Friday, December 12, 2008

Tree Trimming Party

This time of year there are so many great reasons to throw a party. We all want to spend more time with friends and family.
The ease and the ability to prepare this menu a head of time makes a great tree trimming party that you can make a spectacular presentation and fully participate in all the activates. This is a sit down dinner designed with two courses. If you are tight on oven space, you can eliminate the roasted veggies and steam or sauté what ever you like. Keep it simple. The idea is to give yourself lots of time with your guests. The evening before I would make the Caesar dressing, the crotons and the cranberry sauce. Serve cheese with crusty bread for appetizers. Have them out in the same room as the tree when the guests arrive. (I also recommend having the tree set up with the lights already strung.) One hour before Prep Salad. Place sauce in a saucepan, Bake Chicken and roast potatoes and after the tree is trimmed simmer the sauce. Toss the Caesar and serve it as a first coarse. Then plate up the main coarse and serve. After dinner you can relax a bit, clean up, make coffee and after about 30 minutes serve dessert. I would make the cake the day before as well. It is all about sharing time with friends and family and sharing a great meal!

Caesar Salad
In small bowl whisk together-
1 egg
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-tablespoon anchovy paste

Then add,
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Up to 3 cloves of garlic to taste
2 teaspoon dried thyme

In a steady stream add
1/2-cup olive oil
2 cups canola oil

If you would like, add a few shakes of pepper or a dash of Tabasco sauce. If you like a stronger flavor or are not keen on the anchovy paste, a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce works wonders.
Fill a large salad bowl with lettuce. The traditional Caesar lettuce is Romaine. I like to add spinach and radicchio for flavor and color. Mix in croutons (see below) shaved or grated Parmesan and then toss in the dressing. Go lightly the worst Caesars are the ones that are over-dressed. Taste as you go. For variation you can add cherry tomatoes or toasted pine nuts, both are tasty and add a little pizzazz.
Truly, you can use any kind of bread, seasoning and oil. I will give you the basic, but again - go for it and make it your own.
1 baguette (long loaf of French or sour dough bread)
Olive oil to coat
Pinch of Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Slice baguettes into quarter inch slices. Place in large bowl. Toss with oil until well coated. Add salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet in single layer rows and bake at 350 until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Cranberry Chicken

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots, finely chopped
2-teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoon Sage
1/2-teaspoon white pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1 bag Fresh cranberries (12 ozes)
1/2-cup sugar
1-teaspoon cornstarch
8 chicken breasts

Sautee shallots over medium heat until tender. Add sage and thyme and sauté for one minute. Add stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cranberries and sugar and boil until cranberries burst, about 10 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Whisk it in and return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add white pepper. And serve over chicken. (To bake the chicken I slather with butter, thyme and sage. Cook at 400 for about 45 minutes until cooked through and golden. Pour a generous amount of sauce over the chicken.

Roasted Potatoes

You can use any potatoes that you like or can find. (There are over 400 varieties!) I love the mix of flavors and you don’t need to peel them. I usually use 2 potatoes per person. Be sure to include 2 Sweet potatoes and 2 Yams. Even my most devoted Adkins following friends can’t resist makes for such a simple, amazing presentation.

A mix of 16 potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
(Red, russet, Yukon gold, purple, fingerling, golden wonder Epicure, Cara, King Edward, Linzer Delikatess, Just to name a few.)
Coat evenly with Olive oil (About 1/2 a cup)
Sprinkle with kosher Salt, pepper, and dried thyme
Roast in a 400 degree oven until fork tender and golden Brown. About 1 hour.

Assorted Roast Veggies
If you are short on oven space you can do these a couple of hours before the guests arrive and then re heat for a few minutes after you take out the chicken and potatoes. This is a good combo of taste and color, however you can use any vegetable that you like. Also if you have left over you can make bowtie pasta with grilled veggies. (Page)

Roast Carrots, Parsnips and Asparagus

8 carrots, peeled with greens on and trimmed to 1 inch
8 parsnips
32 asparagus
Kosher Salt, pepper
Olive oil

Toss in a baking pan with olive oil. Salt and pepper. Roast at 400 until brown and slightly caramelized, turning occasionally about 30 minutes.

Chocolate Yule Log Cake

This is a very traditional Christmas cake usually made in Europe for Christmas Eve. Considering the lovely presentation it is pretty simple to make. Remember that butter cream is like glue so you can hide a multitude of cracks and mistakes.

5 eggs, separated
1-cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4-teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup white chocolate, chopped
1/4-cup sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting:
1-cup butter, softened
1-cup coco powder
2 cups powder sugar
2-teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

For Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13-inch x 9-inch jellyroll pan with baker’s joy and then line it with parchment paper and spray again.
Beat the egg yolks and 1/2-cup sugar in a bowl and beat until it thickens enough to leave a trail. Then whisk the cocoa, flour and salt and gradually fold into the egg yolks.
Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add thee cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar beating on high speed until stiff peaks form. . Add one-fourth to the egg yolks and fold in, then add the rest of the egg whites and fold in carefully.
Pour into the jellyroll pan and spread evenly all over the pan, right up to the edges and into the corners. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until firm to the touch and the cake springs back when pressed.
Turn the cake out on to a linen towel dusted with powdered sugar. Peel off parchment paper. Carefully roll up in the towel, starting with a short side. Cool on a wire rack.

Break up the chocolate in to small pieces then put it and 1/4-cup cream into a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring continuously until the chocolate melts. Put it to one side to cool to room temperature.
Whip the remaining cream and vanilla until it reaches the soft peaks stage then fold it into the cooled chocolate mixture. Chill. Unroll cooled cake and Spread over cake to 1/2 inch of each side. Re-roll cake. Be gentle, but don’t worry if it cracks…that’s why we have butter cream frosting!!!!!

Butter Cream Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl mix all of frosting ingredients together. Frost cake. Using a fork make lines to imitate tree bark.

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