featuresfoodSummer 2014

Le Diner en Blanc

By June 3, 2014March 15th, 2017No Comments

By Ann Cipperly

Under an ancient oak in front of the garden with rolling pastures in the distance, weathered picnic tables are transformed at dusk into elegant dining draped with silky white cloths, adorned with white hydrangeas, glowing candles and white dishes for a “Diner En Blanc,” dinner in white.

Parisians created the Diner En Blanc in 1988 after François Pasquier returned from abroad and held a dinner party in June to reconnect with friends. Since so many wanted to attend, the group met at the Bois de Boulogne and was told to dress in white in order to find each other.

The dinner was such a success that they decided the following year each person would invite other friends to the event with white tablecloths, flowers and dishes. The all white dinner idea continued to grow and spread to large cities in America.

This summer create your own Diner En Blanc with a Southern twist. In a picturesque setting, arrange tables with white cloths, white hydrangeas, white plates and serving dishes.

Arrange a buffet table for leisurely dining. On a white tablecloth place tall crystal candle stands shimmering in the afternoon sunlight and a lantern with  candles on the other side. Add white hydrangeas to an urn and a teardrop vase in a metal stand. Scatter tea lights throughout the setting, add moss balls and accent with a small bronze bird.

For dining, casually drape a rustic table with a white cloth and center with natural burlap. Create a centerpiece using two teardrop vases overflowing with white hydrangeas and flank with gleaming mercury glass candlesticks.

On soft white chargers, situate a white plate with a fleur de lis symbol to pay homage to the French. Tuck in oversized white napkins.

After an enjoyable respite with friends, savor the last sips of wine in a nearby cushioned swing overlooking the garden, reflecting on generations ago who toiled the soil and named it Sunset Farm on Welcome Lane.




By Ann Cipperly

When planning a Diner En Blanc, select recipes using fresh seasonal ingredients for an elegant dinner with friends.

Pasta with Ham, Asparagus, Sugar Snaps and Ricotta is an ideal appetizer, as it can be served warm, at room temperature or cold. Omit the ham for a vegetarian dish. Ricotta cheese adds creaminess without the hassle of preparing a heavy sauce. Garnish with additional asparagus, fresh mint and lemon zest.

Seafood is popular during summer months. Spring Salad with Gulf Coast Crab Cake and Monkfish Roll provide scrumptious selections. Serve with fresh beets paired with goat cheese, pecans and a toss of fresh herbs in a flavorful combination.

Cap the evening with Chausson Aux Pommes and Brie, the pièce de résistance.

East Alabama chefs and caterers share their recipes for a first class “dinner in white.”

Pasta with Ham, Asparagus, Sugar Snaps and Ricotta

Chef Jim Sikes

Jimmy’s Restaurant

16 oz. orecchiette or penne pasta

8 oz. baked ham, optional

16 oz. sugar snaps peas

16 oz. asparagus

8 oz. ricotta


Black pepper

White wine

Olive oil

Lemon zest

Fresh mint

Trim asparagus and blanch until barely tender. Then shock asparagus in an ice water bath. Blanch sugar snaps and shock those too. Drain well and set aside. Dice ham into cubes.

Cook orecchiette in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain pasta and set in a mixing bowl. Substitute penne, if you prefer.

While pasta is cooking, cut asparagus into 2 or 3 pieces according to thickness. A diagonal cut makes for a more interesting look. Dress sugar snaps and asparagus with olive oil and white wine.

When pasta is ready, retain a few asparagus tips for garnish and carefully stir in ham, sugar snaps and remaining asparagus. Then fold in ricotta until just mixed, as you want to be able to see the grains of the cheese.

Season with black pepper and half the mint and lemon zest. If the mixture is too dry, add some white wine and olive oil.

Serve warm in a large bowl with a garnish of asparagus tips, mint and lemon zest. The dish can be served warm, at room temperature or cold as a salad.

Spring Salad with Gulf Coast Crab Cake

Caterer Martha Hicks

Southern Hospitality Catering

Mixed baby field greens

Grape tomatoes, green onions, fresh chives and orange bell pepper for garnish

3 cups grape tomatoes, quartered

1 bunch green onions more to taste, chopped

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1/2 orange bell pepper, medium to smaller cubes

Combine above 4 ingredients with the vinaigrette below.


1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. crushed oregano

1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

½ cup olive oil

Combine the first 4 above ingredients. Slowly whisk in olive oil.

Crab Cakes:

1 lb. jumbo lump Gulf crab meat, picked over for shells

1 to 2 eggs

1/2 scant cup finely ground breadcrumbs

Green onions

Cajun seasoning to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

If it isn’t moist enough, add a little mayonnaise.

Gently combine above ingredients. Make a small crab cake and sauté to check seasoning.

Lightly form into cakes and chill 30 minutes.

Sauté in canola oil until nicely browned on both sides.

Place bed of greens in the center of a salad plate. Place crab cake on greens. Surround with tomato mixture and garnish with a lemon wedge. May also put a little less than a tablespoon of remoulade sauce beside each crab cake.

Monkfish Roll

Executive Chef Fernando Cruz

The Hotel at Auburn University

2 monkfish loins
4 carrots {cut into 1/4 in sticks}
4 spring onions
4 pencil asparagus
1Tbps. olive oil
½ cup white wine
2 thyme sprigs
4 oz. butter
Cut monkfish loins into the length size of asparagus.
Cut carrot sticks and spring onions to the same length.
Using a paring knife, make an incision through the middle of monkfish loin in order to insert carrot, spring onions and asparagus.
Using a nonstick pan on medium high heat, sear monkfish gently until sides are slightly browned. Add thyme.
Once fish is golden brown, add white wine and deglaze pan.
Reduce white wine by half and add butter.
Base fish with butter and wine mix until fully cooked. Reduce heat to medium low.
Let fish rest for about 3 minutes before cutting it.
Tomato Verbena Sauce
4 Heirloom tomatoes, split in half
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, shaved
2 verbena leaves
Roasting rack
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place tomatoes, skin side down, in roasting pan. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Drizzle olive oil and add shave garlic on top of tomatoes.
Place tomatoes in oven for 30-45 minutes or until nicely roasted.
Add remaining ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
Strain liquid into a saucepan and reduce by half.
Add verbena leaves to saucepan and cover to steep the flavor, about 5 minutes.
Confit Purple Potatoes
5 purple potatoes
2 cups olive oil or as need it to cover potatoes
2 thyme sprigs
1 tarragon sprig
1 tsp. paprika
2 shallots, whole, peeled
Preheat oven at 250 degrees. Place potatoes, thyme, tarragon, paprika and shallots in a deep oven proof pan.  Cover ingredients with olive oil and place in oven.
Cook until potatoes are cooked but not falling apart.
Strain liquid and let the potatoes cool.
Once potatoes are cool, cut into desire shape.
Plate up:
Cut monkfish fillet into small rounds. Place monkfish rolls on a plate and drizzle with tomato verbena sauce.
Garnish with fresh herbs and confit potatoes. Serves 3.

Nuts, Bolts, Weeds, Beets

Chef Collin Donnelly

Acre Restaurant

Pecans toasted with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

Collard green bolts

Brussel sprout bolts (bolts are the flowering tops of the plant)


Only use wild plants if you’re sure that they are edible.


Wood sorrel

Wild plantain

Dandelion greens

Woodland strawberry

Lemon thyme

Variegated oregano

Cilantro flowers


Roast beets at 350 degrees until tender.

Marinate with a splash sherry vinegar, brown sugar, ground toasted coriander, olive oil and fresh chives.

Fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Georgia olive oil for drizzling

Fresh lemon juice for drizzling

Pickled Beet Stems:

Cut stems into 2-inch pieces, barely cover with rice wine vinegar, add a pinch of salt, sugar and red pepper flakes.

Baby Beet Greens: harvested along with beets, reserve the larger leaves for cooking later, save small ones for this.

Curried Sorghum:

Soak sorghum grains in lightly salted water overnight. Drain, rinse and simmer in water for an hour or until tender. Drain and while cooling add a dash of curry powder, some extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon juice. Stir to combine.

Chausson Aux Pommes and Brie

Chef Noor Threet

Maestro 2300

When making turnovers, start with a “short dough.”

6 oz. sugar

14 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 lb. bread flour

Blend sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a mixing bowl on low speed. Change to dough hook and add flour. Mix until dough is smooth, but do not over mix. Put in an oiled bowl and set aside.

For the filling – (Make the filling first.)

6-8 Granny Smith apples

1 cup sugar (brown or white)


1 lemon

Peel and core all but 2 of the apples. Cut into chunks.

Add apples to a saucepan with sugar. Add a little water, and the juice of one lemon. Once apples have broken down, and make a thick sauce, it is ready. Now peel and core the remaining apples and add them to the sauce.

Cook until apple chunks are soft and you have a jam-like consistency. Refrigerate before using it as the filling.

To make the Chasson Aux Pommes:

Egg wash

Crystal sugar

Short dough and apple filling

Brie cheese

Roll out dough 1/8 inch thick. Get a cookie cutter that is large enough to fill and fold over. Add a small piece of Brie first and then a small amount of the apple filling, then again a piece of Brie.

Brush edges with egg wash, fold over and pinch. Brush egg wash on top and then add crystal sugar. Transfer turnovers to a silpat or a fresh baking paper. Bake at 375 until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

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