Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Entertaining!

Today we have a new guest blogger, Jane. Jane and I met in 2007 through my former colleague Erin, at a polo match in Newport. We were both moving to Manhattan at the same time, and after a few email exchanges, we decided to be roomies (along with Marisa!). The three of us lived together in Midtown East for about two years, and somehow made do in one of the tiniest kitchens ever. Now, Jane lives in Philadelphia with her hubby Andy, and has a kitchen that has space for a lovely Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. Since the holiday season is upon us and likely all of you will be throwing or attending parties, Jane has some recipe ideas from her holiday party. Welcome to Hom Nom, Jane! 

A big thanks to Jyoti for letting me share my menu on her fantastic blog!  If only my photos were as artistic as hers....

Last Saturday I hosted my very first Holiday Party!  Christmas is my favorite holiday and my mother has always thrown an annual party so I decided it was time for me to host a few friends for one.  And what better way to use all the fun kitchen and serving pieces that I got as wedding presents?!  

Naturally I hit up mom as well as some favorite Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and online blogs to get menu inspiration.  And of course I started with drinks and dessert first.  For the main drink I served a bourbon punch and to keep with that theme, the centerpiece of my dessert buffet was a bourbon chocolate cake that I found in a magazine at mom’s house over Thanksgiving.  She had a magazine devoted to chocolate recipes.  Fantastic!  Normally I don’t like to try an untested recipe for a party but if it had bourbon in it, how bad could that be? (said in Ina Garten tone, haha).  

{Melting the chocolate for the bourbon cake}

{Boozey and chocolatey = YUM!}

I also decided to try Joy the Baker’s Orange Gingerbread.  It was nice and festive but please take note: this did NOT want to come out of my little gingerbread men shaped pan despite non-stick spray!  I highly recommend following her directions to a T and lining your square pan with parchment paper.

Other people were bringing desserts too but I rounded out my spread with spiced pecans.  Mom used to make a similar recipe but when we couldn’t dig it up, we found this one that sounded similar.

Now backing up to the hors d’oeuvres for the night.  In addition to some bacon wrapped water chestnuts, smoked salmon on cucumber with horseradish cream, and a cheese plate with a generous sized goat cheese round, the star dishes of the night were Ina’s homemade Ranch Dressing served as a dip with crudites and mom’s tried and true Curry Chicken Cheese Ball.  The cheese ball was all gone by the end of the night and I had to replenish veggies for the dip twice! 

{Mango Chutney}

{Hottest items of the night!}

Ina’s Ranch dressing can be found here.  A very fresh taste - also great in the summer with fresh salad ingredients, scallions, and basil from the farmer’s market!  Fortunately the produce at Whole Foods was looking good for me this time of year.  Note that for the party I followed the recipe and used full-fat Hellman's mayo which I think is superior to all other mayos and 2% Fage yogurt.  However, if you’d like to enjoy this on your weeknight salad, you can decrease the mayonnaise and up the measurements of buttermilk and/or healthy yogurt! 

{Scallions for the Ranch Dressing}

{A hit!}

Curry Chicken Cheese Ball,
Recipe adapted from the Junior League of Charleston’s cookbook “Charleston Receipts Repeats”

This recipe is unique a take on the many varieties of cheese balls that make their way to holiday party tables.  You should absolutely make this the day before short of rolling it in garnish.  The flavors really come together as overnight and that saves you time the day of the party.  I used a cooked rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods (and had plenty left over for dinner that night) and opted to roll it in parsley which added a fresh taste to the creamy ball and was festive for Christmas.  Mom likes to cover in coconut and thinks it looks like a snowball!

  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese (I used ⅓ less fat Philadelphia)
  • 1 c cooked, finely chopped chicken
  • ¾ c almonds, toasted and finely chopped
  • ⅓ c mayonnaise (Again, I used Hellman’s)
  • 2 tbsp mango chutney, chopped a little if needed
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Chopped parsley or flaked coconut for garnish
Mix the first seven ingredients together in a bowl and chill several hours or overnight.  Shortly before serving, form the mixture into a ball and roll in the chopped parsley or coconut.  Serve with crackers.

Chocolate Bourbon Cake, Recipe adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens special interest publication on Chocolate

Bourbon + Chocolate =  Boozy Deliciousness.  Warning: you WILL lick the spoon of this batter.  This festive cake turned out super well minus the caramel bourbon glaze which, after warming the already not-too-thick sauce I got in a jar, was too runny and did not make a nice drippy topping like you see on many bundt cakes artfully put together by food stylists in magazines.... Sadness.  My recommendation is to either get a thicker, higher quality sauce or dulce de leche if you find/make it (I just used Smuckers because, hey, I was adding booze anyway!) or you can opt to just dust with powdered sugar.  There is plenty of bourbon in there already, especially after you brush more on after baking.

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 oz semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee crystals
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • ½ bourbon
  • 1 c unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • Butter and cocoa powder for preparing bundt pan
  • 2 tbsp bourbon for brushing on the cake once cooled
  • ¾ c caramel topping + 2 tbsp bourbon for glaze
Preheat oven to 325.  Butter a tube/bundt pan and coat with cocoa powder.

Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  

Melt chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler.  Allow to cool slightly.

In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, combine the coffee crystals and boiling water and dissolve the crystals.  Add enough additional, cool water to measure 1 ½ cups.  Then add the ½ cup bourbon.  

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your Kitchen Aid, beat the butter for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and beat until combined, scraping the sides of your bowl as needed.  Add eggs one at a time.  Then, beat in the cooled chocolate and vanilla.  On low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and coffee/bourbon mixture until just combined.  

Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.  Bake at 325 for about 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes.  Then remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Brush cake with additional bourbon at this time.

For the glaze, combine the caramel and additional bourbon in a small saucepan, heating slightly.  Spoon over the cake.  See my note above about this step.

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