We are coming to the end of party season. The time of year when we invite friends and neighbors into our homes, cook like crazy, add a little more butter, cream, bacon to our meals. I love this time of year for all the excuses there are to celebrate and I’m resolving as of today to do more entertaining throughout the year. Why save all this merriment for December?
There is so much I am celebrating this year. It’s been quite a transformative time, these last 12 months, and I had many people to thank, some culinary skills I wanted to show off (charcuterie, fresh cheesemaking, liquor-making,) and a freezer full of goodness. Time to party.
One of the great benefits of Charcutepalooza was the focused attention each month. Producing some form of charcuterie on a regular schedule resulted in a freezer bursting with plastic bags. When am I going to get a vacuum sealer?
The guest list was clear, the number of people limited by the number of holiday napkins (16.) I began planning the menu two weeks ahead, organizing recipes, shopping lists, and reviewing serving dishes. I hired Elsa-the-Amazing, a Bolivian woman who has helped me pull off several ambitious parties. We work very well together.
The biggest challenge was the holiday tree standing square in the middle of the doorway from dining room to living room, making circulation hazardous, unruly, and frustrating. We considered taking the tree down, but what’s a holiday party without a tree? Plus we wanted to show off the new Louie ornament.
So, circulation be damned. I arranged the party carefully. Starting in the living room, where we were cozy, in a ’60s retro cocktail party way. One bite, passed hors d’oeuvres. On the sideboard, an offering of charcuterie and Elaine’s favorite radishes with sweet butter and truffle salt.
From the dining room, an easy buffet – cassoulet, a big, glorious cassoulet – cooked in the Gascogne cassoule (a gift from Kate.) An acidic salad. We nosh standing or perched anywhere – living room, kitchen, tv room. Alsatian Reislings were the wines of the evening. We don’t serve red wine at buffet dinners. That’s ok, right? I kicked over one glass of bubbly and broke another while cleaning up after the party. Clearly, I would be the one spilling the red wine on our white chairs. Know thyself.
Finally, into Dennis’ office/acupuncture space, converted to a post dinner gathering spot for oozy cheeses, fruits, sweets, coffee, and an indecent collection of digestifs – both house-made as well as a few collected while traveling. We couldn’t get the Bose to work w/Pandora on my phone – so frustrating! I had hoped for dancing. Dennis thought I was crazy. Have since determined that my new phone is not compatible with the older Bose. It’s also possible my husband is not compatible with dancing.
I’m committed to more entertaining in 2012. It’s a great way to focus my curiousities, use all my organizing and project management skills and learn something new. And it’s always such a treat to connect with people, introduce friends to friends and take a moment to sit, engage, talk, laugh and look people in the eye.
Last night, we raised a glass to thank the Meat Freaks. The gang of five who helped me make and eat charcuterie all year long. I love you all.
And today, I’m raising a glass to all of you, my dear, sweet readers. Thank you for the support, the comments, the feedback, the sharing, the friendships. My wish is for each of you to have your own transformative year. Open your heart. It’s amazing what happens. Happy New Year. xox
- 2 pie crusts (here’s my foolproof crust recipe)
- 4 Tbls butter
- 1 cup shallots
- 6 c. onions, halved lengthwise then sliced in very thin half moons
- 2 c. grated Comte
- 4 Tbls. creme fraiche
- 1 Tbls. fresh thyme
- Melt the butter in a large heavy sauté pan until foaming. Add the shallots and the onions and cook on medium until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the comté, creme fraiche and thyme in a large bowl and mix well. Add the onions and stir well, allowing the cheese to mostly melt.
- Taste and correct seasonings. Allow the mixture to cool thoroughly. May be made a day ahead.
- Roll out the pie dough to ⅛" thickness and cut out 12 3" circles, then tuck the circles into a mini-muffin pan. Two dough disks will make 24 tartlettes, rerolling once. Add a heaping tablespoon scoop of filling to each, then bake at 350° for about 17 minutes. Cool completely, then use a flexible offset spatula to remove the tarts from the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Portion the two pie dough disks into eight pieces then roll out each to a rough circle, 5" in diameter and ⅛" thick.
- Place the dough circles on a parchment lined baking sheet, four tarts to a sheet. Add about ⅓ cup of the filling to the center of each disk, pat out to an even thickness, leaving a large border around the edge.
- Fold in the dough, pleating here and there, to make eight small individual rustic tarts. Bake at 375° for about 22-25 minutes.
Here’s the complete menu. Items in italics were made and forgotten in the kitchen. The sign of a good party.
Onion and Comté Mini Tartlettes
Deep fried olives
Roasted dates with homemade mascarpone, honey and salt
Candied Bacon (crack on a stick)
Asparagus spears wrapped with gravlax and a creamy dill mustard sauce, left in the refrigerator
Pork belly rillettes with armagnac mustard and pickles
Radishes with sweet butter and truffle salt
Cassoulet with rabbit, duck confit and saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche and couenne
Vegetarian cassoulet with garlicky bread crumbs
Roasted endive, left in the oven
Arugula salad, shallot honey fig vinaigrette and parmesian tuiles
Cheeses – Epoisses, St Andre, Humbolt Fog
Apples, blood oranges, grapes, cherries
Quetsch plum and hazelnut conserve
Prunes in Armagnac, left on the counter
Homemade Creme fraiche ice cream (Thank you, David Lebovitz! Ah-Maz-Ing.)
Laurie Colwin’s gingerbread (Read Home Cooking. Again or for the first time. Just read it.)
Homesick Texan’s Mexican Chocolate Chewies (Buy this cookbook. These one bowl easy-peasy cookies are reason enough, but the rest of the recipes look terrific.)
Coffee and Tea
Digestifs: Vin de Pampelmousse, Slivovitz, Limoncello, Pear Cordial (Thank you, Winnie Abramson,) Creme de Violette, Sauerkirsch Brandy, Armagnac