Company coming?

We asked four accomplished local cooks, “What do you make when company is coming?” Their vote was unanimous. Our cooks agreed that no matter what the occasion — five-course formal dinner or casual buffet — the very best recipes for entertaining are the ones that don’t trap the host in the kitchen.

Pull out these tried-and-true recipes for your next dinner party

We asked four accomplished local cooks, “What do you make when company is coming?” Their vote was unanimous. Our cooks agreed that no matter what the occasion — five-course formal dinner or casual buffet — the very best recipes for entertaining are the ones that don’t trap the host in the kitchen.

Laura Baloun, Sarah Pfendler, Lisa Gregory and Beth Bauman share a few of their “go-to” recipes for company.


dining_lauraLaura and David Baloun of Canton love to throw theme parties such as their annual Kentucky Derby Party. A staple at this early May event is beef brisket, cooked until tender, shredded, mixed with barbecue sauce, and served on mini buns.

“Beef brisket is something a lot of people don’t get. It can be served cold or hot. It can be made two days ahead — in fact it’s best if it sits. It can be served in a Crock-Pot or you can leave it in the oven,” Laura said. “There’s absolutely no way to screw it up. I’ve undercooked it and overcooked it, and it always tastes great.”

Laura serves the brisket sandwiches with a side of bubbling hot potato salad.

“It has all the stuff we love — bacon, potato, cheese,” she said.

Best of all, it can be assembled ahead of time, then popped in the oven.

“When I entertain, whether it’s just a small din- ner or a party, I want to have fun with my friends,” Laura said. “I don’t want to be in the kitchen or schlepping in and out.”

  • Ingredients:
  • 6-8 pounds beef brisket trimmed of all fat and sinew


  • Garlic salt
  • Onion salt
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 oz. liquid smoke
  • 2-3 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Steak Sauce
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons A1 Steak Sauce 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Country Bob’s BBQ Sauce
  • KC Masterpiece Honey BBQ sauce (to taste)

To finish:

  • KC Masterpiece Original BBQ Sauce (to taste)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup brown sugar
Cover both sides of brisket liberally with garlic and onion salt, cayenne and freshly ground pepper. Mix liq- uid smoke, steak sauces, sugar, vine- gar and Country Bob’s sauce and pour over brisket in a heavy-duty foil pouch or bag in a 9-by-13 glass dish. Drizzle liberally with KC Masterpiece Honey BBQ Sauce. Refrigerate for 24 hours or overnight. Bake 8-10 hours at 225 degrees. Cool meat completely before slicing. Slice very thin or shred and place in a large baking pan. Cover with KC Masterpiece Original BBQ Sauce. Sprinkle brown sugar on while hot so it will melt. • HOT POTATO SALAD • Ingredients:

  • 8 large potatoes cooked in jackets 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 6 slices cooked bacon to crisp (reserve drippings)
  • 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • Lawry’s Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
Cool potatoes, peel and cube. Liberally salt and pepper. In a large bowl, mix cheese, mayonnaise and bacon; add potatoes. Mix some bacon drippings into potato mix if desired. Spread in a 9-by-13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until bubbling. Serves 6-8.

dining_lisaFor company, Lisa and Steve Gregory of Lake Township prefer delicious dishes that require no fussing. One of Lisa’s favorites is a pork loin with a savory and sweet sauce that will keep guests guessing about the ingredients.

She got the recipe from her mother, Shirley Warburton.

“I’ve made this six or seven times,” Lisa said. “The reason I like this meal is it lets you enjoy the company instead of being stuck in the kitchen.”

The sauce is so luscious, she has used it on chicken as well.

Her make-ahead side dish to pair with the sassy pork is a simple, yet satisfying, potato casserole.

• PORK WITH SASSY SAUCE • Ingredients:

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1 small bottle Russian salad dressing 1 jar apricot jam
  • 1 envelope of Lipton onion soup
Place tenderloin in baking dish. Mix dressing, jam and soup together and pour over tenderloin. Bake uncovered for an hour. Slice and serve with sauce. • SHREDDED POTATO CASSEROLE • Boil 4 potatoes, unpeeled, for 4 to 6 minutes. Refrigerate overnight. Shred potatoes (Lisa uses her food processor) and place in greased baking dish. Melt half a stick of butter and pour on top of potatoes. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Bake uncovered for one hour at 350 degrees.

dining_sarahSarah Pfendler’s list of “tried and true” appetizers is lengthy, as she and husband Christopher entertain often at their Massillon home.

The best recipes for company, Sarah says, are easy, with ingredients that are easily located, and can be made ahead. Mini Beef Wellingtons meet those parameters, and guests often request the recipe.

“These are made with a purchased puff pastry dough, then filled with a very small amount of seasoned beef and cheese,” Sarah said. “The Wellingtons can be made ahead and frozen.”

She serves the pastries with a creamy dipping sauce spiked with horseradish, the perfect foil for the beef.


  • 7 oz. puff pastry, thawed if frozen 2 oz. Boursin, room temperature 1/2 lb. beef tenderloin or sirloin, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Season the beef cubes with salt and freshly ground pepper. On a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper, roll the puff pastry into a 7 1/2 by 15-inch rectangle that is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut the pastry into 1 1/2-inch squares. Place a scant 1/4 teaspoon of cheese in the center of each square. Place a cube of beef on each square. Fold the pastry edges of each square over the beef and cheese and tuck the corners in tightly. Place on baking sheet lined with parch- ment paper for easy cleanup, with seam side down. (At this point the Wellingtons can be frozen. When they are solid, place them in an airtight freezer con- tainer or bag.When ready to use, place on parchment lined baking sheet and follow recipe but add a few minutes to the baking time.) Lightly brush each pastry with the lightly beaten egg. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees or until puffed and golden brown. • CREAMY HORSERADISH MUSTARD SAUCE • Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3-5 teaspoons grainy mustard
  • 1 teaspoon or more prepared horseradish, to taste
Combine all ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate until serving time.

dining_bethIn 2004, Beth and Bob Bauman moved to the sec- ond floor above their Chestnut Hill Gift Shop in North Canton. Although the space was smaller than they were accustomed to, they didn’t let that put a crimp in their entertaining habit.

“We have people in often — sometimes 20, some- times 12,” Beth said. One of her go-to dishes for company is a savory cheesecake.

“It makes a nice presentation,” Beth said. “I serve it with homemade tortilla chips. I like them because they don’t have all the salt or flavors that the com- mercial ones do, so you can taste what you’re put- ting on them.”

Beth uses the Lollipop Tree Original Pepper Jelly that she sells at the store, but says any pepper jelly will do.


  • 11-ounce jar pepper jelly
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 oounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated 2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch springform pan and wrap bottom and sides with aluminum foil. Fill a baking pan, large enough to hold the springform pan, with 1/2 inch of water. Place in oven. In food processor, combine cream cheese, eggs, cheddar cheese and garlic. Add 1/3 of the jar of pepper jelly and process briefly until incorporated. Pour mixture into greased pan. Place cheesecake in the water- filled baking pan. Bake 30 minutes or until done and toothpick or knife inserted near middle comes out clean. Cool completely, then refrigerate.When ready to serve, remove ring from springform pan. Spread remaining pepper jelly on top of cheesecake. Decorate with pepper rings or fresh herbs if desired. Serve cheesecake with sliced baguettes, crackers or baked tortilla chips.TO MAKEYOUR OWNTORTILLA CHIPS: Cut flour tortillas each into 8 triangles and bake on cookie sheet for 10 to 15 minutes in 350-degree oven until they begin to brown. They get crisp as they cool.

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass