Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Holiday Recap: Highlights of Our Season of Entertaining

Our regular readers probably noticed a precipitous drop-off in the number of Feeding Frenzy blog posts once we hit the month of December.  Between our work schedule filling up (yes, we do have day jobs that actually pay the bills) and our holiday entertaining, we weren’t as faithful about our blogging as perhaps we should have been.  So, dear readers, please forgive us.  We offer up this recap of our holiday entertaining as an olive branch and promise to get back on track for 2012.  Try some of these now, or save them for next December!

Prosciutto wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese. 
This was the hit of the season when Sharon’s sister, JanDSC06129et, served them to a devouring family crowd.  Sharon then featured them at her wine-tasting club gathering, again to rave reviews. 

Pit dried dates by slicing each lengthwise.  
Combine 4 oz. goat cheese & 4 oz. of cream cheese.  
Add chives to taste.  
Stuff dates with cheese mixture (I used a pastry gun).  
Close up each date and wrap with 1" wide strip of proscuitto. 
Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 5-7minutes until heated through.

Stuffed Dates – Option 2
Another version Barb's parents made are a bit more stream-lined. They call them "A Date with a Pig."  Soften one package of cream cheese. Cook half a package of bacon until crumbly. Crumble it into the cream cheese. Pit and fill dates and put on baking sheet lined with foil. Warm in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Parmesan Dip (thanks to Michael Chiarello)
Makes 3 ½ Cups to Serve 16

½ pound Parmesan cheese, not too dry
½ pound Asiago cheese, not too dry
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil

Remove any rind from the cheeses and chop the cheeses into rough 1-inch chunks. Pulse the cheeses in a food processor until reduced to the size of a fine pea gravel. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and stir in the green onion and garlic. Add the oregano, rubbing between your fingers to release its fragrance. Add the black pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Stir well. Cover and let stand at room temperature at least 4 hours before serving.

Butternut Squash and Fontina Risotto (another fine recipe by Michael Chiarello, with some simplification by Barb)
Serves 6 as a main course or 18 as an appetizer

Roasted Squash
2 cups 1-inch cubes butternut squash (use the peeled and cubed from your produce dept)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Risottobutternut squash risotto
About 6 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh sage
3 cups shredded fontina cheese (not packed)
About 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the squash: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put the squash chunks into a large bowl.

Heat a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat and melt the butter until it foams and begins to brown. Add the garlic, followed by the vinegar and brown sugar. Stand back, as the mixture may spatter. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over the squash and toss well.

Arrange the squash on the prepared pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake until very tender and caramelized, about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 425ºF for 5 minutes to caramelize the squash further. Remove from the oven and baste the squash with the liquid in the pan. Let cool briefly, then puree in a food processor until creamy. For the risotto: In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep it at the barest simmer while you make the risotto.

For the risotto: Heat a large sauté pan or heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, and cook the onion until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and the minced garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is pearly white with a translucent outer layer. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until very little liquid is left in the pan. Ladle in 1 cup of the hot stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low, keep the rice at a gentle simmer, while stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid is gone. Ladle in 1/2 cup of the hot stock and repeat, ladling in 1/2 cup of stock each time most of the liquid has been absorbed. All together, counting from the first cup of stock, you’ll stir and cook for about 18 to 25 minutes. Taste the rice to decide when it’s done: it should be creamy, firm in the center but without any hint of crunch. Stir in the butternut mixture, remove from the heat, and stir in the shredded sage and the fontina.
To serve: Divide the risotto among shallow bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and parsley.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling, topped with Merlot Chocolate Sauce.

A long name that only begins to describe the luscious nature of this dessert Sharon concocted --- again for her wine tasting club. 

Make a Devil’s Food chocolate cake in a rectangular pan.  After it has cooled, cut cake circles with a biscuit cutter.  Slice each circle cake horizontallyDSC06136 to create two layers.
Cream Filling:  
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces mascarpone cheese

Raspberry (or other desired fruit) preserves – to taste.
Mix the whipping cream and the sugar until it starts to peak.  Fold in the mascarpone cheese.  Spoon in preserves to taste – I used about 3 tablespoons.

Fill cakes with a layer of the cream filling.  Put some of the filling into a pastry bag and pipe a floret onto the plate next to the cake.  Finally, drizzle with a chocolate sauce – in this case, I used a jar of merlot chocolate sauce I picked up on my last trip to Sonoma (wish I had grabbed several jars).  The combination was incredibly good! 

Sharon went to another tablescape class at Summerwinds Garden Center in St. Louis and learned still more fun ideas for setting a beautiful holiday tablescape.  Some tips:

-- Decorate in “triangles” as far as height when creating centerpieces or buffet spreads.  This means that you create a highpoint and then work downward in height from there.  

-- Decorate plain candles with attractive holiday ribbon for a whole new elegant look.  As always, do not leave lit candles unattended.

-- Create place card holders out of mini-candy canes.  Three candy canes glued together with the curved pieces on the bottom create a perfect easel for name cards. 

-- Use inexpensive holiday ornaments to dress up your taimageble settings. 

-- Don’t be afraid to mix live greens with artificial.  Branches of your favorite evergreens are available at your local nursery and add a wonderful fragrance to your arrangements.  They’ll generally last 2-3 weeks without water.

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