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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts from the Holidays Category

Major holidays and large celebrations demand a roast: turkey, ham, turducken… Whatever the beast, a roast feeds a crowd and gives a table the event its hosting pomp and circumstance.

Don’t be frightened! Cooking a roast is really not scary. You just need a good butcher and a meat thermometer. For this roast, call your butcher a few days in advance and place your order — while it’s not uncommon, it’s not always just available. You don’t really have to bother with a marinade other than lots of garlic (and, optionally, herbs like rosemary) when you’re ready to cook, so that’s another easy thing, but do definitely have that thermometer on hand because you really won’t be able to tell at what temperature the meat is by looking at it or even poking it as you might do a steak.

Lamb should be pink, and I suggest cooking it to medium-rare, but, other temperatures are included in the recipe below so you can go rarer or more well done. What to serve alongside? You can opt for basics like a green salad with lots of herbs and good olive oil and roasted potatoes, or add a few Middle Eastern touches like labneh and tahini.

ROASTED LEG OF LAMB
Serves 10 – 12

1 (6 to 7-pound) leg of lamb
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 heads of garlic plus12 peeled garlic cloves
Olive oil

– Take the lamb out of the fridge 1 hour prior to roasting.  You can set a roasting rack inside a roasting pan, or set an oven-safe cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Lamb is fatty and will splatter in the oven, so if you’re going with the baking sheet, I recommend covering the oven rack with foil to catch any drips.

– Score (make shallow cuts) the lamb in a criss-cross pattern. Rub generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and rub into the lamb.

– Cut off the top third of each of the 6 heads of garlic and place on top of a sheet of foil.  Drizzle the garlic generously with oil and season with salt. Wrap the garlic and set it on a baking sheet.

– Mince the remaining garlic cloves and add about 1 teaspoon of salt to it to help form it into a paste. Set aside.

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and another to the middle-lower position and set the oven to broil. Broil the lamb for  5 to 7 minutes until its golden brown. Carefully remove the lamb from the oven and, with bunched paper towels, roll it over. Add a bit more olive oil and broil once gain for 5 to 7 minutes.  If you have a pastry torch or a propane torch, you can add a bit more charring with it.

– Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Place the foil-wrapped garlic in the on the lower rack. Rub the garlic over the lamb, adding more oil if it looks too dry. Tent the lamb loosely with foil and cook for 1 hour on the middle rack. Check the temperature, then continue cooking, checking the temperature every 15 minutes until the lamb reaches the doneness you want.

Rare: 125°F
Medium-rare : 130°F – 135°F
Medium 135°F – 140°F

– Remove the lamb from the oven and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes before transferring it to a cutting board or platter for carving. Use a sharp knife and cut slices perpendicular to the bone, then parallel to release them.

FOR THE SIDES

These are “non”recipes in that you can buy many of the components almost ready to serve and that you can season the rest to taste! Easy!

–    Parsley, watercress, mint, cilantro, and dill salad with sliced scallions and blood orange wedges, seasoned with salt and pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, and blood orange juice.
–    Roasted garlic: once the lamb is done, the garlic can just be arranged on a platter. The garlic will squeeze out easily and spread on pita or other bread.
–    Hummus: store-bought! Top it with some olive oil and black sesame seeds.
–    Sesame tahini with a swirl of tangy date or pomegranate molasses (both available in the international section of many markets, at Middle Eastern markets, or online).
–    Thinly sliced cucumbers and radishes with red onions and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
–    Labneh with chopped pistachios and Aleppo pepper.

 

Be it Christmas or Festivus, whatever you’re celebrating this year will be more special with a  little sparkle and light. We had our friend and prop stylist extraordinaire Penelope Bouklas help us prepare for the holidays. Follow suit with mercury votive holders and use them to infuse your dinner with candlelight or as alternatives to flower vases. Outsize glass candy and cookie jars are a great way to display shiny ornaments, and do break out from the usual reds and greens if you’re feeling less traditional — as you can tell, we love pinks and silvers in everything from our glassware to our Croteaux Vineyards sparkling rosé. And, if you’re opting out of a tree, there’s still room for presents in nooks and corners, and an evergreen wreath to bring the outdoors in and scent the air. We loved these twinkle lights sans the usual green or white plastic strings — they’re demure and perched onto wire for a pared down and elegant look.

If you’re skipping the pre-made cheese platter from the deli (and we suggest you do), take a look at some of our very classic but always festive finger foods—perfect because you can make them all in advance.

Brie en croûte, courtesy of Tara, who had to play food stylist and photographer on this one!

BRIE EN CROUTE
Buttery puff pastry and oozy cheese? It just never gets old.

All-purpose flour for dusting surface
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
1 (8- to 9-ounce) brie
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Pinch salt
Serving suggestion: Crackers, dried fruits, fruit jams

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

– Lightly dust a work surface with flour and unfold the thawed puff pastry. Set the cheese round in the center and make sure you have about 4 inches of pastry around it so you have enough to wrap it. Roll it out as needed.

– Fold the pastry over the cheese, pressing to seal. Place the cheese seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Whisk the egg yolk, cream, and salt together in a small bowl then brush over the cheese. If you have scraps of dough you can cut them out into decorative shapes and press them onto the cheese, then brush them with the egg-cream mixture.

– Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 15 to 10 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

– You can assemble the cheese up to 2 days in advance. Keep it in the refrigerator, wrapped in cling film. Brush with egg-cream wash before baking.

SPICED NUTS
Makes about 3 cups
These nuts have a candy-like coating that shatters when you bite into them. You can use any type of raw unsalted nut, but we prefer a mix.

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups mixed raw and unsalted nuts
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

– Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper- and lower middle positions. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

– Whisk the egg whites, orange juice, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the nuts and toss until evenly coated. Transfer the nuts to a colander set in the sink and allow to drain for 5 minutes.

– Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and spices. Add the nuts and toss until evenly coated. Divide the nuts evenly among the 2 prepared baking sheets and spread them into a single even layer. Bake the nuts until they have a crisp shell-like coating, 30 to 40 minutes.

– Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and cool the nuts completely. Break the nuts apart and serve them immediately or store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

RED LIPSTICK MARGARITA
Makes 1

One of our favorite drinks from “Winter Cocktails”

For the Blood Orange Sour Mix  
Makes about 3 cups
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons finely grated zest and 2 cups fresh juice (strained) from about 6 blood oranges
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the Cocktail
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 lime
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce ginger liqueur
2 tablespoons lime juice or Blood Orange Sour Mix

For the Blood Orange Sour Mix: Rub sugar and zest together to release the oils. The sugar will look damp and barely any strands of zest will remain. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool syrup to room temperature, then stir in citrus juices. Refrigerate for up to 1 month in an airtight container.

For the Cocktail: Scatter salt over a small plate or saucer. Rub the rim of the glass with the cut lime to dampen. Dip glass into salt, shaking off excess.

– Place tequila, triple sec, and lime juice or sour mix in shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into ice-filled glass. Serve.

 

CLASSIC PATE  
Makes 2 (8-ounce) ramekins
This is classic elegance and easier to make than you ever thought. Look for organic chicken livers in the poultry section of the market.

For the Pâté
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, very thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed of fat and membranes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons dry sherry or port
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Jelly
2 tablespoons water
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons dry sherry, port, or unsweetened cranberry juice
1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch ground allspice
Serving Suggestion: Toast points or crackers

For the Pâté : Melt 8 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, 1 more minute.

– Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the livers and season them with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes until the livers are browned on all sides but still pink in the middle. With a slotted spoon, transfer the livers to a plate (if some shallots remain in the skillet its alright).

– Add the sherry and cook, scraping the skillet, until it’s almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Scrape the skillet contents and the livers with any accumulated juices into a food processor and pulse until smooth. With the machine running, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cream and process until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.

– Divide the mixture between 2 (8-ounce) ramekins and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the paté. Chill for 2 hours and make the jelly.

For the Jelly: After 2 hours, combine the water and 2 tablespoons of the sherry in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes.

– Bring the remaining port, sugar, and allspice to a gentle simmer over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir into the gelatin mixture until completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature and pour over the pâté, then return to the refrigerator and allow to chill until the gelatin is set, at least 2 more hours.

– The completed pâté can be made 5 days ahead and kept refrigerated. It can also be frozen for up to 2 weeks and thawed out in the refrigerator.

Shoes. Sweaters. Pajamas. Toiletries. Check, check, check, and check. Your overnight bag is packed and you have your directions mapped out or your train or plane ticket printed, but The Gift for people hosting Thanksgiving dinner? Ugh. What to bring to your family’s or friends’ gathering? Booze is a given, and, now, you cannot be That Person Who Brings Salad. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. And, have you noticed? It’s never even an interesting salad, with say, kohlrabi and a horseradish dressing, but the worst offender: bagged and chopped romaine with tasteless out-of-season grape tomatoes and bottled LO-CAL dressing.

You can always choose to impress with a pricey present, but a thoughtful homemade addition to the meal can be even more noteworthy.These bite-sized treats travel well and can be tucked into the desserts table, or kept in their wrappings and enjoyed by the hosts once all the party and its stresses are over.

SPICED AND SALTED HONEY-CASHEW BRITTLE
Makes 1 sheet of brittle (approx. 9- by 11 inches)

Prep note: Brittle seems daunting, but its success relies more on having equipment ready than on being skilled. Be sure to have a candy thermometer (available at most supermarkets) and that your baking sheet is prepped.

For the Brittle
Cooking spray
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) roasted and salted cashews

For the Chocolate Drizzle
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Maldon salt
Aleppo pepper
Ground cardamom

– Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat it with baking spray. Set up a small bowl filled with water and a pastry brush next to the stovetop.

– Combine the sugar, honey, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and (with the damp brush) brush the sides of the pan where the sugar mixture makes contact with it to dissolve any granules of sugar.

– Cook the sugar mixture until it registers 300¨F on a candy thermometer (hard crack stage), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and with the spatula, stir in the butter, salt, and baking soda. Stir in the cashews and immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Quickly spread the brittle out to the thickness of 1 cashew and cool completely.

For the Chocolate Drizzle: Once the brittle has hardened, melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave (try 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between zaps) or in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the brittle and sprinkle it with salt, Aleppo, and cardamom. Chill for 10 minutes, then break up into shards.

– Brittle will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week. *Refrigerate if you live in a warm place to prevent the chocolate drizzle from melting.

MEXICAN WEDDING CAKES
Makes about 42 cookies

These snowy cookies are crumbly and nutty and not too sweet. You might want to make a double batch and save some for yourself.

1 cup roasted and salted pecans
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature (about 60°F)
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus 1 cup for coating
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Orange zest for sprinkling (optional)

– Pulse the pecans in a food processor until finely ground.

– Beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla and beat to mix.

– Stop the mixer and add the flour, salt, cinnamon, and ground pecans to the butter. Beat on low until the mixture is cohesive, scraping the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl as needed.  Beat just until a dough forms. If the dough seems too soft to handle, refrigerate it for 20 to 30 minutes.

– Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

– Using a 1-tablespoon (1/2-ounce) ice cream scoop or a 1-tablespoon measure, scoop out the dough, dividing it among the 2 prepared sheets. Bake the cookies until just golden on the sides, 15 to 20 minutes, alternating the sheets’ positions halfway through baking.

– Transfer the sheets to cooling racks, cool the cookies on the sheets for 10 minutes, then cool them completely on the racks.  Cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

MINI NUT PIES
Makes 24

These are a dainty alternative to classic pecan pie — try them with pecans, walnuts, or even a mixture of cocktail nuts. You’ll need a mini-muffin tin and a biscuit cutter about 2 1/4 inches in diameter.

1 package puff pastry or pie dough, thawed
All-purpose flour for dusting surface
Baking spray
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped and toasted

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.

– Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Stamp out 24 circles with a 2 1/4-inch in diameter biscuit cutter and press them into a mini-muffin tin. Lightly coat the whole thing with baking spray.

– Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then whisk in the sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, espresso powder, and salt. Divide the mixture evenly among the dough-lined muffin tin, and top with the nuts.

– Bake until set, about 30 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes, then, with a wooden skewer or paring knife, gently pop the mini-pies out of the tins and onto the cooling rack. Cool completely and store, refrigerated for up to one week. You can also freeze the pies for up to 1 month and reheat them in a 300°F oven.

GINGER CAKE
This cake is moist and really spiced, packing quite a bit of fresh ginger in addition to the usual allspice, ground ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.  It’s meant to be baked in a 9-inch springform pan, but you can divide the batter among smaller vessels, filling each with batter about halfway up the sides.  When using smaller vessels, arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet for easier handling.  Click HEREfor the recipe.

Strapped for time? Order your packaging supplies at Paper Presentation.

And, if you’re looking to get festive and giving your room a quick makeover, try  Tempaper, temporary wallpaper!  The luxe gold and peacock feathers pattern featured in this post is one of our favorites.

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