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Posts Tagged ‘Marcy’

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When I first started this blog, it went (briefly) by the unwieldy name Carefully Edited Slices of Life. Dissatisfied, I struck upon the concept of The Hungry Crafter, changed my blog name, and repurposed the original blog name for the title of my launch post. Over the course of the two (soon to be three) years I’ve been writing here, I find myself coming back to that original post, struggling with how to stay true to the mission I set forth for myself there. I’ve always found it a shame that so many men and women in our society are made to feel inferior by others’ apparent success — the latent effect of Photoshop skewing our perceptions — and therefore find themselves discouraged and resigned when they compare their reality to some else’s fiction. Do I prove my theory — that anyone can have a picture-perfect life using visual and mental editing techniques — by way of example (the route I’ve tried to take to date), or would it be more powerful to also show the mess behind the scenes to drive home the fact that appearances are not what they seem to be?

I still don’t have an answer to that question. Ultimately, however, the central belief that drives this blog is that nothing is impossible. This is a value that goes to my core — that anyone is capable of accomplishing their goals, be it with a few missteps and revisions along the way. You get to define success. If I can use this blog to encourage others to succeed, to try new things, to learn and grow…that would be the ultimate fulfillment of this endeavor.

This train of thought has led me to consider ways in which I might be able to offer more value to my readers. I’m not interested in showing off or intimidating people with my accomplishments…regardless of my ambivalence about sharing my failures. I want to encourage you to go out and MAKE. To that end, I started to look at things that I do already that contribute to my own successes — things I can’t help but do — and thought about how I can translate the results into something I can share on my blog that would be of use to you.

Which brings me to today’s post. I’m trying a little experiment here. More than ever over the past year since I’ve moved into my first proper house, I’ve found myself hosting events in addition to my usual cooking sprees. Each event comes with no little amount of time spent researching recipes, making shopping lists, and drafting multi-day to-do lists — not to mention learning lessons through trial and error. What I’d like to try is a new miniseries format on the blog to share these complete menus with you.

Previously I’ve shared these celebrations in a show-and-tell style format (see, for example, my sister’s baby shower), but I think the recipes get lost in this mega-post format, and it doesn’t particularly help to teach. I also hate to have all the time I’ve spent planning for each occasion not be of use after the event has come and gone. Maybe, if I post the resources here, one of you will use my menus and lists as a template to save yourself some time and try something new? I’ll include a complete menu, shopping list, and (gulp!) share some “lessons learned” along the way in the kickoff post to each miniseries. Then, on each weekday that follows, I’ll post a recipe a day with pics, instructions, tips and modifications, until the entire menu has been posted.

So with my own infamous last words…LET’S DO THIS!

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A Celebratory Goose Dinner

In a strange twist of fate that brought a goose to my door (more on that when I post the goose recipe), I found myself looking for occasion to cook a festive holiday meal. Christmas was out of the question due to sheer number of guests, so I was thrilled instead to have our good friends Marcy and Brian (and their adorable baby girl) over for an indulgent New Year’s Eve dinner. They brought fancy champagne and did the dishes. I think I’ll let them come back again.

The Menu

Hors D’Oeuvres
Bay Scallops & Applewood Bacon with a Port Wine Reduction
Phyllo-Wrapped Figs with Prosciutto & Stilton
Endives with Grape Tomatoes, Basil & Balsamic Vinegar
serve with Hendrick’s Gin & Q Tonic and a variety of seasonal microbrews

Main Course
Orange & Thyme Roasted Goose with Potatoes, Shallots and a Lingonberry-White Wine Sauce
Chestnut Stuffing
Roasted Winter Squash with Maple Syrup and Sage Cream
Parker House Rolls
serve with Erath Pinot Noir (alternate wines: Barolo or Gewürztraminer)

Dessert
Apple Crostata
Brown Butter Ice Cream
Assorted Cheeses and Honeycomb (Optional. Our stomachs were too full. I’ll be eating the cheese for dinner tonight, shucks.)
serve with Veuve Cliquot, or champagne of your choice. Harvey’s Bristol Cream on ice with a lime would be wonderful as well.

Shopping List

Download and print your Shopping List; be sure to review the bottom section for pantry items before you go!

Preparation Schedule

Three days prior (morning)
Remove goose from freezer. Place in large bowl in refrigerator.
Place ice cream maker bowl in freezer for min. 24 hours.

Two days prior
Go grocery shopping.
Make Brown Butter Ice Cream.
Make Crostata crust.

One day prior (expect to put in a good 8-9 hours)
Make Chestnut Stuffing.
Make Parker House Rolls.
Make Apple Crostata.
Make Port Wine Reduction.
Make Sage Cream.

D-Day (4 pm guest arrival; 6 pm dinner)
10 am: Prepare Phyllo-Wrapped Figs with Prosciutto & Stilton; refrigerate once assembled.

12 pm: Fry bacon, assemble scallops, refrigerate.

1 pm: Set table, prepare serving dishes. Select dinner wines and put on table.

1:30 pm: Peel and cut squash, mix with sugar and olive oil; set aside. Wash potatoes and peel shallots.

2:15 pm: Take goose out of fridge, rinse, dry. Make marinade. Score goose and baste.

3:15 pm: Goose in oven.

3:30 pm: Assemble endives; put out on serving platter with cocktail napkins. Run around the house hiding messes in the closet.

4 pm: Guests arrive. Serve cocktails and endive. Warm Port Wine Reduction, cook scallops and serve.

4:30 pm: Put Phyllo-Wrapped Figs in oven for 17 minutes, make accompanying cream sauce.

5:00 pm: Serve Phyllo-Wrapped Figs.

5:15 pm: Squash in oven.

5:30 pm, or when goose temp reaches 160°F: Remove goose from oven, transfer to platter and tent with foil. Transfer potatoes and shallots from roasting pan to a new baking dish and return to oven to continue cooking, if needed. Put stuffing in oven. Make Lingonberry White Wine Sauce in roasting pan.

5:50 pm: Check squash and potatoes, continuing to cook as needed. Put rolls in oven to warm. Warm Sage Cream sauce.

6:00 pm: All food to serving dishes and brought to table; carve goose and serve sliced on platter with thyme sprigs and orange slices for garnish. Enjoy!

When stomachs have fully recovered and can fit dessert, heat crostata in oven for 15 minutes and remove ice cream from freezer to soften for easy scooping. Serve with a small cheese platter and champagne.

Lessons learned

  • For God’s sake, do NOT OVERCOOK THE GOOSE. Pretty much ignore this recipe, and follow the one I’ll post later on in the week instead.
  • Don’t over-butter the phyllo. There actually is such a thing as too much butter, and it’s called “greasy.”
  • Remember to put the maple syrup on the squash. Also, reference this version of the recipe, not this one (first is much clearer).
  • If bay scallops can’t be found and you end up using sea scallops, cut them into halves or thirds. Or make your bacon strips much longer.
  • If you’re weight-conscious, please do not even attempt to make the brown butter ice cream. It will be your downfall. Your delicious, sinful downfall.

Join me again tomorrow for the start of the recipes! If you have any thoughts or recommendations on the miniseries format, I’d love to hear them — leave a comment below.  Happy New Year to all!

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…bring July babies? Or June. We’ll see.

Last weekend brought me up to Haverhill for my friend Marcy’s baby shower, which was a lovely affair hosted by our friend Monica, replete with tasty food, apple blossoms and dahlias, gorgeous table linens, 50 or so charming guests, and a prolific amount of pink onesies. I’m embarrassed to say that, despite the beautiful decorations and lovely guests, I came home solely with pictures of food on my camera. I have issues. I should forewarn you that while I did finally find my camera (yay!), I’ve been a little obsessed with Hipstamatic, so the photos are all from my iPhone. I’ll get over it, I’m sure, but you’ll have to indulge me for a while.

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Marcy is my partner-in-crime for all things catering-related. Together over the years, we’ve manned several lobster bakes, bartended a celebrity wedding of sorts, thrown birthday bashes for crowds, put together dessert bars, Christmas parties, anniversary celebrations, humble dinner parties…large scale affairs and quiet picnics. The list goes on and on. As a pair, we’ve always just clicked in the kitchen, seamlessly moving back and forth without ever getting in the other’s way, speaking in half sentences that don’t need finishing, dividing labor intuitively and efficiently. It’s always mildly unsettling to me when I have to prepare for an event without her puttering alongside me in the kitchen. Over the years, we’ve picked up on each other’s trade secrets: she can now put together my grandmother’s Pepper Clam Dip more quickly than I, and I’ve become well-versed in pinwheel sandwiches, Kahlua dipping sauce, and the ever-present cheese board, which is put together just so.

For her shower, then, I insisted on taking cheese board duties, because there had to be a cheese board, and it had to be put together just so, and had to be displayed on the Italian tile serving tray with white handles (that I made her poor aunt dig out from the very bottom of a teetering pile of heavy serving platters, because clearly no other platter would do.) While I do love my local cheese shops (Bacco’s and Formaggio Kitchen), I found myself at Whole Foods this time, where I’ve always been happily pleased with the cheese selection.

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I’m afraid I didn’t stop and get a picture until after the cheese board had been picked at a bit. You get the gist, though. I had a bit of a curveball thrown at me for this particular platter, being for a baby shower and all: I needed to pick only pasteurized cheeses for our expectant guest of honor. In the end, I opted for the following:

  • Wensleydale with Blueberries (I’ll never, ever, be able to eat Wensleydale without thinking of Wallace and Gromit. Anyone else?)
  • Young Fontina Fontal
  • UnieKaas Reserve Gouda, aged 18+ mos.
  • Ford Farm Coastal British Cheddar with Sea Salt
  • Cordobes (a Manchego-like Whole Foods exclusive)

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Other highlights of the shower included Vichyssoise shooters, a pair of cool spring salads, chicken salad sandwiches, pinwheels, and a serve-yourself cocktail bar with champagne, black cherry juice and apricot juice. I may have had one too many glasses of the champagne/cherry juice combo — absolutely irresistible.

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The pièce de résistance, however, was the cookie bar. Marcy has never had much of a taste for things like chocolate, or cake, or any other sweets, really…except for cookies. In particular, Aunt Josie’s Cookies, which are traditionally made by Aunt Mary (Makes sense, right? I love family traditions. And aunts. And being an aunt. But I digress.) This culminated in the tempting array below, with Aunt Josie’s Cookies reigning supreme over the cookie kingdom from up high on their multi-tiered pedestal.

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The cookies, clockwise from top, are: Aunt Josie’s cookies, Marsha’s chocolate frosted cookies, chocolate pistachio brittle, molasses whoopie pies, peanut butter sandwich cookies, lemon-lime basil shortbread cookies, potato chip cookies, a second container of pistachio brittle, and blackberry jambles.

My contributions were the potato chip cookies and blackberry jambles. The potato chip cookie is a prized and guarded recipe in my files, handwritten by Marcy’s mom (I believe it came attached to a chicken-head cookie jar, but that’s another story). If I may be picky for a moment, I will say that I didn’t do them justice this time around, though — the texture wasn’t quite right. They really do need cheap-o store-brand grease-bomb chips as an ingredient — the Whole Foods sea-salted organic chips just didn’t work, probably because they didn’t have enough bad-for-you oils. I’ll bypass the full rant about how loving good, quality natural foods and loving Diet Coke and Lays are not mutually exclusive. My kingdom for a Whole Foods with a soda machine out front.

The blackberry jambles, on the other hand… oh. my. God. Marcy, take note: this is now officially part of our ongoing repertoire, and I already have plans to make an apricot version for the next shower we bake for.

Without further ado, a recipe for you all. As you might deduce from the obscene amount of butter involved, these are ridiculously and sinfully good.

Blackberry Jambles
from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth, by Jill O’Connor, Chronicle Books 2007

  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3 3/4c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. almond flour
  • 1 1/2c. blackberry preserves
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl at medium-low speed until creamy. Add vanilla and salt; beat until combined. Add flours one cup at a time, beating on low speed, just until a smooth, soft dough forms.

Spray a 9″x13″ baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least 30 minutes. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325 F.

Bake the bottom crust until it is firm and just beginning to turn pale brown around the edges, about 20 min. Remove the pan from the oven, and spread the preserves over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the jam to form a pebbly, crumbled topping. Sprinkle with almonds. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until topping is firm and crisp, about 30 mins. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Use a sharp knife to cut bars evenly (or not evenly, in my case), into 15 large squares, then cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars. Remove bars from pan with metal spatula, dust with confectioners sugar (using a sifter or mini-strainer), and serve.

Bars will keep, covered tightly, for about a week at room temperature, or up to one month in the freezer.

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