb. center part of beef tenderloin, trimmed, tied
3 oz. mashed Roquefort cheese
6 Tbsp. softened, salted butter
3 Tbsp. Madeira
1 ½ tsp. minced shallot
½ cup beef demi-glace
1 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
1 Tbsp. toasted walnut pieces
1 Tbsp. toasted sliced blanched almonds
Lightly rub meat with 2 Tbsp. of oil. Chill. Let stand at room temp 1 hour before cooking. Combine cheese and butter in processor and mix until smooth and creamy. Divide cheese butter into 4 equal portions. Refrigerate. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in large skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Reduce heat to medium, add meat and sear on all sides about 3 minutes. Reserve skillet. Let meat rest on rack at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Roast meat in a 450-degree oven about 15 minutes for medium-rare. Discard fat from skillet, add wine, and shallot. Cook over medium-high heat and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Cook liquid until reduced to a glaze. Add demiglaze and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Swirl in cheese butter 1 piece at a time. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let sauce rest 2-3 minutes. Transfer meat to platter and slice. Sprinkle with nuts and pass sauce separately.
VEAL ROLL UPS
6 veal cutlets, cut ¼ inch thick
6 slices thin boiled ham
3 slices processed Swiss cheese
1 slightly beaten egg
2 Tbsp. whole milk
¾ cup Italian bread crumbs
10 oz.condensed cream of mushroom soup
½ cup whole milk
2 Tbsp. dry white wine
Begin with veal cutlets. Top each piece with a ham slice. Cut each cheese slice into 4 strips; place 2 on each ham slice. Roll meat around cheese; secure with wooden picks. Mix egg and 2 Tbsp. milk. Dip rolls in egg, then in crumbs. Place seam side down in 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Combine soup, ½ cup milk, and white wine. Heat until bubbly; pour around rolls. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake in a 350-degree oven until meat is tender about one hour. Uncover. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake 10 minutes to brown crumbs. Transfer rolls to heated serving platter. Spoon sauce on top of rolls. 6 servings.
MACEDOINE OF VEGETABLES & SAUCE
1 head broccoli, cut into flowerettes, blanched in boiling salted water about 2 minutes, and refresh in cold water. 1 small head cauliflower, cut into flowerettes, blanched in boiling salted water with a slice of lemon about 3-5 minutes and refresh in cold water. ½ pound carrots, pared, cut into small coins, blanched in boiling salted water about 2 minutes, refresh in cold water.
Blue Cheese Sauce
¼ cup salted butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups half and half
2 Tbsp. Port
¼ tsp. salt
Freshly ground white pepper
½ cup (4 oz.) blue cheese, crumbled.
Melt butter in a saucepan until bubbly. Stir in flour. Gradually whisk in half and half and Port. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Whisk in blue cheese and stir until melted. Warm egg yolks with some of the hot sauce. Then whisk the yolks into the sauce over the heat until the sauce reaches a boil. Remove from heat. Combine vegetables in a steamer. Cover and steam 3-5 minutes until thoroughly heated. Place vegetables in an ovenproof buttered casserole. Pour blue cheese sauce on top. Broil 4-5 minutes until sauce browns on top. Serve with chopped parsley and lemon twist.
SPINACH WITH SOY DRESSING
½ cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
3 scallions or green onion, chopped
Dash of cayenne pepper
5 cups or 1 lb. fresh spinach, separated
In bowl, combine all ingredients except spinach and mix well. Arrange a layer of spinach leaves on serving platter in petal formation. Sprinkle with a small amount of dressing. Repeat alternating layers of spinach and dressing until all is used, ending with dressing. Toast sesame seeds in a shallow pan in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes while stirring. Sprinkle over spinach leaves.
1 (1 pound) can small whole beets, undrained
1 (8 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 Tbsp. grated orange rind
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. cold water
Put beets and cranberry sauce into saucepan and heat until blended. Stir in orange rind, then cornstarch, which has been dissolved in cold water. Cook over low heat, constantly stirring until thickened. Good with all pork dishes. Reheats well.
HUNGARIAN RICE PILAF
1 cup long-grained rice
1 cup extra-fine egg noodles (in box)
½ cup butter (less if desired)
Salt, pepper to taste
4 ½ cups chicken stock
Using large skillet, fry rice, and noodles in butter. Stir constantly until well browned. Add chicken stock and seasonings. Bring to boil and stir. Cover tightly and set at simmer for about 45 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Add browned mushrooms.
1 Tbsp. salted butter
2 ½ lbs. fresh asparagus, peeled and washed
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
4 eggs lightly beaten
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Butter eight 4 oz. ramekins or custard cups and set aside. Cut white bottoms from asparagus and discard. Chop spears into small pieces, reserving tips for garnish. Puree spears in food processor with 1 or 2 Tbsp. water. In skillet, cook asparagus over medium-high heat until excess moisture has evaporated. Stir occasionally. Set aside to cool. In processor combine cream, eggs, asparagus puree, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Process until smooth. Fill molds with custard. Place molds in a 13 x 9 baking pan filled with hot water. Bake 40-45 minutes or until knife tip inserted in center comes out clean. Blanch reserved tips in boiling salted water until tender. Plunge into cold water to stop cooking. To serve, saute asparagus tips in butter until heated through. Loosen edge of molds with knife and invert onto individual plates. Garnish with asparagus tips. Makes 8 servings.
6 medium potatoes, peeled and shaped into even-sided ovals
1 sliced lemon
¼ cup salted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and finely ground pepper
1/ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup grated Cheddar cheese
Cut each potato into thin, vertical slices, but leaving a hinge at the base. Soak in cold water with a slice of lemon added until all are completed. Melt the butter in a pan and fry the onion until soft. Drain the potatoes and arrange cut side upwards in a butter greased ovenproof dish. Spoon the onion and butter over and season. Cook at the top of a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, basting occasionally. Mix the cheeses and sprinkle over the potatoes. Continue cooking for 20-30 minutes until crisp and golden brown.
CRANBERRY AND WINE SAUCE
1 pack whole cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup red wine
2 tsp. cornstarch
Wash and clean cranberries. Add sugar and wine and cornstarch. Bring to boil, then simmer until slightly thick. Serve at room temperature or cold. Makes about 2 ½ cups. Serve with roasted chicken and dressing.
1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. Lawry’s seasoned salt
¼ cup salted butter
½ cup slivered green pepper
½ cup green onion, chopped tops and all
3 Tbsp. pimento
Cook rice with seasoned salt. Melt butter and saute pepper and onion until tender. Add to rice and stir in pimento with a fork.
2-10oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach.
1 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
1 ½ cups (6oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 beaten egg
Cook spinach and onion according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain well and press spinach in paper towels until barely moist. Combine spinach and garlic salt, stirring well. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 13 x 6-inch rectangle. Spread half of spinach evenly over dough and sprinkle with half of cheese. Roll up jellyroll fashion, starting at long side. Pinch seams and ends together to seal. Place roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining ingredients and brush loaves with egg. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Cut into 1-inch slices and serve warm.
FRESH STRAWBERRY MOUSSE
1 pint fresh strawberries (or 20 oz. frozen)
2 pkg. (3 oz. each) strawberry flavored gelatin
¼ cup sugar
1-pint whipping cream
Crush the strawberries and drain the juice, reserve. Add enough water to the juice to make 1 ½ cups. Bring the juice to a boil and stir in gelatin. Dissolve and cool. Add strawberries and sugar. Whip cream until it stands in soft peaks and fold into strawberry mixture. Combine and pour mixture into a 2-quart ring mold or a 1 ½ quart soufflé dish with a 2-inch collar. Chill several hours or overnight. Omit sugar if using frozen berries.
POTS DE CRÈME AU CHOCOLAT
1 cup melted, semi-sweet mint chocolate chips
¼ cups sweet cream (half milk-half cream scalded)
2 eggs yolks
3 Tbsp. brandy
Put all in blender. Cover and process at “blend” until smooth. Fill cups 2/3 full, chill 3 hours, and serve with a dab of whipped cream.
BAKED PEARS WITH BRANDY
1/4 cup brandy
2 tbsp. dried currants
4 Tbsp. softened butter
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
4 fresh, ripe Bartlett pears (buy 2 days before preparing)
Pour brandy over currants in small bowl. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain currants, reserving brandy. Beat butter and sugar in small bowl until light and fluffy. Fold in drained currants and the lemon zest. Remove cores from halved pears. Stuff the hollowed centers with butter mixture, dividing evenly. Arrange stuffed pears side up in shallow baking dish. Pour reserved brandy over the pears. Bake pears basting every 5 minutes with juices until tender when pierced with wooden pick, about 15 minutes. Let stand at room temperature until serving time. When serving, place pear on serving plate and ladle juices from baking pan evenly over pears.
CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE
1 cup softened, salted butter
½ cup Crisco shortening
3 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa and mix well. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake in a 300-degree oven for 1 ½ hours. Or until a wooden pick inserted comes out clean. Cool.
SOUR CREAM RAISIN MERINGUE PIE
9-inch baked pastry shell
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 ½ cups dairy sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
1 cup raisins
Combine eggs and sour cream in saucepan. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring, until mixture is thick. Cover, cool to lukewarm. Pour into baked pastry shell. Top with meringue. Bake at 350-degree for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
HOT BUTTERED RUM
½ lb. salted butter
½ lb. light brown sugar
½ lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ quart softened vanilla ice cream
Combine butter, sugars, and spices; beat until light and fluffy. Add ice cream, stirring until well blended. Spoon into a freezer container, freeze. To serve: thaw slightly. Place 3 Tbsp. butter mixture and 1 jigger rum in a large mug. Fill with boiling water. Stir well. Top with whipped cream and serve with cinnamon stick stirrer. Makes 12 cups.