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Classic Dinner Party 101

port roasted prime rib

Glorious, deeply flavored Port Roasted Prime Rib

This was the first article I wrote for a glossy publication, Food & Home’s first magazine issue, November 2000. A friend in Virginia recently mailed me a print out of the original article. I redid the party last night to revise, so many things have changed! I’ve changed, my writing has changed, you can get fresh blackberries in the winter now and I rarely do beef centered dinners much at home any more. All said, it was still a pretty perfect dinner party, my guests were so delighted. And I still loved doing it.

Sheer Pleasure

This is how it all began! I grew up in the Dinner Party Era, I was raised to entertain, that was the whole point of me & in some ways it still is, lol! So here is dinner party 101 from the pages of time that seem to be turning way too fast lately!

This is strategically planned to be the easy, stressless entertaining I get such pleasure from. It’s an old school, fancy version of meat & potatoes; Port Roasted Prime Rib, served with luscious scalloped potatoes – sublime. Followed by Pure Joy’s Heavenly Blackberry Pie. I’ve mapped it all out for you, easy peasy please!

This truly is a menu for any given Sunday, allowing plenty of down time for you to enjoy the day too. Gather your ingredients the day before, put your roast to marinate, do all those run around things so you can surrender the next whole day to the comfort zone. In this way I give myself the pleasure of creating a fine meal, with enough time to really enjoy the process.

This is perfect for 8 people. I like to start by offering my guests an Aperol Spritz and then go to Syrah for the dinner, my favorite local is Rusack. I also offer some of the Port I get for the marinade with the pie & ice cream.


Prep Day;

Shop, the full list is at the bottom of the article for you :)

Make and refrigerate the discs of pie crust

Marinate the beef

Make the salad dressing & the rub for the roast

Set the table

Party Day:

Put together the pie & bake it

Make the potatoes, they are fine to cover & sit out a few hours

Tear & chill the salad greens

Roast the beef & potatoes

Stir together the horseradish & sour cream


Mustard Vinaigrette Salad

2 heads of salad greens of your choice

Whisk together with a fork in a coffee cup;

2 Tbl. Vinegar

1 Tbl. Honey

1 Tbl. Dry mustard

¼ cup great olive or local pistachio oil

Pure Joy Blackberry Pie


5 tbl. water

3.25 tsp. corn starch

9 oz flour (2 cups)

.75 tsp. salt

1 Tbl. sugar

8 oz. butter, cut up

3 Tbl. sour cream


2 lb. blackberries (6 baskets at farmers market)

½ c. sugar

4 Tbl. instant tapioca

2 Tbl. Butter

1 Tbl. fresh lemon

2 Tbl. Milk to brush on top & sugar to sprinkle

Vanilla Ice Cream (non-optional accompaniment)

There are 2 secrets to a perfect crust; #1 is this cool recipe, #2 is to not over handle the dough.

In advance: whisk together the water and cornstarch. Microwave until set, 40 seconds, stirring halfway through and at the end. Chill it. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and process 5 seconds. Add the chilled cornstarch mixture and pulse about 5 pulses. Add the sour cream & cold cut up butter. process until the dough just comes together and begins to collect around the blade, 20 to 30 seconds. Pat the dough into two 4-inch discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

On a well-floured surface roll out both discs of dough separately with the firm push of a rolling pin to about an 1/8 of an inch thick. With a thin spatula, lift one side of the first crust and flop it over your pin, then gently roll the dough around the pin to transfer it to the pie shell, if it tears you can mend it with a bit of water. Set it in the refrigerator, then roll out the top crust on a bit more flour.

For the top crust: Brush the 1/8th inch rolled out top crust with milk and sprinkle the generously with sugar. Brush the rim of the bottom crust too to help the top seal on. Cut lattice strips and arrange in a decorative chris-cross pattern (or simply top it, adding slits to the center for the heat to vent). Trim the excess and crimp the edges to seal.

Bake at 350 on the bottom oven rack on a foil lined cookie sheet for one to one and quarter hours until nicely browned and filling is bubbly. Tent with foil 50 minutes in if it’s browning too quickly. Allow to cool and set before serving.

Bonus: roll out dough scraps, brush with milk & sprinkle very generously with sugar & cinnamon, bake. You’re welcome.

Scalloped Potatoes

Indulgent but really delicious.

1 oz. room temp butter rubbed into aprox. 9x12” casserole dish

5 large russet potatoes, peeled & very thinly sliced

2.5 oz. butter, melted

3 Tbl. Flour

Salt & pepper to taste (be generous)

8 oz. white sharp cheddar, shredded

1 pint cream

Lay out a double layer of the potatoes in the prepared casserole dish. Drizzle with half the butter, sprinkle with flour, salt & freshly ground pepper. Layer in half the cheese. Then repeat layering in the remaining ingredients, pour over it all with the cream. Bake uncovered about 75 - 90 minutes at 325.

Port Roasted Prime Rib

(serves 8)

The sublime flavor & dark crust the port gives the beef is ahhhh-mazing and BONUS; frugalist, you can freeze that ziploc baggie of marinade afterwards to use again. Do marinate overnight. The port I use is Old Shandon, it’s a local Syrah port from Paso Robles, a bit goes in the roast & I serve some with the pie, 1 bottle is fine.

boneless prime rib roast, have the butcher trim & tie a prime rib roast for you with a finished weight of 5 pounds


1 c. port wine

1 c. soy sauce

½ c. olive oil

1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 tsp. thyme

½ tsp. Tabasco

8 mashed cloves of garlic

to baste: ¼ cup port

Dry Rub:

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 Tbl. dry mustard

3 Tbl. flour

On the side:

4 Tbl. Prepared horseradish & 6 oz sour cream

Put the marinade into a large ziploc and slide in that perfectly tied and trimmed rib roast. Seal it very well, set in a casserole pan and refrigerate it overnight, turning it occasionally.

Party day; Set the marinated beef out of the refrigerator four and half hours before dinner. Let it come to room temperature an hour and 50 minutes, then preheat the oven to 450 degrees and pat dry your roast & cover it with the rub top, bottom & sides on a rack (if you have one) in a roasting pan. Roast 20 minutes on the lowest oven shelf. Reduce the heat to 325, put in the potatoes and now roast an additional hour and 15 minutes. Toward the end baste with the port & any accumulated oil in the bottom of the pan and start checking the center of the meat temperature, pull out of the oven at 120 for a medium rare center. Potatoes will be done around the same time too. Cover the roast with a towel & let it rest about 20 minutes.

Master Shopping List for the whole shebang:

½ bottle Aperol

1 bottle descent champagne or good Prosecco

2 bottle Syrah

1 good loaf of bread

2 heads of salad greens of your choice

2 Tbl. Vinegar

1 Tbl. Honey

2 Tbl. Dry mustard

¾ cup great olive or local pistachio oil

3.25 tsp. corn starch

2.5 cups flour

salt & pepper

.5 cup + 1 Tbl. sugar

1.25 lb. butter

8 oz sour cream

1 pint cream

8 oz. what sharp cheddar cheese

2 lb. blackberries (6 baskets at farmers market)

½ c. sugar

4 Tbl. instant tapioca

1 Tbl. fresh lemon

2 Tbl. Milk

1 qt. Vanilla Ice Cream

4 Tbl. Prepared horseradish

Prime rib boneless roast, Have the butcher trim & tie a prime rib roast for you with a finished weight of 5 pounds

1 ¼ c. port wine

1 c. soy sauce

1 tsp. thyme

½ tsp. Tabasco

8 cloves of garlic

5 large russet potatoes


Lynette La Mere, Executive Chef, Pure Joy Catering

scalloped potatoes

Marie Donahue, a new member of the Pure Joy extended family dives into the scalloped potatoes

Pure Joy Blackberry Pie


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