Fancy Dress Dinner in the New Normal

Fancy Dress Dinner in the New Normal

If you’ve been living in your Lulumons, this Fancy Dress Dinner Party is for you! Prepare a feast for your “bubble friends” or family this Social-distance Summer.

Click to skip to the recipes

 

When was the last time that you dressed up? 

For that matter, when was the last time that you got out of your sweats? 

We discussed this during my walking group’s morning trek the other day. The answers were startling. No one had dressed up in months!

I mean, “fancy- dressed-up”, like sparkles and heels and ties and pocket squares. 

The occasions that we dress for have all gone away.

No more business dinners, charity events, or milestone birthday parties. Weddings are postponed and black tie events are canceled. I’m not even sure that this year’s fall fashions haven’t been hanging in my closet since last spring!

I decided to change things up a bit in my bubble.

I’m planning a fancy dress party that fits with the new normal.

I’ll host a smaller group of friends, maintain a socially-distanced table in an open-air space and absolutely, expressly forbid hugging and kissing.

But there will be place cards and flowers on the table. We’ll be served on real china plates and crystal. Places will be set with linen napkins and a printed menu.

And yes…There will be FOOD.

Really, really good food.

Here’s my fancy-dressed dinner menu:

 

Spinach Salad Topped with Heirloom Tomatoes and Salt and Pepper Fruit

Beef Wellington with Red Wine Demi Glaze

Pommes de Terre Chantilly

Chocolate French Silk Pie

 

Sounds daunting, yes! Well, it’s not. Let me tell you how.

You can make the pie the day before. I’ll tell you a secret. 

I use Ina Garten’s pie crust recipe.

And Ree Drummond’s recipe for the filling. 

I topped the pie with whipped cream and dust with salted caramel sugar from Spice and Tea Exchange.

It’s not only yummy, but it’s also pretty!

 

The salad is created by tossing baby spinach leaves and thin slices of onion with a bit of vinaigrette. I top this with slices of ripe tomato with a dribble of olive oil.

What makes this salad so special is the fruit. I dice watermelon into very small cubes which I spritz with kosher salt. 

Next, I cut strawberries into the same size pieces and sprinkle with pepper. I scatter the “salt and peppered” fruit cubes on top of the tomatoes and chill the salad.

 The bite is crunchy, sweet, and surprisingly refreshing.

 

The Beef Wellington recipe is right out of my book, Fresh Traditions

Seared tenderloin filets are topped with a slice of pate and a spoonful of creamy, sherried mushrooms. Then they are wrapped in pastry and chilled until you are ready to bake. 

Twenty minutes in the oven creates an over-the-top main course, especially when served with a red wine reduction.

But my favorite dish on the menu is the potatoes.

Imagine a mashed potato souffle and you will get your mouth watering for these Chantilly potatoes. Named for a region in France that creates wonderous cream, these potatoes can be prepared in the morning and baked off in the same oven as the beef. Success!

My party is coming soon, and I hope it inspires you to get out of those pj’s and back into the worldAt least a little step towards getting back into the world!

Pommes de Terre Chantilly

Breakfast Skillet with Glazed Eggs

Ingredients

Whipped potatoes meet whipped cream in this most delicious version of mashed potatoes. It’s a fussy presentation which requires a bit of work but is really worth the effort.

4 (1 ½ to 2-inch thick) beef tournedos (center cut fillet of beef)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

Course ground pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 large shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

8 ounces Baby portobello mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons cup sherry

1/3 cup cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 (1-pound) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

4 to 6 ounces pate, preferably duck mousse, cut into 4 slices

Serves:   4

Time:  30-minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Peel the potatoes and cut them into ½-inch cubes. Place the potato cubes into salted, boiling water. Cook until the potatoes are very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Use a colander to drain the potatoes. Place 3 tablespoons butter and milk into a large bowl. Use a potato ricer to smoosh the potatoes into the bowl. Stir the potatoes into a smooth puree.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Divide 1 tablespoon butter into four individual baking dishes. Place these onto a baking sheet. Place the dishes into the oven and let the butter melt onto the bottom of each one.

Use an electric mixer to whip the cream into soft peaks. Place about ⅓ of the whipped cream into the center of the potatoes. Gently stir the cream into the potatoes. The potatoes will be soft and light. Scrape the remaining whipped cream into the bowl. Gently fold this cream into the potatoes. You don’t need to overwork the potatoes. You want these to be light and airy. 

Spoon the potatoes into the baking dishes. Sprinkle each dish with Parmesan cheese. Bake until the potatoes are warmed through and the tops begin to turn golden brown on the edges, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Beef Wellington

Ingredients

This renowned dish is easy to make and a super way to show off in front of your guests. The good news is the beef packages can be prepared in advance and baked 30 minutes before you seat your guests. Talk about “fast food”!

4 (1 ½ to 2-inch thick) beef tournedos (center cut fillet of beef)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

Course ground pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 large shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

8 ounces Baby portobello mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons cup sherry

1/3 cup cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 (1-pound) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

4 to 6 ounces pate, preferably duck mousse, cut into 4 slices

Serves:   4

Time:  60-minute Cuisine (Plus chilling)

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush the beef with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat a skillet over high heat.  Place the steaks into the skillet and sear until well browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn until both sides are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes more.  Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature.  

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the shallots in the pan until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the sherry, cream, and tarragon to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes more.  Cool this mixture to room temperature.

Roll out the puff pastry sheets to about ¼-inch thickness.  Cut into 4 rectangles.  Coat a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.  Place a beef slice onto a pastry rectangle.  Brush the edges of the dough with a beaten egg. Place a slice of pate on top of the beef.  Top with sautéed mushrooms and the tarragon cream sauce.  Wrap the layered beef with the pastry.  Crimp the top ends together to seal the package.  (Form the bundle into a purse, trimming off the excess pastry.)  Repeat with all the filet slices.  Place each bundle onto the prepared baking sheet.  Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush each package with a beaten egg.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 375°.  Bake until the pastry is golden, about 20 minutes more.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with red wine sauce.

Overboard Tip

To make red wine sauce heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook 2 large minced shallots until soft.  Pour in 1 cup dry red wine.  Reduce until ½ cup remains.  Pour in 1 cup beef broth.  Reduce until 1 cup remains, about 15 minutes.  Stir in 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh

4th of July Party, Safely: A Socially-Distanced BBQ Get-Together Plan

4th of July Party, Safely: A Socially-Distanced BBQ Get-Together Plan

Host a social distancing get-together this July 4th with tips to stay safe and recipes to make it delicious!

Click to skip to the recipes

With so many large-scale activities canceled for the 4th of July holiday, small gatherings with appropriate social distancing are the sign of the times.

This year, my family barbecue is trimmed down to immediate family with only a few (very close) family friends. I will miss the annual get-together of friends and neighbors. Mostly, I will miss seeing the kids that grow from children to tweens to teens to young adults each year.

But, with my “glass is always half-full” vision, I appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones and less time preparing for a big bash. After all, those glow-in-the-dark bracelets will last ‘til next year!

We are who we are, and we Americans will celebrate! Trying to plan for my slimmed-down annual party, I started by putting my caterer’s hat on.


Back in the day, when my pals and I were planning a Memorable Occasion’s (the name of my old catering company) party we would lay out the menu and then come up with some clever way to serve it. We were always short of staff, so serve-yourself food was a great solution when feeding a crowd.

This strategy works perfectly when you are planning an appropriate socially distanced backyard Fourth of July barbecue. Allowing your guests to choose their own items from individual containers is smarter in today’s climate.


Here are some pointers for a safe and social distancing get-together:

 

  1. Fresh air is best for this year’s celebration. If it’s possible sit outside. Sit on your back porch, in your back yard, even in your driveway.  If you are rained out, or don’t have enough space, open the windows to let the fresh air in. 
  2. It’s still okay to ask your guests to bring a dish. No one says you, the host, must do it all. But we’re going to ask either that the dish is brought in individual portions, or that you dish it up in the kitchen before serving. This is not the time for a buffet supper. 
  3. Serve right from the grill. For example, let guests bring their bun to you when grilling dogs and burgers! Condiment packs are key here for mustard and ketchup, but you can also be safe by providing several bowls of condiments and allowing each guest to use his or her own spoon for scooping diced onions and peppers.
  4. As much as you can, serve everything individually. Use whatever you have around the house as containers. My plan this year is to serve scoops of potato salad in metal cups, shrimp on skewers, and stuffed mushrooms on porcelain tasting spoons. A homemade milkshake served in a mason jar, dripping with chocolate and nuts, or doused in sprinkles is the best of the best when you’re talking personal desserts. Get creative with what you have, but also take a look at all the clever paper goods that are available to hold sides and desserts. 
  5. Don’t forget to get the kids involved. Kids can pass around trays of individual appys and help prepare those decorative shakes. The more people involved, in the safest way… the better!

There are lots of ways to celebrate what is a most important American holiday, but there’s only one way to make it perfect. And that is by sharing it with your friends and family who you love and who love you back! 

Happy Fourth, everyone.

And here are a couple of my favorite recipes for you to try.

Spicy Potato Salad

Ingredients

Potato salad is a picnic and cold supper staple. When spiced up with a little hot sauce, it becomes a devilish addition to most everyday meals. Feel free to make this day a day in advance to allow the spicy flavors to marry with the potatoes.

5 pounds small red creamer potatoes, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 bunch (6 to 8) green onions, chopped (about ½ cup)

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon paprika

4 to 6 drops hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Servings:   6 – 8

Time:  30 minutes, plus chilling

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain and place into a bowl.

Add the onions to the bowl. Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard paprika and hot sauce.  Pour this mixture over the potatoes. Toss the potatoes with the dressing.

Season with salt and pepper and if you like with additional hot pepper sauce.

Chill the salad for 1 hour or overnight.  Sprinkle the salad with fresh cilantro.

Beer Basted Baby Back Ribs with Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

This is a foolproof way to prepare moist, tender, and never over-cooked ribs. By steaming the ribs in a slow oven, the meat cooks in advance of grilling; therefore, the time spent grilling is significantly reduced.

For ribs:

6 pounds baby back ribs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Garlic powder

1 (12-ounce) can beer

For sauce:

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup cider vinegar

½ cup dark molasses

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup Jack Daniels whiskey

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 or more drops hot pepper sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Servings:   4 – 6 

Time:  Several hours in the oven and about 20 minutes on the grill

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season the ribs with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place them onto a rack in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Pour the beer into the pan.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Place the pan into the oven.  Cook until the ribs are quite tender, but not falling off the bone, about 2 to 3 hours.

For the sauce, bring the tomatoes, vinegar, molasses, canola oil, whiskey, mustard, chili powder, cinnamon, and as much hot pepper sauce as you like, to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the ribs to an outdoor grill over medium-high heat.  Cook, turning often until well browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Baste the ribs with sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Transfer the ribs to a board and slice into individual servings.

Invite guests to bring their plates to you and serve with a drizzle of extra sauce on the side.

Dr. Seuss Day Fun with Kaleidoscope Cake

Dr. Seuss Day Fun with Kaleidoscope Cake

On this day, 116 years ago, Theodor Seuss Geisel was born – or as we all affectionately know him, Dr. Seuss. If you do car pick up at a little one’s school, this day on the calendar all but guarantees you’ll see a Cat and the Hat…or two….

Dr. Suess stories are filled with crazy colors, bright swirls of truffula trees and green eggs and ham. The books are a little psychedelic when you think about it…kinda groovy.

It got me thinking of the most colorful recipe I know, my Tie-Dye or “Kaleidoscope Cake”. Because of the half dozen bright food gel colors in the recipe, it’s kind of like looking through a kaleidoscope when you make it, or when you’re eating it. Forkfuls of this cake feel like play-time, no matter your age.

Believe me, you would eat this cake in a boat…or with a goat! Here’s how it looks before I ice it!

And while it bakes, here’s a little game you can play with your children or grandchildren.

Ask them a food they’d never eat and steal a little rhyme from Green Eggs and Ham.

Example: “I would not eat Brussels sprouts here nor there, I would not eat them anywhere.”

And if you can, use this special day in American classrooms to volunteer to read to the kids.

I have, and it’s an out of this world feeling wherein my heart grows even bigger than the Grinch’s when he gives back Christmas.

Here’s a volunteer organization that helps match readers with schools across the country.

If ReadingPartners is not available in your state, inquire at your child’s school about getting a background check and cleared to volunteer.  And if you’re a busy bee and would rather donate to a worthy cause, I can’t think of a better one than Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which gives the gift of literacy to children who need a little help coming by books.

Have fun with your groovy, tie-dye Kaleidoscope Cake as we all March onward to a happy Spring! XOXO

Kaleidoscope Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves 8 to 12

20 minute cuisine, plus baking and decorating time

For the Cake

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon table salt

6 large egg whites

¾ cup milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, or 1 ½ stick, room temperature

1 ½ cups all natural granulated sugar

6 bright gel food colors

 

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Coat the bottom of 2 (9-inch) diameter cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Cut out circles of parchment paper to fit into the bottom of the pans and spray again.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together the egg whites, milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in another bowl.

Use the paddle attachment of an electric mixer to combine butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients and ½ of the wet ingredients into the creamed butter and sugar. When combined, mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients with the remaining wet ingredients. Finally, mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Divide the batter into 6 bowls. Color each with a gel color. Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls into the pans. Start at the outside of the pan and circle into the middle. Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Remove parchment paper.

For the Frosting

8 tablespoons (1 stick), room temperature

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Place the cream cheese and remaining stick of butter into the bowl of an electric mixer to combine. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Place one of the cakes onto a cake plate. Spread frosting over the top. Place the second cake on top of the first. Spread the frosting on the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for up to 5 days.

So Not Bored with My Board

So Not Bored with My Board

Extravagant cheese boards are all the rage right now. I love the pics from The Miami Larder Cheese Shop posted all over my Facebook feed. It’s inspiring. Rather than stack cheese and crackers alongside slices of apple and pear (like we’ve done forevah…) these pics show boards with every inch covered with some edible yummy.

I also use my wooden cutting boards to create board sauces for grilled goodies. My board is sprinkled with herbs, spices, garlic, and olive oil. The grilled meat or poultry is taken off the grill and immediately placed onto the board, rolled around in all those yummy herbs, and tented to rest and absorb the flavors. The board functions as the main serving dish.

I use my boards to entertain. Recently, I created a bruschetta board with three different toppings, roasted garlic bulbs, whole olives, chunks of cheese, roasted shrimp and so much more!

 

I admit my brain automatically goes to utilizing my boards for appys, allowing guests to dig in while we sip wine in advance of a seated supper. My bruschetta board is an extension of a cheese board, but still limited to the first course.

But things have changed! My super talented and creative daughter-in-law, Kimber has taken board entertaining to the next level. She uses her boards not only to creatively display food, but also to serve her casually elegant meals family-style.

It all started with the board. For Christmas a couple of years ago, Kimber added a wooden board to her wish list. Ever the over-achiever, I took the opportunity to purchase the largest board, I could find.

It’s over three feet long! Here’s my gift in use, and I see that Kimber’s hubby, my son Trey, couldn’t look happier!

I think I may have overwhelmed her, because it hid in the garage for some time. But things have changed. Her creative dinner parties now feature the board as the centerpiece for everything from a steakhouse supper to a baked fish and roasted veggie extravaganza.

There is a real advantage to entertaining in this manner.

 

First, it’s attractive. The food is displayed directly on the board, or in small dishes that fit onto the board and then are surrounded by placed items.

Second, it supports your picky eater pals. Often, people talk to me about their resistance to entertaining, because of our peculiarities. Are we allergic to seafood, in carb denial, gluten free, sugar resistant? It goes on and on. By putting all the food onto one board in the center of the table, your guests can pick and choose, as much or as little as they want from your offerings.

Third, serving your meal on a board in the center of the table is a conversation-starter. What’s on the board, how was it prepared, where did ya get that recipe. Did you pick this up at Trader Joes? Entertaining in this way is less formal, but even more attractive than a traditional, sit down, plated dinner.

And, finally using a board to serve your meal is easy! Instead of serving several courses and carrying dishes back and forth, all you carry is the board! Plates are pre-set and guests serve themselves. The dinner is what it is meant to be, relaxed and unhurried.

A pic from 2019 and Yet…So Not Bored with My Board

There are lots of ways to use boards to entertain for large groups and small. For my large parties I use several boards. You can be as creative as you want, because there are no restrictions. And you know what? I find that I’m not bored when I entertain with my board. (How da like that one?)

Your Perfect Holiday Menu + Reasons to Shop Small

Your Perfect Holiday Menu + Reasons to Shop Small

Since I was seventeen, I spent my Christmases in Florida… most of them in Fort Lauderdale. While the palm trees swayed from ocean breezes outside, we watched old movies and drank hot cocoa inside.  It was a fun way to pretend we were having a White Christmas!

While the Season included baking and tree trimming, shopping and wrapping were not far behind. I remember all the personalized gifts purchased from Paper Mpressions and all the beautiful tablescapes on display at Special Additions. I remember buying the boys matching holiday outfits from Flora Ottimer and finding crafty creations at Cross Stitch Cupboard.

Small businesses have always been a part of our community, like patchwork squares in a storied, family quilt. Our friends are their owners, our families are their customers and together we keep each other wrapped in friendship.

While some of these stores have disappeared, some are still going strong. Cactus Flower, owned by Candy Johnson has been in business for over 30 years. Her customers are not only her friends, they are each other’s friends. In the spirit of friendship (which is celebrated in Canvas and Cuisine), I hope my Fort Lauderdale pals will drop by to say hi, sip some bubbly and support Candy Johnson’s store this Thursday. I look forward to seeing you!

3020 N Federal Hwy

While you’re there, take a look around. Cactus Flower’s vendors are both old and new, and the combination leads to whimsical tables perfect for entertaining.

Meanwhile, please accept this simple, yet elegant holiday party dinner plan as my gift to you. It allows you to prepare everything in advance, so that you can enjoy your party as much as your guests do. And, if you are looking for the perfect serving platter for the salmon, or cake stand for the jam cake… then I’ll see you at Candy’s on the 12th! Merry, merry!

 

Simple Holiday Dinner Party Menu

Pan Roasted Veggies

Cumin Crusted Salmon with Tarragon Caper Sauce

Cranberry Jam Cake

Pan Roasted Veggies

serves a crowd

45 minute cuisine

16 to 20 Brussels Sprouts

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon, about 2 tablespoons, plus more for the other veggies

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the other veggies

1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for the other veggies

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper, plus more for the other veggies

16 to 20 Baby New Potatoes

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme

16 to 20 Whole Baby Carrots

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground curry

16 to 20 Asparagus Spears

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Large Yellow Onions

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Cut each Brussels sprout in half and steam (or blanch) until they begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Cut each potato in half and steam (or blanch) for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with mustard, Parmesan cheese, garlic, thyme, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Transfer to the baking sheet.

Steam (or blanch) the carrots for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with brown sugar, curry, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Transfer to the baking sheet.

Toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Transfer to the baking sheet.

Cut the onion into wedges leaving the root intact. This will help to keep the onion together. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Transfer to the baking sheet.

You can prepare the vegetable up to this point several hours in advance. When you are ready to serve, roast the veggies until they begin to crisp and brown, about 20 minutes. You can serve them warm or at room temperature.

Cumin Crusted Salmon

with Tarragon Caper Sauce

serves a crowd

20 minute cuisine

For salmon:

1 (2 ½ pound) center-cut whole salmon fillet with skin

Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground oregano

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

For sauce:

1 cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup cream

3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the whole fillet, skin side down, on a rimmed baking sheet, coated with vegetable oil spray.  Drizzle the lemon juice on top.

Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Rub this mixture all over the salmon, coating well. Drizzle the top with olive oil.

Place the salmon into the oven.  Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.  Roast until the salmon is rare in the center, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness, or about 15 to 30 minutes for the whole fillet.

For the sauce, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, cream, capers, tarragon vinegar and fresh tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the salmon with the sauce on the side. Garnish with fresh lemon or orange slices and fresh tarragon sprigs.

Cranberry Jam Cake

serves a crowd

60 minute cuisine plus baking

For filling:

1 (12-ounce) jar cherry preserves

¾ cup granulated sugar

Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup

1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries, (about 3 to 3 ½ cups)

For cake:

8 large egg whites

3 ½ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, room temperature

Zest of 2 large oranges, about 2 tablespoons

Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup

1 cup milk

For frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks room temperature

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 (32-ounce) package powdered sugar

Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup

1 to 2 tablespoons half and half (optional)

Place the filling ingredients into a deep pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries soften and begin to pop, about 20 minutes. Use a potato masher to mush up the cranberries. Remove the pot from the heat and cool. Spread the filling into a shallow pan. (A cake pan or pie plate works well for this.) Place the pan into the freezer to cool thoroughly while you make and bake the cake.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 2 (9-inch) square cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a square of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and spray again. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the whipped egg whites to a large bowl. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Use the mixer to combine 1 cup butter and granulated sugar. Stir in the orange zest. Add ⅓ of the flour followed by ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all the flour and milk have been added. The batter will be quite thick.

Fold the egg whites into the batter using about ⅓ of the whites at a time. This will lighten the batter. Use a spatula to scrape and smooth the batter into the two pans. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a rack, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. Now is a good time to remove the cranberry filling from the freezer. You want it to be chilled – not frozen!

Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt. Mix in the sugar a little bit at a time. Alternate the sugar and the remaining orange juice. If the frosting is too thick, you can thin it with a bit of half and half.

Now, here’s the fun part. You can turn this into a four layer cake, by horizontally slicing each of the square cakes in half. Or, you can just use one layer of jam frosting in the middle of the two cakes. It’s up to you how much cranberry to put in the center. Either way you will have cranberry jam left over which is the whole idea. The jam is perfect as an accompaniment to your favorite pork or poultry dish or spread onto your morning Christmas toast! Spread the frosting around the sides and the top of the cake.

 

 

Draft Day… Baby! NFL Party Ideas + Best Loaded Nachos Ever!

Draft Day… Baby! NFL Party Ideas + Best Loaded Nachos Ever!

What’s worse than a bunch of gals getting together to kibbitz? It’s a bunch of gals getting together to draft their fantasy football team. It’s a trash talkin’, elbow diggin’, name callin’ scene right out of the movie Sweet Magnolias. I mean it’s “bless her heart” on steroids.

Oh, the catcalls from the table when I drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round (especially when ESPN claimed he was at best a top second round choice)! Oh, the high fives that went around the table when I picked up Robert Woods in the 6th round when he should have been snatched in the 4th. And, the simultaneous, gentle nods of understanding when our dear friend picked up Baker Mayfield in an early round. We all understand her husband’s devotion to OU…. Bless her heart – now that’s love!

The only way to bring our fragile (fantasy football) bonds back from the edge of friendship destruction was to create a spread that satisfies both the winners and the losers. And, that I did.

Ladies and gentleman: the draft party!

My draft party fare included my favorite pimento cheese with seasoned crackers. I added sun-dried tomatoes instead of pimentos and brushed the crackers with seasonings stirred into melted butter before I toast them in the oven. It’s a TD!

I included blistered shishito peppers that I cooked in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, garlic and pepper. I made little skewers of baby tomatoes, mozzarella and globe basil leaves from the farmers market. These were drizzled with just a bit of aged balsamic vinegar. I roasted shrimp with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper and served them at room temperature with a spiced remoulade sauce.

But the dish that tamed the angry fantasy football beast and totally scored in overtime, was my sausage and refried bean nachos. I mean these are truly a punched up bit of nacho cheesiness. I serve these on every game day, regardless of the success of my quarterback.

Just a little note of confession here. I am in two fantasy leagues, one with the girls and one with the family. Having scored a loser C- in my draft evaluation with the gals, I promptly drafted Baker in round two of the family league. Let’s just see how it goes… and bless my heart!

Sausage and Refried Bean Nachos

serves a crowd

30 minute cuisine

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ medium red onion, peeled and finely diced

1 poblano pepper, deveined and finely diced

1 pound Italian sausage

1 (15-ounce) can refried beans

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper.

1 package tortilla chips (such as Scoops®)

1 (15-ounce) jar medium salsa

¼ cup pickled jalapeno slices, drained and chopped

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Hot pepper sauce

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the sausage to the pan. Use a potato masher to break up the sausage into very little pieces. Cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.

Lay the chips onto a microwaveable plate or platter. You will have enough ingredients to make at least two plates full of chips. Spoon the sausage and cheese filling into the chips. Spoon some of the salsa over the chips. Drizzle the jalapeno pieces over the salsa. Cover with shredded cheese. Place the plate into the microwave oven and cook on high power until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Remove (the hot!) platter from the oven. Top with dollops of sour cream and chopped cilantro. Offer hot pepper sauce on the side.