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We sat outside overlooking the tall pine trees as the sun was setting and the temperature dropping. A couple of candle-lit lanterns gave us just enough of a glow to see the cheese and crackers we were munching on and the red wine we were sipping. Four people, two dogs barking at a couple of unimpressed deer, simple food and drink – this is what magic evenings are made of.

Successful gatherings are about intimacy. Creating a space to share easy conversation, laughter, ideas, dreams and experiences. The food isn’t overwhelming, but comforting, warm, relaxed, and yes, it needs to be delicious. Attention to details, such as, pretty table linens, fresh flowers and warm lighting, all add to the ambiance and set the mood.

The meal can be as simple as a bowl of soup, a slice of crusty bread and a fresh salad. Make-ahead casserole type dishes are good for entertaining too. Any combination of courses that are tasty and also keep you out of the kitchen as much as possible after your guests arrive is what you are looking for.


I recently made this Rustic Root Veggie Pie as a vegetarian entree. It is a bit labor intensive on the preparation side, but it is such a great dish to make a day or two ahead of time and then simply reheat it before serving with a salad. It makes a wonderful side dish for meat and chicken too.

Rustic Root Veggie Pie
Cuisine: French
  • 1 batch pastry dough (see recipe below)
  • 2¼ pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 carrot, sliced into rounds
  • 1 leek, white part washed and sliced thin
  • 1/1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1½ cups Jarlsberg cheese
  • 1½ cups half and half
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley are all great)
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Slice the potatoes with a sharp knife or mandolin into very thin rounds.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and leeks.
  4. Sauté for a couple of minutes until they are soft but not browned.
  5. Place the cream, white wine, sliced potatoes, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg into the pan with the leeks.
  6. Simmer the ingredients, stirring occasionaly, for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat. The cream should be fairly thick at this point.
  8. Set aside and allow to cool a bit while you roll out the pastry dough.
  9. Roll out the dough into a 13 x 13 inch square.
  10. Place the dough in a round 9 inch casserole or pie pan.
  11. Place half of the potato and cream mixture into the pie pan.
  12. Scatter half of the cheese over the potatoes and then add the rest of the potato mixture.
  13. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and fold the dough over towards the center of the dish.
  14. Brush the dough with an egg wash made of 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water.
  15. Place in the center of oven and bake for 1¼ hour (cover the dish with a foil tent if the crust begins to brown too much).
You'll notice in my photos I have chunky diced potatoes on the top of my pie, this is another option. I sliced all of the potatoes, setting 2 aside. Just before putting the pie in the oven, I peeled and diced the remaining potatoes and scattered them on the top of the pie.
It gives the pie a great look but just be sure you cook the pie fully so the potatoes are cooked all the way through.

Pastry Dough
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ½ cup chilled water (more or less as needed)
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
  1. In a food processor or by hand, cut together the butter, flour and salt until just barely blended (there should still be small pea size bits of butter in the mix).
  2. Add the ice water a little at a time, pulsing the processor a few times each time you add the water or tossing with a fork.
  3. Only add enough water for the dough to just hold together. It may appear a little lumpy, which is fine.
  4. Remove the dough and form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper.
  5. Set in the refrigerator to relax and chill for 30 minutes or so you can also freeze it at this point for future use).



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