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.

Honey Wheat Bread Wreath

Honey Wheat Bread Wreath

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.

Festive Spinach Salad

Festive Spinach Salad

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.

Riesling Poached Pear with Cardamom Cream and Burnt Sugar Garnish

Riesling Poached Pear with Cardamom Cream and Burnt Sugar Garnish

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.

Happy Holidays!

4 Responses to “Tis the Season for Dinner Party Fun (Part II)”

  1. maisie says:

    how did you do the cardamom whipped cream?

    • Stephanie says:

      maisie: easy…i just took about a cup of heavy whipping cream, whipped it up with a hand mixer, and added powdered sugar until it was sweet enough. For the cardamom, I took about 8 pods of green cardamom and popped them open by smashing it with the flat side of a chef’s knife (like how you would smash garlic). I removed the seeds inside and chopped them up as fine as possible. If you have a spice grinder or coffee grinder, you can use that. I added this to the whipped cream and have it a quick mix to incorporate. voila!

  2. I usually don’t usually post on many another Blogs, nevertheless I just has to say thank you… keep up the amazing work. Ok unfortunately its time to get to school.

  3. [...] ‘Tis the season for gathering around the table with loved ones and breaking bread together. In the spirit of this, I wanted to share one of my favorite party tricks today. This bread wreath is always a stunner at dinner parties, and would be a beautiful, festive touch for any holiday table. I wrote about it once before, ages ago, but it is so good, it deserves to be exhumed from the archives. [...]

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