No day produces more fantastic ideas than Thanksgiving, probably because nothing stimulates creativity quite like falling into REM sleep at 2:30 PM. This year, create the best Turkey Day ever by recreating one of these spectacular starter and start dishes next week.
That's right, pilgrim: save yourself a holiday-food-idea brainstorm and just storm your brain (and mouth) with these creative twist on the classics. You know you love them, or don't know but will love, or know and like a lot but you just sort of want to explore and see where it goes.
SOUP, GLORIOUS SOUP.
I love to start a Thanksgiving meal off with a first course of soup. If you are a fan of mushrooms then you must check out Ina Gartens Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup. Even though it's full of healthy shiitake mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, cremini and porcini mushrooms, it also contains a full cup of half-and-half and a cup of heavy cream. Yes, it's indulgent but what else are the holidays for?
Shrimp Bisque. It's creamy and indulgent and perfect to serve to company! It starts with fish stock and then builds flavor with leeks, sherry, garlic, whipping cream, shrimp, tomato paste and a surprise ingredient, cayenne pepper.
This Winter Squash Soup from Bon Appetit starts with baking the squash in the oven for an hour, then adding the perfectly roasted flesh with butter, onion, seasonings, chicken broth and whipping cream for a truly lovely soup. Note that this can be made ahead of time and chilled in the fridge for a week. Rewarm on the stove and serve hot to guests.
Want to serve up a big bowl of the Winter season? This recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream is for you. In fact, this may be the soup I make for my in-laws this Thanksgiving. It's the addition of apples and apple cider that lend a pleasant sweetness to this beautiful soup - cider cream and the fried sage leaf is what puts this recipe over the (freaking) top! O to the M to the G!
VEGETABLE SIDE DISHES WITH A TWIST.
One of my favorite green veggies this season are Brussels Sprouts cooked tender crisp with lots of flavor. I especially like them seared in a skillet with bacon, and then add golden raisins, chicken stock and a little wine. Oh my, these are delicious! Read the complete head to head recipe post about Brussels Sprouts here. This side is super quick to make and actually, quick means more freedom to do whatever you want, and isn't freedom what we're giving thanks for?
Paula Deen has done it again with these gorgeous Green Bean Bundles. To make these easy bundles, you first blanch the green beans, and then wrap in a strip of bacon and bake in the oven until crispy. My family loved this twist on a traditional side dish and I bet yours will too. I mean, come on! "Bacon wrapped?" What is not to love!?!
Here is a wonderful twist on the traditional steamed cauliflower. This Roasted Cauliflower with Mustard-Lemon Butter is a real treat because blasting the cauliflower in a hot oven concentrates their natural sweetness, turning them into something akin to vegetable candy. DO AHEAD! This lovely side dish can be made 2 hours ahead and just let stand at room temperature. If desired, rewarm in 350°F oven until heated through, about 10 minutes and then transfer to a platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.
Butternut Squash Risotto, despite what you might have heard about risotto. You need 10-20 minutes to prep and about 30-40 minutes to cook. I would suggest inlisting a little helper who can stand at the stove and stir while you finish up the other elements of the thanksgiving meal.
APPETIZERS THAT WON'T RUIN YOUR APPETITE.
Zucca Chips are completely addictive, but light enough to leave room for the main attraction.
While the awesome simplicity of this all sinks in, check out these other great ideas for Turkey Day Appetizers on this round up of hors doeuvres I've already done for you including my favorite Bacon Wrapped Dates, Foie Gras Stuffed Dates and Proscuitto and Fontina Pinwheels along with a few new recipes from Epicurious. They are all quick and easy, meaning you’ll have more time to watch football, play football, or imitate an actual football by lying motionless on the couch.
DESSERT, A FOOD ENCORE.
No matter how full your guests are, they will not be able to resist sampling this Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Trifle. It has layers of fluffy pumpkin puree and layers of ginersnaps drizzled with dark rum (left out if you have kiddos.) This dessert not only taste fantastic, but it looks so beautiful displayed in your trifle dish. Your family will surely be waiving the white flag in surrender by now.
From my home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I hope you get to spend wonderful quality time with your family and eat well too!
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Drop as many potatoes as you intend to make in your cold water and set over high heat to boil until fork tender.
The potatoes crisp up on top for a nice crunch, while the inside stays soft and creamy. Simple, yes, but a lovely twist on a boring potato side dish. I served this with my favorite post roast recipe, it is perfect!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
You could use any grainy mustard, but I had this chipotle dijon in the pantry that I was dying to try. I smeared a very thin layer on the frozen puff pastry.
Bake at 250 for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry begins to brown and puff up. Slice and enjoy this simple appetizer, it is sure to whet your pallet for dinner.
Another puff pastry appetizer that I just loves is from Ina Garten, check out this Goat Cheese and Onion Tart.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Factors I consider when selecting the cocktail party menu:
- Can I make it ahead of time?
- Does it have to stay hot or cold on the buffet, or served at room temperature?
- Is it easily recognizable or do I need to label the food?
- Will it contain rare and/or expensive ingredients?
- Will it look messy or gross on a serving platter?
- Is it messy to eat?
- Will I have to serve it with utensils, or can guests pick it up with their hands?
- Does it help complete the look and feel of the party theme/occasion?
Savory Parmesan Shortbread Rounds. I love how delicate they look, but imagine your surprise when the unmistakable Parmesan flavors show through in these savory bites. Epicurious suggest serving these along side a nice salumi platter. The best thing about this recipe is that the rounds can be made 1 week ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature, or freeze up to 1 month.
Crab and Celery Remoulade looks great served with pita chips. It can be made up to 6 hours ahead and covered and chilled. I would imagine this needs to also be kept chilled somehow on the buffet so it doesn't go bad.
Pork Pies on Epicurious because the filling can be made 1 day ahead and chilled and then brought to room temperature before using. The pies can be assembled and baked 6 hours ahead and cooled, uncovered. Items served at room temperature are IDEAL for a cocktail party.
Bloody Mary Soup Shots with Shrimp and Pickled Vegetables. The pickled veggies can be bought in a pre-prepared jar, which is awesome. The savory soup contains tomato, Worcestershire and vodka and is served in shot glasses for fun. On a chilly evening, I think that a warm tomato soup shot might go over better, but I love this idea and may hold on to it for a brunch menu.
The Italian Dish blog. I love the color and the presentation. I bet they taste great and pair well with wine. These can also be made ahead of time and chilled under service.
Now for some HWM appetizers that are on my tried and true list for cocktail parties!
Bacon Wrapped Dates are one of those appetizers that you pop in your mouth and while you are chewing you are trying to figure out how to scoop another one up on your plate. They are the perfect salty and sweet combination. I stuffed these with cream cheese because a certain someone that I married doesn't care for blue cheese. For a cocktail party, I would highly suggest the blue cheese filling and also leave out the nut in the middle.
Foie Gras Stuffed Dates which are super easy to prepare and complete heaven to eat. They are perfect make-ahead-food.
Goat Cheese and Onion Tart is on the list because they are a great vegetarian appetizer and although the tart I made was a large three to four inches in diameter, I think these could be made on a smaller scale. Oh so addicting!
Proscuitto and Fontina Pinwheels which can be made ahead of time and baked a batch at a time. They are wonderful hot out of the oven, but equally good when they come to room temperature. These go fast, so I would recommend a double or triple batch.
Now I turn to you for suggestions on the best party food this holiday season. If you have a tried and true recipe, please send it my way! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Your recipe just may end up on my holiday buffet this year.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Polenta is a boiled, slow-cooked cornmeal "mush" -- typically made with coarsely ground yellow corn meal. In some regions of Italy (especially in the north), it's a beloved everyday dish and is topped with meat, fish, pasta sauce, cheese, or vegetables. Cooled and hardened, polenta can be sliced, sauted, or grilled, and served sweet or savory.
You can purchase precooked, ready-to-heat-and eat “solid polenta” in sausage-like tubes, plain and in flavors such as basil, garlic and sundried tomato. In my grocery store, it is found on the pasta aisle.
Slices of polenta can be easily turned into hors d’oeuvres, first courses and sides. They provide a firm base for just about anything. Just pan fry or heat them in the oven.
I baked these in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the edges turned a bit crispy.
1 chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 cup good red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Add the chopped onion and let it cook to translucent for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Then I add the garlic and cook for a minute. Pour in the wine, cook for a minute. Add all the cans of tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil, red pepper flakes, and parsley. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes.
For step by step instructions on our favorite Tomato and Meatball recipe (it is oh so good) visit this post.
If you like Polenta, you will probably also like it's cousin Grits. One of my favorite grit recipes is Shrimp and Grits, made with sausage, ham and tomatoes.