As winter turns into spring, all I want is to do is open up the garden and move our dinners outside. Alas, not yet. I can serve drinks outside in the garden, but in reality, it’s still too cold and too rainy to sit outside for a long period of time.
And so this dinner marks that early part of spring when the weather still doesn’t really cooperate. Staying indoors is a better plan, and I still crave warm foods, savory flavors, and sweet desserts.
The menu starts with a classic cheese soufflé served with a zippy mustard sauce, which is a fantastically festive and impressive first course. I’m making it in individual ramekins for a pretty presentation, but you can also use a large soufflé dish. Don’t be afraid of making a soufflé—it’s really not difficult, just a little temperamental!
The soufflé is followed by sausages cooked in white wine with fresh thyme. You can use any type of sausage you like, or a few types at once. I love hot and sweet Italian, boar, Cajun, and even kielbasa. Serve them with toasted baguettes—to mop up the juices—and a mixed green salad for an easy main course.
Dessert is a seasonal celebration, gathering those first strawberries to simply showcase in a bright pink crumble. Serve it with either ice cream—I am using pistachio, to continue the color scheme—or orange-scented whipped cream to end dinner on a marvelously sweet note.
Timing It Right
Make the strawberry crumble in the morning or the day before. Warm it up in the oven (turned off) while you are having dinner.
Just before guests arrive, cook the sausages and leave them in the pan to quickly heat before serving. Toss the salad and dress just before serving.
The soufflé needs to be baked right before serving, with everyone seated at the table just as it comes out of the oven, so plan accordingly, noting that it will take 30 minutes to cook.
Setting the Table
Setting the mood for an early spring dinner is all about seasonal colors with touches of brown and ocher. Yes, we are welcoming warmer weather, but it’s pouring rain outside, and I want the table to look comforting and cozy.
When setting the table, I like to use one idea as inspiration, whether it’s the food or a seasonal flower, or a specific color I want to use, and build around that. In this case, it is an ode to spring and strawberries, so I am using dark pinks and reds as accents.
Always pair two items of the same materials on the table for a cohesive look. For example, use both tortoiseshell cutlery and tortoiseshell vases, or white plates with white napkins, or silverware with silver pitchers … and then mix and match the rest.
I can’t stress this enough: Go low or go high, with the flowers, I mean. People need to be able to see each other across the table, so check that the arrangement is chin high at the most. For this time of year, tulips and roses are lovely.
RECIPE: Sausages in Wine
RECIPE: Strawberry Crumble