Yes indeed. It is that time of year. With busy holiday schedules, the only time four foodies could agree upon for a cocktail party was a Sunday morning.
Some of you may find our decision to imbibe before noon-- and on a Sunday (!)-- offensive, but as you can see from the above photo, we all felt perfectly guilt-free about the decision.
You might remember that in November, several DC Foodies (myself included) got together for an Eric Ripert inspired Dinner Party. The dinner party's menu was designed by Chef Ripert himself as part of a photo contest. Not to brag, but we were one of November's winners.
Whether or not we win again, we certainly enjoyed the cocktails and the delicious canapes. If you'd like to make any or all of the cocktails or canapes you can find the recipes here at Avec Eric.
With no further ado, here were our Sunday morning treats.
While putting the finishing touches on our food, we began with a wonderful Cranberry Champagne cocktail prepared by Allison.
And then, we sat down for this delicious spread:
April made these Deviled Eggs with Creme Fraiche and Smoked Salmon. Although I am partial to traditional mayo-based deviled eggs, these were a nice twist on a classic dish.
Photo by April Fulton
Colleen made my favorite dish of the day: Portabello Fries with Truffle Aioli dipping sauce. Yum.
I was also partial to the shrimp and chorizo skewers which I prepared. The shrimp and chorizo was skewered, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned. Simple. Delicious.
I also made these parmesan twists, which featured parmesan, pistachios, and cayenne pepper spread onto puff pastry twists.
Our gracious hostess, Allison, made hummus and a roasted red pepper walnut dip. The roasted red pepper walnut dip was was surprisingly delicious.
Allison also made delicious and crisp Lettuce wraps, stuffed with thinly sliced steak, mint, and basil. These were served with a soy dipping sauce.
Photo by Colleen Levine
Oh? Did I forget to mention the rest of the cocktails?
Colleen prepared these ginger- lemon bourbon drinks. We were all happily surprised to find out that we really liked bourbon (or at least, Colleen's preparation of it).
April made this tasty Spiked Apple Cider.
Photo by Allison McConnell
By the time church-goers were just hitting Sunday morning brunch, the four of us were saying our good-byes and moving on to our next party.
This holiday recipe features tart fresh cranberries in a traditional French custard dessert. The clafoutis is topped with uncooked sugared cranberries and fresh sage leaves adding a tart and crunchy twist to this creamy treat.
Ah, the holidays. Suddenly life is full of shopping lists, travel arrangements, and a miniature tree in the garden apartment.
Of course, it wouldn't be the holidays if I didn't find some time for baking.
Earlier this year I enjoyed this lovely cherry clafoutis. When the holidays kicked off a few weeks ago, I wondered if I could make a clafoutis befitting of December. With all things red and green in mind, I wondered how cranberries would taste in a clafoutis. Would they be too tart?
There was only one way to find out.
While I pondered the cranberry clafoutis recipe, a favorite cranberry preparation came to mind: sugared cranberries, a treat my mother-in-law sometimes makes. I discovered a Gourmet Magazine sugared cranberry recipe which called for sugaring both cranberries and sage leaves. The idea of sage leaves was intriguing. For this recipe, I decided to infuse the sage and a vanilla bean in the simple syrup. The result was a wonderfully flavored syrup. . . which I plan to further utilize in a holiday cocktail.
But before I get too far ahead of myself, let's get back to the clafoutis.
This sugared cranberry clafoutis has two elements: custard with fresh berries baked inside and a topping ofcrunchy super-tart cranberries with a pleasantly sweet shells. The clafoutis is both sweet and tangy; creamy and crunchy. Simply put, I'm smitten with it.
Sugared Cranberry Clafoutis
Though the sugared cranberries are not difficult to make, the clafoutis can be prepared without them.
For the Sage Vanilla Syrup to make the sugared cranberries:
(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, November 2007)
1/4 Cup Water
3/4 Cup Sugar, divided
8 Sage Leaves
1 Vanilla Bean
1/2 Cup Cranberries
For the Clafoutis:
1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk
1/2 Cup Flour
2/3 Cup Sugar, divided into two equal parts
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tsp reserved Sage Vanilla Syrup (optional)
Pinch of Salt
1-2 TB Butter, melted
2 large Eggs
2 Cups of fresh cranberries, halved
Powdered sugar (to sprinkle on top)
Sage leaves, torn (for garnish)
Make the Sugared Cranberries:
Combine the water, 1/2 Cup of the sugar, sage leaves, and vanilla bean in a heavy bottomed pot. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for 2-3 minutes uncovered. Remove from the heat.
Put the remaining 1/4 Cup sugar on a small plate.
Roll the cranberries in the sage vanilla syrup.
Immediately roll the glazed cranberries in the sugar. (Note: You may want to use tongs to easily remove the cranberries.)
Transfer the cranberries to a lightly oiled rack and dry at room temperature for approximately two hours.
Make the Clafoutis
Preheat the oven to 350F. In the meantime, combine the milk, flour, half of the sugar, vanilla, reserved sage vanilla syrup (optional), salt, and butter. Whisk until smooth. Add the egg, and whisk again until thoroughly incorporated.
Butter a small baking dish. Pour a thin layer of the batter into the dish. Bake for a few minutes until a firm layer begins to form on the top of the batter. Remove from the oven.
Spread the cranberries on top of the batter, then top with the second half of the sugar. Pour the remaining batter on top.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. The clafoutis is ready when it is puffy with a light brown crust on top. The inside will be a little wobbly. Allow the clafoutis to cool slightly, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
If desired, top with the sugared cranberries and some freshly torn sage leaves.
Enjoy a slice before you dash off to finish your holiday shopping.
This salad features some of the season's best produce: apples, fennel, and pomegranate. The crisp textures are enhanced by tart and sweet flavors, making for a refreshing treat. You can make this salad with just the basic ingredients (apple, fennel, celery) or can enhance it with one or all of the following: pomegrantate, blue cheese, and toasted pecans.
After a Thanksgiving full of gorging ourselves on enough dishes made with butter and cream to make Paula Deen proud, John and I are trying to prevent our major arteries from failing. Thus, we've begun something of a salad campaign in our household. We figure that if we eat at least one salad a day, we will feel less guilty about indulging in the season's rich treats.
Of course, I think this salad is a tempting treat-- not just a guilt reliever for less healthy foods. Featuring a delicious mixture of crisp textures and sweet and tart flavors, you'll feel like you've really treated yourself. The maple vinaigrette is a little reminiscent of a honey mustard dressing, and would be wonderful drizzled over plain salad greens. You can keep this salad simple by just mixing up the apples, fennel, celery and onion with the dressing. Or, you can dress it up with a antioxidant kick from some pomegranate seeds, some blue cheese crumbles, and/or some toasted pecans.
Have I given you enough options? Now, go make yourself this salad!
Apple Fennel and Pomegranate Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
This recipe makes two large salads, or four side salads
For the vinaigrette
2 tsp maple syrup (pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A)
3/4 tsp dijon mustard
1 TB apple cider vinegar
olive oil (about 2 TB)
salt and pepper, to taste
For the salad
1 small apple, diced (my favorite is Pink Lady; anything slightly sweet would work well)
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 large bulb of fennel, sliced into small matchsticks*
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 Cup mixed baby salad greens
salt and pepper, to taste
* If the licorice flavor of fennel is too intense for you, use a mandoline or a vegetable peeler to make paper thin slices. You can also reduce the amount of fennel, of course.
Optional Recommended Additions to the salad
2 TB pomegranate seeds
2 TB crumbly blue cheese (preferably something creamy with a mild flavor)
1/4 Cup toasted walnuts
Make the vinaigrette
In a large bowl, whisk the maple syrup, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil while briskly whisking. Add olive oil until you get the consistency and flavor you prefer. This will probably be around 2 TB.
Make the salad
Add the apples, fennel, celery, and red onion to the vinaigrette. Toss to coat.
Divide the Cup of mixed greens between two large bowls. Cover with the apple and fennel mixture.
Looks good, right? To make it even better, add some of those optional ingredients-- like the pomegranate seeds and blue cheese.
Or really indulge yourself by adding a handful of toasted pecans.
Of course, everything is best served with a glass of wine.
Enjoy this salad, and feel good about eating something healthy and delicious this holiday season.