Designer Erinn Valencich hosts a fall dinner with a tablescape that happily makes the case for the evergreen qualities of a blush palette.

By Krissa Rossbund
July 31, 2020
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Pink won't be hibernating its way through winter this year. Erinn Valencich absolutely will not allow it. Instead, with a little coaxing from the Los Angeles-based designer, the sweet pastel will leave behind its springtime comfort zone and star in a pretty fall tablescape created for an intimate gathering of friends.

Victoria Pearson

"To me, dusty pink feels like the color that saturates a fall sunset," says Erinn, who not only creates chic interiors but also is the founder of StyleRow, a one-of-a-kind digital hub serving the luxury design community.

"I especially love pairing pink with wood tones," she says. "It brings softness to a scheme that might otherwise be dominant with the burnt orange and yellow of fall foliage."

Left: Victoria Pearson
Right: Victoria Pearson

Erinn's vintage dinnerware (a swirly pink-and-gold Sascha Brastoff pattern from the 1950s that she snagged at an estate sale) never shuffles to the back of a closet like her breezy lightweight wardrobe.

She ensures the vintage abstract motif feels current by marrying the plates with pink chargers. Their curvy scallop shape frames the setting with an elegant gold edge. Wicker placemats anchor the layers, injecting an organic touch. Coordinating glasses and pink-handle flatware reinforce Erinn's commitment to her pretty palette. A blushing damask runner lines the table's center, juxtaposing flowers that trumpet autumn's arrival in traditional hues.

Victoria Pearson

While the scheme is light, the flavors are robust. A full-on fall menu features braised artichokes with béarnaise sauce, French onion soup, and pork chops with a compote of brown sugar, orange zest, dates, and walnuts. A crustless apple pie completes the menu.

Victoria Pearson

"I love dining at home. It's the best way to enjoy quality time," Erinn says. "Friends can move around the kitchen while I cook. Then it's to the dinner table, where we linger for hours, and maybe dessert in the living room. Relaxed and shoes off, of course."

Menu

  • Dark and Stormy Cocktail
  • White Wine and Herb-Braised Artichokes with Béarnaise Sauce
  • French Onion, Shallot, and Leek Soup
  • Tomahawk Pork Chops over Polenta with Compote of Brown Sugar, Orange Zest, Dates, and Walnuts
  • Crustless Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Butter and Lemon Mascarpone

Shopping List

We've organized a shopping list to make shopping for this gathering menu easier for you. Package sizes are included so you have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients.

Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

Note: Unless specified, when we call for "butter," we mean the unsalted variety. When we call for "olive oil," we are suggesting good-quality extra virgin. When we call for "eggs," we are suggesting large eggs. Unless specified, when we call for "milk," we mean whole-fat milk.

Amounts below allow for 10 cocktails.

  • Olive oil (need 2 tablespoons)
  • Canola oil (need 1¾ cups)
  • Kosher salt (need 5 teaspoons + to taste)
  • Ground black pepper (need ½ teaspoon + to taste)
  • Granulated sugar (need 3 tablespoons)
  • Powdered sugar (need 3 tablespoons)
  • Brown sugar (need ½ cup + 3 tablespoons packed)
  • Vanilla (need 2 tablespoons)
  • Milk (need 2 cups + more for thinning)
  • Eggs (need 6)
  • Champagne vinegar (need ½ cup + 2 tablespoons)

Specialty grocery store

  • 5 small globe artichokes

Produce

  • 2 bunches thyme
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 bunch tarragon
  • 5 lemons
  • 6 limes
  • 3 oranges
  • 2 pounds Honeycrisp apples
  • 1 leek
  • 10 onions
  • 6 shallots
  • 1 head garlic

Grocery

  • 7 (12-ounce) bottles ginger beer
  • 1 (4-ounce) package slivered almonds
  • 1 (4-ounce) package chopped walnuts
  • Pitted dates (need ½ cup sliced)
  • Coarse ground cornmeal (need 2 cups)
  • Beef base (need 2 tablespoons)
  • Bay leaves (need 2)

Butcher

  • 10 (16-ounce) tomahawk pork chops or (10- to 12-ounce) bone-in pork chops

Bakery

  • 1 long French baguette

Dairy

  • 5 sticks (2½ cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 (½-pint) container heavy cream
  • 1 pound Gruyère cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese

Alcohol

  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle black rum
  • 2 (750-milliliter) bottles dry white wine
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry sherry
Victoria Pearson

Dark and Stormy Cocktail

This cocktail is all about the rum. Black rum has darker color and deeper flavor than other rums. If you prefer less of a tempest in your glass, use gold or white rum.

Hands On: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) ginger beer
  • 1½ ounces (3 tablespoons) black rum (such as Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum)
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) lime juice
  • ½ of a lime slice

Place ice in pint glass. Add ginger beer. Float black rum on top of ginger beer. Add lime juice. Garnish with lime slice. Makes 1 cocktail.

Tip: For a nonalcoholic version of this cocktail, omit the rum and serve ginger beer with a splash of lime.

Victoria Pearson

White Wine and Herb-Braised Artichokes with Béarnaise Sauce

Silky béarnaise sauce is perfect with tangy fresh artichokes. If you've never had artichokes, just pull a leaf, dip it, gently bite the leaf, and scrape out the pulp as you pull the leaf through your teeth.

Hands On: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes (includes cooling time)

Artichokes:

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 cups dry white wine
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ of an onion, cut up
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 small fresh globe artichokes
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Fresh tarragon leaves

Béarnaise Sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

For Artichokes, divide water, wine, lemon juice, onion, and thyme between two 6- to 8-quart braising pans or pots with lids. Bring to boiling; reduce to a simmer.

Trim about an inch from tops of artichokes. Cut top spine off each artichoke leaf. Cut artichokes in half beginning at stem. Divide cut artichokes between two pans. Cover and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour or until leaves can be easily pulled out.

Remove artichokes from pans. Discard liquid. Place artichokes on cooling rack over a sink to allow excess water to drain. When cool, use a spoon to remove fuzzy choke in centers; discard choke.

Serve artichokes at room temperature with Béarnaise Sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced shallot and fresh tarragon leaves.

For Béarnaise Sauce, in small bowl combine vinegar, 2 tablespoons tarragon, and the finely chopped shallot. Let stand 10 minutes.

Fill saucepan halfway with water. Bring to simmering over medium-low. Place heatproof bowl or double boiler insert on saucepan (it should not touch water). Add egg yolks, water, and vinegar mixture to bowl. Whisk until thickened (about 5 minutes). Whisk in softened butter, one piece at a time. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and remaining 2 teaspoons tarragon. Makes 10 servings.

Tip: You can trim prep time on entertaining day by cooking the artichokes the day before. Cool and chill the cooked artichokes overnight. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving and let them come to room temperature.

Victoria Pearson

French Onion, Shallot, and Leek Soup

This soup's wonderfully complex flavor develops from an onion family trio that's slow-sautéed to a rich golden color. Top it with good-quality Gruyère cheese for best flavor and that amazing stringy cheese pull.

Hands On: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 8 cups halved and sliced onions (¼-inch slices)
  • 2 1/3 cups halved and thinly sliced shallots
  • ½ cup thinly sliced leek
  • 1 cup dry sherry
  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons beef base (such as Better Than Bouillon brand)
  • 2 sprigs thyme plus extra for garnish
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 20 slices baguette-style French bread, toasted
  • 1 pound Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced

In 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven heat butter and oil over medium-low until butter is melted. Add onions, shallots, and leek. Cover and cook about 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Uncover; cook over medium-high about 25 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally.

Add sherry and champagne vinegar, stirring to loosen any browned bits from pan. Stir in salt and pepper.

Add water, beef base, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves to pan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves.

Preheat broiler. Arrange ten 10- to 12-ounce broiler-safe ramekins in shallow baking pan. Ladle soup into ramekins. Place one or two toasted bread slices on top of each filled ramekin and cover with cheese.

Broil ramekins 4 to 5 inches from heat 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and golden brown. Transfer ramekins to plates. Garnish with additional thyme sprigs. Makes 10 servings.

Tip: Extra soup can be cooled and transferred to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Victoria Pearson

Tomahawk Pork Chops over Polenta with Compote of Brown Sugar, Orange Zest, Dates, and Walnuts

The impressive tomahawk treatment isn't reserved for beef cuts. An orange-laced overnight marinade and a rich walnut compote topper elevate these juicy pork chops.

Hands On: 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours plus overnight marinating

Compote:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • ½ cup sliced pitted dates
  • ¼ cup coarse orange zest
  • Kosher salt

Polenta:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups milk plus more for thinning
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups coarse ground cornmeal

Pork Chops:

  • 10 (16-ounce) tomahawk pork chops or (10- to 12-ounce) bone-in pork chops
  • 1½ cups canola oil
  • 1 large onion, cut in wedges
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 large basil leaves, cut in thin ribbons
  • Cracked black pepper

For Compote, in medium bowl combine butter, brown sugar, walnuts, dates, and coarse orange zest. Season to taste with salt. Divide into 10 loose balls using about 3 tablespoons for each ball.* Cover; chill until needed and up to 3 days.

For Polenta, preheat oven to 400°F. In 4- to 6-quart pot with lid, heat water, milk, and salt to simmering. Gradually stir in cornmeal. Cover, transfer to oven, and bake 45 minutes or until mixture is thick and creamy. If necessary, stir in more milk, 2 tablespoons at a time, to reach desired creaminess.

For Pork Chops, place chops in large resealable bag set in shallow dish. Add oil, onion, orange zest, thyme, and garlic. Seal bag; turn to coat. Refrigerate overnight.

While polenta bakes, drain marinade from pork chops; discard marinade. Blot chops dry with paper towels. Make five or six vertical slices on fat cap on chops, being careful not to cut the meat. (This prevents chops from curling as they cook.) Let chops stand at room temperature 30 minutes before cooking. Season with salt.

In extra-large nonstick skillet heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high. Working in batches, sear pork chops 2 to 3 minutes per side or until lightly brown. Place browned chops in 18×13-inch baking pan. Repeat with remaining chops, adding more butter and oil as necessary.

Place one compote ball on each pork chop. Place in oven and roast 15 minutes for tomahawk pork chops (8 minutes for regular chops) or until an instant-read thermometer registers 145°F. Remove chops from oven, tent with foil, and let rest 3 minutes.

Serve chops with polenta. Garnish with fresh basil. Season with additional salt and cracked pepper. Makes 10 servings.

*Tip: If you have one, use a quick-release scoop with 3-tablespoon capacity (#20 scoop) to make compote balls.

Tomahawk Chops: A tomahawk chop is a bone-in pork chop that has a few inches of the bone trimmed and cleaned of meat. You may need to special-order them from your meat counter or have the butcher french bone-in pork loin chops to expose the rib bone.

Victoria Pearson

Crustless Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Butter and Lemon Mascarpone

Enjoy the buttery goodness of apple pie filling without the crust. Thick, creamy lemon mascarpone makes an indulgent topper.

Hands On: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Lemon Mascarpone:

  • ¾ cup mascarpone cheese
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Crustless Apple Pie:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 8 cups sliced peeled Honeycrisp apples
  • Lemon zest
  • ½ cup toasted almonds, finely chopped

For Lemon Mascarpone, in large bowl beat mascarpone with electric mixer on medium to high for a few minutes, then drizzle in cream while beating. Continue beating until soft peaks form (tips curl). Fold in powdered sugar and lemon zest. Cover and chill while preparing apples or up to 2 days.

For Crustless Apple Pie, in large saucepan combine butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt. Heat over medium until melted and smooth. Add apples to pan. Cook, uncovered, 6 to 8 minutes or until slightly soft with a hint of crunch.

Spoon apples into individual serving dishes. Top with Lemon Mascarpone, additional lemon zest, and almonds. Makes 10 servings.

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