Reunion!

We hosted my 35th high school reunion party last night.  It was fun to get everyone together and I used some of my tried and true favorites as well as a few new things.  Here was the menu:

Passed Hors d’oeuvres 

  • Bang bang chicken in tasting spoons
  • Thai chili seared scallops
  • Seared tuna with wasabi sauce

Buffet table

  • Gazpacho shots
  • Sliced tenderloin with rolls and two sauces
  • Vegetable platter with arugula green goddess sauce
  • Crab dip
  • Chicken liver pate
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Dessert platter with brownies, iced sugar cookies and lemon pound cake

I was able to do all of the cooking ahead of time and had a great helper during the party for assembling, refreshing and cleaning up.  Here are the recipes:

Bang Bang chicken

  • 3 TB sesame seeds, toasted in  dry pan over low heat for about 3 minutes
  • 8 TB smooth peanut butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TB fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 TB lemon juice
  • 1 TB low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, split

Mix all ingredients except chicken to a smooth sauce.  Put chicken in a pan with cold water to cover and bring to simmer.  Simmer until cooked through 10 – 12 minutes.  Let chicken cool completely.  Drain, pat dry and cut into bite size pieces.  Combine with sauce and then serve either in tasting spoons or small shells.

Grilled Thai chili scallops

  • 7 – 10 slices white bread, cut into rounds with a 2 inch fluted pastry cutter
  • 15 sea scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
  • 6 – 8 TB Thai sweet chili sauce
  • creme fraiche

Bake bread rounds in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and browned.  Cool completely and then store in a zip lock bag until ready to assemble.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill scallop slices (dry) for about a minute a side.  Remove from heat into bowl with sweet chili sauce.  Chill until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, top each toast round with a scallop slice and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Seared tuna with wasabi sauce
  • 1 lb of sushi grade tuna
  • 1 TB black sesame seeds
  • 1 TB sesame seeds
  • 1 TB poppy seeds
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 TB wasabi paste (can be made by combining equal parts of wasabi powder and water)
  • flat bread crackers
Cut tuna into long blocks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine sesame seeds and poppy seeds in a shallow pan and dip tuna blocks in seeds, coating each side.  Using a non-stick pan over medium high heat, heat canola oil and sear tuna blocks about 2 minutes a side.  (You want tuna to be rare).  Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator.  Combine sour cream and wasabi paste.  When ready to serve, slice tuna and put on flat bread crackers – top with a small amount of sauce.

Gazpacho

  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chooopped
  • 2 scallions, chpped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 parsley, chopped
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a blender and process to your liking.  Refrigerate.  Serve.

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Every time we make the beef this way, people say it is the best they have ever had.

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Basil Parmesan Mayonnaise
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, at room temperature
Place egg yolks, lemon juice, cheese, mustard, basil and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process for 20 seconds, until smooth.  Combine two oils together in a 2 cup liquid measuring cup.  With the food processor running,g slowly pour the oil mixture through the feed tube to make a thick emulsion.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Vegetable platter
I wanted to have a healthy offering in addition to the gazpacho.  I roasted asparagus, cauliflower and carrots (separately) at 350 tossed with a small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper.  (I did the asparagus for about 5 minutes, the cauliflower for about 30 and the carrots for about 25.)  I added sliced red and yellow peppers, baby bella mushrooms and radishes.  In the middle of the plate we had a bowl with:
Arugula green goddess dip
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 TS fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups of arugula

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Crab dip

  • 1 lb lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 TB Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Old Bay seasoning to taste.

Combine all ingredients and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Chicken Liver Mousse pate

  • 1 lb chicken livers
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB brandy
  • 5 TB butter
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Trim chicken livers and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over high eat and sear livers on all sides.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 – 4 minutes until livers are browned on outside but still pink inside.  Remove livers to a dish.  In pan with remaining fat, cook shallots and garlic over medium heat until translucent.  Reduce heat to low and add brandy.  Add 4 TB of butter and nutmeg and stir.  Remove from heat.

Add liver and butter mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add remaining butter.  Whip cream into soft peaks and fold into pate.  Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: This is best if made the day before.

Party time

Last night we hosted the parent party for Samantha’s Third Grade.  It was a great opportunity to spend an evening with some very nice people and get to know the parents of the children we hear so much about.  This is not a group we have entertained before so I went with a mix of old and new.  I have folders with notes from parties past and I like to go back to those for favorites and then look in my folders of recipes for some new inspirations.  Here is the menu we used (I wish I had taken a picture of the table):

New inspirations

  • Black bean dip with corn chips
  • Chicken Liver Mousse pate
  • Lemon squares (I used the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe which you can find on Google.)

Old favorites

  • Slow roasted beef tenderloin with mustard horseradish sauce
  • Tuna tartar on tasting spoons
  • Shrimp dip with veggies
  • Asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise
  • Mushroom filling in pastry cups
  • Creme de menthe brownies

I always try to mix it up so there is something to suit every taste.  Here are the recipes (starting with the new inspirations):

Black Bean dip

  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • 1 yellow onion, peel on, cut in half
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 12 oz goat cheese

In a medium saucepan, cover beans with about 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and then let beans sit covered for 1 hour.  Drain and rinse beans.  Return to pot and cover with fresh water (about 2  inches)  Add onion, garlic and cumin and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove onion and garlic.

Put about 1/3 of beans in a 1 1/2 quart casserole and top with 1/3 of goat cheese.  Repeat with additional layers of beans and goat cheese.  (I made to this point the day before and refrigerated until ready to serve.)  Bake at 400 for 45 minutes to an hour or until hot and serve with corn chips.

Chicken Liver Mousse pate

  • 1 lb chicken livers
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB brandy
  • 5 TB butter
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Trim chicken livers and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over high eat and sear livers on all sides.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 – 4 minutes until livers are browned on outside but still pink inside.  Remove livers to a dish.  In pan with remaining fat, cook shallots and garlic over medium heat until translucent.  Reduce heat to low and add brandy.  Add 4 TB of butter and nutmeg and stir.  Remove from heat.

Add liver and butter mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add remaining butter.  Whip cream into soft peaks and fold into pate.  Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: This is best if made the day before.

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Our friends wanted to know how the beef had been cooked – it is so consistently rare throughout, they thought we had cooked it sous vide.

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuna Tartar
  • 1 lb fresh tuna, chopped finely
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper with seeds removed, minced
  • 1 1/2 avocados, chopped

Place tuna in a bowl.  Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Pour over tuna.   Stir in  scallions, jalapeno and avocado.  Refrigerate for a few hours until ready to serve.

Shrimp dip
This recipe came from my mother and it is delicious.  I am generally suspicious of recipes made with canned soup but this is very good and always popular.
  • 1 can cream of shrimp soup
  • 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 oz canned ripe black olives, chopped
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • dash Worcestershire
  • 1/2 cup cooked shrimp, chopped

Melt soup and cream cheese in top half of a double boiler until completely melted and combined.  Add remaining ingredients.  Serve hot (in a chafing dish) with crackers and raw veggies.

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)

Creme de Menthe Brownies

Base layer:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 4 lightly beaten eggsw
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients in a mixture and mix until well mixed.  Pour into 9 x 13 greased pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.  Let cool.

Green icing:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 – 4 TB Creme de Menthe

Beat together and spread over brownies.  Let set.

Chocolate topping:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 stick butter

Melt chocolate chips and butter.  Cool slightly and spread over green icing layer.  Let set.  Cut into small pieces.

Holiday meals

Sorry to abandon you the week of Christmas. I’ve been busy with last minute preparations but I’m happy to say that all gifts have been purchased and wrapped. My in-laws arrive this afternoon and we will be having dinner at my sister’s house tomorrow night. We normally do it here but this year circumstances are a bit different. I’m assuming that you have already planned your holiday meals but in the unlikely event that you are still undecided about what to fix for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas dinner, here are our menus. Merry Christmas to you and yours and I’ll be back with a menu plan for next week!

Christmas Eve

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Tonight’s pick:

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tomatoes Provencal

  • 1 tomato per person, halved
  • 1 clove garlic per tomato, thinly sliced
  • parsley
  • panko
  • olive oil

Top each tomato half with garlic slices.  Combine parsley (fresh or dried) with panko and enough olive oil to hold together.  Top garlic with mixture and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Rosemary popovers

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 5 TB melted butter
  • 4 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, salt, eggs, milk and 4 TB of butter in a blender for about 30 seconds.  Brush popover tins with remaining butter and heat in oven about 5 minutes.  Fill tins half full with batter and sprinkle each popover top with rosemary.  Bake 45 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Christmas Dinner

This menu goes with a Smithfield ham and the beauty of it is that everything can be done ahead of time and none of it is particularly arduous so you can enjoy the day and an elegant dinner.  I picked up Buche de Noel from Patisserie Poupon for dessert.

Salmon Spread
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
8 oz smoked salmon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp dill
1/4 tsp tabasco
1/4 cup chopped black olives
Mix all ingredients. Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill. Serve with crackers.

Biscuits
These are wonderful lightly buttered and stuffed with salty Smithfield ham.
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup butter (softened)
2/3 cup milk
Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until dough is in coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once. Stir dough until just combined. Knead on a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter and bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 450 for 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown.
Scalloped Oysters
2 pints oysters
3 cups oyster crackers
8 TB oyster liquor (drained from oysters)
1 cup melted butter
4 TB cream
Preheat oven to 450. Drain oysters reserving liquor and wash oysters, checking for bits of shell. Marinate crackers in melted butter. Grease a shallow baking dish and layer crackers, oysters, crackers, oysters and crackers. Pour reserved oyster liquor and cream over top. Bake 30 minutes.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes
3 lbs sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
4 TB butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
4 TB cream
1/4 cup rum
Boil potatoes until soft. Peel and mash. Mash in butter and seasonings and put mixture in a casserole dish. Bake in hot oven (you can put in with the oysters after the turkey comes out) for 15 – 30 minutes or until hot. (Casserole can be made the day before and refrigerated – make sure to cook until hot.)
Baked tomatoes and artichokes
1 large can whole plum tomatoes (2 lbs, 3 oz)
1 can artichoke hearts (14 oz)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp basil
2 TB sugar
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a shallow ceramic casserole. Drain tomatoes and artichokes. Rinse artichokes and drain. Quarter artichoke hearts.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Saute onion and shallots until soft. Add tomatoes, artichokes, basil and sugar and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake at 325 for about 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are hot.