Tis the Season for Dinner Party Fun (Part II)Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Have you been eagerly awaiting Part II? I know you have, my ravenous friends. Without further ado…
I came across this gorgeous recipe for Holiday Wreath Bread from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois’ Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking. The technique of cutting the ring of dough at a sharp angle with kitchen scissors is brilliant. The result, an easy and artful presentation.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day says you can use pretty much any kind of dough with this technique. I decided to go with a rustic Whole Wheat Honey Bread with Honey Butter from Taste of Home. Even if you don’t use this bread recipe, use the honey butter! Because anything slathered in honey butter is fine by me.
For our greens we went with a colorful Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans, Apples, Grapes, and Pomegranate Seeds.
The Candied Pecans were a great addition here, and I’ve been happily sneaking leftover pieces all day today. Simply mix together about a cup of pecan halves and 3/4 cup of sugar in a small pot until the sugar is melted and a golden brown color. Pour it all out onto a Silpat or waxed paper, spreading it apart. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top, and allow it to cool so you can break apart any large clumps.
Our main course was Ina Garten’s staple Lemon and Garlic Herb Roasted Chicken. Everyone loved the use of bacon laid on top of the chicken skin, and I think it kept the meat really juicy as a kind of porcine auto-baste. I added onion slices and carrot batons tossed in olive oil as a bed for the chicken. The veggies cooked in all the delicious chicken juices as it roasted, and made a great side dish. With so much going on, I didn’t bother making Ina’s gravy, but I bet it’s good.
And finally, our sweet finish! Riesling Poached Pear with Cardamom Cream was the perfect elegant ending to our meal.
I poached the pears and let them sit in the sweet Riesling mixture for 2 days to get the fruit nice and boozy . Adaptations: I cut the sugar way down to ¾ cups sugar (probably could have cut even more as the Riesling itself was so sweet), and added a teaspoon of vanilla to the poaching liquid.
I loved serving this cold – the soft pear flesh was like sorbet. The cardamom whipped cream paired beautifully with the floral notes from the pear, and for a bit of crunch and visual interest, I topped the dessert with a shard of Burnt Sugar.
To make the burnt sugar, mix together a cup of sugar with ½ cup of water and heat until the syrup turns a golden brown. Pour over a Silpat and chill until hardened. To easily break into pieces, lay a piece of wax or parchment paper over the sugar and break apart using a hammer.