Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fall Fancy

Last night, I served what I called a "Fall Fancy Dinner" to a crowd of 14.

Here's the annotated menu~

Appetizers: Baked Brie "crostini" - thickish slabs of Brie laid on slices of baguette, sprinkled with sliced almonds, and baked - this is the way we served it when I worked at the Ovens of Brittany (scroll past Turkey Divan Sandwich to get to the recipe, courtesy Google Books) - they got three pieces and a nice side of fruit - I put it out on a bread board with grapes last night. Bagna Cauda (from one of Amanda Hesser's recipe history columns in the NYT) with daikon sticks, purple and regular carrots, kohlrabi slices, and a few baby peppers.

First course: corn pudding, baked inside of Delicata squash rings, with a big pile of salad with reduced cider dressing on the side. The rings were made from the squashes above. I've always used the corn pudding recipe from this slightly obscure Deborah Madison book - Heidi Swanson posted a recipe for corn pudding in acorn squash halves but that makes too large of a portion for a first course - the Delicata was the right size - everybody got two, and not a bite came back.

Main meal: choice of mushroom-pecan paté en croute (in a crust) or beef tenderloin with a horseradish crust, both with Madeira sauce. I used the Cafe Flora Cookbook mushroom-pecan paté (the Google Books preview for this one won't quite get you the whole recipe - the book's too recent) that they put in their mushroom Wellingtons. I wrapped the whole loaf in a yeasted pastry dough and egged it so that it was golden - it was quite pretty. The Madeira sauce is also from Cafe Flora. The beef was from Cook's Illustrated, and fussy, like many of their recipes. I managed to use less oil, paper towel, and zip loc bags than recommended. My crust did not stick so well, but it didn't matter a bit.

Everyone got creamy mashed potatoes - local potatoes, butter and half & half - and roasted broccoli for sides.

I made tiny desserts: pumpkin cheesecake (although I wimped on using my real, individual mini-cheesecake pan; as the over-equipped baker, I own a set of two, to make 24 at a time) and just used 4 small spring forms, also from my collection of baking gear - they are about 4-inches - and cut them in quarters. Chocolate-pomegrante petits-fours - they were fun, but if I make them again, I am not going to bother with the home made pomegranate jelly, consisting of reduced Pom Wonderful and cornstarch; instead I will use red currant jelly. And lemon tarts. My vision was for these to have a tiny rosette of sweetened whipped cream on top, but I forgot to take the carefully pre-whipped and stored in a pastry bag, cream. Still, one of the guests wanted the recipe, even without the rosettes, so here goes:

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
pinch of salt (or use salted butter)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick) cut into cubes

Combine the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a spouted measuring cup (I used cream this time because I had it, but I've also used 2% milk in this if I had no cream). Combine the flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt in a food processor, and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is cut into the flour, and the mixture looks a little sandy - no large pieces remain. Add the liquids, and pulse just until the dough come together. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap, and chill for as little as an hour or as long as overnight.

Lemon Curd - this is from a book called The Neighborhood Bakeshop; I use the same ingredients, but I don't make it quite the way they say to -

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, plus one whole large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into bits

Combine the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks and egg in a sauce pan, and whisk over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Start adding the butter and cook over medium-low heat, whisking until it's thickened and almost boiling - try not to let it boil, but if you boil it, just strain it to get any egg-lumps out. Pour into a small bowl and press plastic wrap on top and chill.

Roll out the crust and cut it into 3-inch circles, and fit into fluted tart shell pans. Bake at 375 until set, and only starting to brown around the edges. Remove from the pans while warm, and cool on a rack. Fill the cooled tart shells with the chilled lemon curd right before serving - they will hold in the fridge for a few hours (or even overnight), but the shells will soften considerably. Garnish with rosettes of sweetened whipped cream.

And oh yeah, there was a big loaf of really good almost no-knead bread, and a cheese & onion focaccia, that was pretty sharp with a lot of bleu cheese.

Tomorrow I'll let you know what I'm doing with the various leftovers - I plotted while I walked this morning. My BFF and walking buddy Rach is out of town so I had lots of time to think.

No comments: