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Autumnal Dinner

There's something magical about autumn. This beautiful (if clichéd) quote from The Great Gatsby summarizes it nicely: "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." After the sprint that is summer, autumn feels like a deep, cleansing breath. After a hectic summer spent making up time lost in quarantine, I've consciously tried to spend more time at home. This relaxed pace means more cooking and more family dinners around the screened porch table.

A disclaimer about the risotto: it is high-maintenance and needs constant attention. If it weren't the most delicious risotto I've ever eaten, I would not bother. That being said, it's delectable and worth all the effort. To combat the complexity of the risotto, keep the rest of the meal uncomplicated.


  1. Prepare slaw vegetables the night before. Place in paper towel-lined bowl and cover with more paper towels. Refrigerate.

  2. Make whipped cream. (This will keep in the fridge for a few hours.)

  3. Make risotto (allow an hour and a half).

  4. Dress slaw.

  5. Serve dinner.

  6. Brew espresso and serve affogato sundaes.

This meal serves 6 but every dish is good leftover.

Let's get into it. The Risotto. (Are you hearing foreboding music in your head? No? Just me?) All dramatics aside, this dish isn't that complicated, just time-consuming. Risotto is a Northern Italian rice dish cooked in broth or stock until creamy. Once you've made one risotto, you've made them all, as it's the same process. For wild mushroom risotto, sauté shallots and pancetta in butter, add in the dried morels and cremini mushrooms. Stir in arborio rice, white wine, and saffron, then slowly add a combination of mushroom and chicken stock, stirring frequently. The end result is fabulous and creamy with a complex flavor profile. The annoyance in this dish lies in the frequent stirring. While I wouldn't want to make risotto after a long day of work, it's special to serve for a dinner party.

There are two pricier ingredients in this dish: the dried morels and the saffron. I would caution you from omitting either as they both add an important flavor element. The morels are also used to make the mushroom stock which adds umami to the dish. I've been able to find dried morels for less at Sprouts Farmers Market. I've read that you can buy saffron at Costco for less dollars per ounce, but haven't independently verified this.

I hope I haven't turned you off of this recipe. Despite the pricey ingredients and time requirement, it's one of my favorite risottos to make (and eat). While risotto can be intimidating, Ina Garten's recipe is easy to follow. I've made this dish multiple times and it's always turned out perfectly.

You don't want to worry about any of the other sides while you're standing over the stovetop stirring risotto. I served a winter slaw to balance out the richness of the rice. Kale, Brussels sprouts, and radicchio are tossed in a lemon juice and olive oil dressing, then topped with shaved parmesan and dried cranberries. You can chop the veggies the night before, place in a paper towel-lined bowl, and refrigerate overnight. I found a bagged salad mix at my local grocery that contains kale, Brussels, radicchio, and broccoli, which saved me from having to chop everything. Dress before serving for a painless side.

If you know me, you know that ice cream is my favorite dessert. Affogato sundaes are an elegant take on a traditional ice cream sundae. Italian Affogato is traditionally vanilla gelato topped with a shot of espresso. Inspired by Ina Garten's affogato sundaes, I served one scoop each of vanilla and coffee ice cream, drowned in equal parts hot espresso and coffee liqueur (I used Kahlúa). Top with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and some crushed dark chocolate-covered espresso beans for a seriously decadent dessert.

If you're unfamiliar with a moka pot, it's the easiest way to brew espresso at home. All you have to do is fill the pot with ground espresso beans and water and heat on the stove top. Much simpler (and more cost-effective) than buying an espresso machine. (Or God-forbid, using instant - yuck. Instant espresso powder is great for baking, but not so nice to drink.) You can find them at your local grocery or hardware store.



Get the Look:

The apples are from our favorite North Georgia apple house, R&A Orchards. Check them out if you're in the Ellijay area this fall. Plaid napkins, a casual indigo tablecloth, and my favorite Estelle amber smoke wine glasses pulled the rest of this table together. I can't get over how beautiful these orange roses are, they almost look fake. I picked them up from Whole Foods and love how they look against the tablecloth.


Thanks for reading!

- Sam


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