Another holiday season, a herd of family I can’t wait to see, all with their convoluted schedules, none of which coincide simultaneously. Therefore, I’ll be turning the holidays on and off several times in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be flexible. I’ll be creative. I’ll try to stay sober.
Entertaining Canapé Platter
I’m thinking small plates and bite-sized packages by the fire will be appreciated. In a holiday stuffed with excess, less can often be more. Guests tend to eat slower, lingering over small plates. And in-between the plates, the conversation flows.
Freshly shucked oysters with a mignonette, followed by a couple of small pieces of buttery brioche topped with lemon creme fraiche and a smear of the most delicious roe your purse will allow. A sparkler, of course. Less is more, unarguably.
Meatballs may be made in advance and frozen for up to a couple of weeks.
My freezer is an ally. The lamb meatballs in the following recipe were divided into aluminum pans, and then frozen. I take out a tray and bake them as needed. A garlicky tart tzadziki would be the perfect accompaniment, but I chose to drizzle pomegranate syrup/molasses onto the plate, then top it with the lamb.
The lamb meatballs pair especially well with phyllo cups stuffed with mediterranean ingredients you’ll find in the recipe below. Here’s another recipe (Inside Karen’s Kitchen) that inspired mine; she bakes her phyllo cups and the ingredients include sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives. Most quality groceries stock phyllo cups next to the frozen phyllo sheets in their freezer sections. They thaw in 30 minutes, then I stuff them with a variety of ingredients through the holidays. Again, here’s the link to my collection of other stuffings for phyllo cups made in the past.
Phyllo cups may be found in the frozen section of most grocery stores, saddled next to the phyllo sheets. So flexible and versatile, what’s not to like?
Good things come in small packages. Have a lovely holiday season!
Planning a dinner party menu, for me, is like figuring out an outfit to wear for a special occasion; so many choices but nothing comes together. The (such-a-deal) taupe sheath with a metallic band is very cool but none of my shoes are right. And accessories? Don’t even go there. The Baked Quince stuffed with Ground Lamb and Currants is festive but I’m stumped about a side dish. And dessert? Forget about it.
Maybe you have similar issues, especially when you’re busier than ever stuffing goodwill towards all into a few short weeks. I’ve perused my Holiday Cookbook and have pieced together some soup-to-nuts festive dinners, including cocktails, that may ease some of your strain. (I do believe in potlucks. I do, I do, I do….)
Proposal #1: Super-Easy & Festive Menu
Appetizer: Gorgonzola Pear DipNotes: Stupid simple, but oh so good. Can be assembled in 5 minutes and made the night before; all but the addition of pears, which should be stirred in a couple of hours before serving. Serve with a sliced baguette or Rosemary-Raisin Crisps (or something similar) I’ve enjoyed from Trader Joe’s.
Roast Pork with Rosemary and Garlic
Main Course:Roast Pork with Rosemary and GarlicNotes: How can something so easy taste so heavenly? Five minutes to prep the roast and about 45 minutes to roast. Don’t overcook!
Pick your Side(s): Maple-Glazed Butternut SquashNotes: The only thing time-consuming is attacking the butternut squash. I prefer the slices but you could save time and use the pre-cut cubes.
Baked Apples stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes
Sauteéd Chard and Currants: No recipe for this, it’s so easy. Simply remove greens from stems and sauté chopped stems in butter or olive oil with currants until almost tender. Stir in chopped leaves and season with salt and pepper. Using chard with red stems looks quite festive on the plate and the sweet currants are delish with the pork.
Yogurt and Fig Cake
Dessert: Yogurt and Fig CakeNotes: I love this cake and it’s the simplest scratch-made cake I’ve ever made. It may be made a couple of days in advance and freezes well. Substitute frozen or dried figs if you can’t find fresh. I’d go the distance and serve this topped with whipped cream infused with Grand Marnier.
Cocktail: Lucy’s Pig PunchNotes: This is a yummy whiskey and apple potent. But to keep thing really simple, serve a creamy Chardonnay with fruity notes, particularly apple, before and throughout the meal.
Proposal #2: A bit more involved, a bit more classy-sassy, but most of the prep work may (and should for survival) be done well in advance.
Sherried Shrimp Bisque
Appetizer: Sherried Shrimp BisqueNotes: I love serving appetizers in shot glasses! The bisque be made a couple of days in advance; it ages well.
Main Course: Flank Steak Florentine (header photo) Notes: Pretty on a plate and may be rolled and prepped the evening prior to cooking and serving. If you prefer your beef cooked medium or well-done, make this Standing Rib Roast instead. The sides listed below are compatible for both. Flank steak toughens the longer it cooks.
Today’s Wednesday–8 days before Thanksgiving; 4 days before my kids, et al, come to celebrate our early-bird feast. There’s several inches of white stuff on the ground, school’s out and some neighborhood kids just made a snowman. It’s leering at me from across the street. Wipe that silly grin off your face before I knock it off.
Pears beginning to poach in a fruity mulled wine.
Oopsie! Debby Downer’s come to visit. Normally I’m delighted with the first stuff of the season. But memories of last winter…today’s temps below freezing …two feasts to prepare…a book demanding its 20 millionth proof…a house that needs cleaning…no assistant to assist…Really, Frosty, really? Can’t you wait until December?
My family assumes my spatula is a magic wand, perhaps yours’ does too; no short-cuts for this gal. Grinning mightily, I’m supposed to cherish this holiday; be an enthusiastic spoke on the wheel with the other smily-faced Thanksgiving Day guru bloggers, communally slavering over saucepan, over pen, over this one holiday that devotes itself to food. That should be me. But, yet, it’s not. This year I’m saying’– make it go away, please?
It’s essential making dishes 24 hours in advance as, folks, I’m in survival mode, and the savory panna cotta (not sweet, per typical panna cotta) dealie I’m launching to conclude tomorrow’s meal is a piece of work. I’ll make the Goat Cheese Panna Cotta and Poached Pears portion of the recipe tonight, the entirety to be completed an hour before dinner’s served. Salad and cheese courses are often served after the main, and this recipe takes care of that, plus the poached pear adds an element of sweet.
Whisk goat cheese until incorporated into sauce and smooth.
Place pan in ice bath then whisk in gelatin (read notes on blooming gelatin). Whisk until completely incorporated and mixture is not gritty.
Pour mixture into oiled ramekins and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 24.
Make bacon-maple syrup and strain out bacon.
Panna Cotta perfection! Just the right amount of jiggle and creaminess while maintaining its shape.
Today’s Saturday: When you read the following recipe (I dare you), you’re right to conclude that I’m a whacked-out masochist since I’ve kvetched ad nauseam about my work load. (I get it; nice problems and all that.) If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’re feeling my pain because holidays knock you broadside, too. This year my novel-to-be takes the rap.
Recipes are included in Simmer and Smoke; A Culinary Tale, and the following is a recipe I’ve made only once, and it will appear in the book. It needed a microscopic proof and that’s what I gave it. I’ll serve it tonight, but made a sample to photograph and taste. The layers of texture and flavor incorporate into a shimmering, creamy, bacolicious dish; a real show-stopper and, in retrospect, worth the effort.
One last thing. Forget deep breathing mantras. Here’s my strategy for Thanksgiving Day Survival: Lucy’s Pig Punch. Yeowza!
Food writer by trade, curious cook by design.
The past 30 years have witnessed a raucous race from my professional to
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