Sunday, November 7, 2010

wedding bells & one-pot meals

What a pleasure it was to cook for a crew of gorgeous, successful young women celebrating the upcoming wedding of their dear friend, Sarah.

I arrived in the charming home of one of her cheery bridesmaids, Kacey, and immediately set to work in preparation of my Linguine and Dirty Martinis Risotto 101 demo.
Gals sipping wine always seem to love
cheese, fruit and carbs
so my appetizer combination seemed like a natural choice.
As guests arrived, hors d'oeuvres and libations awaited including my new favorite appetizer for a crowd:

Savory Bleu Cheese Cheesecake with a Rosemary Pecan Crust

serves 16 appetizer portions
3/4 c pecans, toasted and salted
2/3 c breadcrumbs
3 T butter, melted
4 eggs, room temperature
1 lb cream cheese, room temperature
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb bleu cheese, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the bottom of 8-inch springform pan with foil. Set aside.

In a food processor, grind pecans, breadcrumbs and butter to form a fine crumble. Press in an even layer into greased springform pan. With a handheld or stand mixer, beat cream cheese, garlic and rosemary until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Delicately fold in bleu cheese with a spatula then transfer mixture and spread evenly atop pecan crust.

Bake approximately 40 minutes until slightly brown and set completely. Transfer to cool completely on a rack before releasing springform. Serve at room temperature with fig compote. Can be made and chilled 1 day ahead.

Fig Black Pepper Compote

1 c apple juice
1 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 bay leaf
1 c dried figs, halved
1 c dried currants
zest of 1 orange
1 T fresh-cracked pepper

Reduce all ingredients over medium high heat approximately 30 minutes until reduced by half. Let cool and serve room temperature atop cheesecake.

After guests snacked on assorted cheese preparations, I began the risotto and vinaigrette demo:

Spinach, Fennel and Bosc Pear Salad

This salad is sweet, bitter and anise-ridden with a thick, slightly-spiced vinaigrette perfect for the holidays.

Toss fresh spinach, sliced bosc pears and julienned fennel. Serve with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette and garnish with fennel fronds.

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

3 T mustard
1/2 c pure maple syrup
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t fresh rosemary, minced
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients except olive oil. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking frequently, until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
Winter Squash, Pancetta and Sage Risotto

Although I was a bit immersed in my cooking to recall a "formal" recipe, this wintry risotto takes a traditional base of aromatics, arborio and white wine with vegetable stock and is amplified with sweet and smoky additions.

During my "stir-time", I made sure to season arborio mixture with liberal salt and pepper and fresh, minced sage. After all stock was added and risotto reached al dente, I stirred in roasted acorn squash, crisp-rendered pancetta, whole butter and fine parmesan cheese.

Sheer comfort in one bowl.

For desserts to share over gift-giving, I decided on an array of hand-held glossy cakes that would lend well to chocolate cravings.

Cocoa and Lavender Salt Cakes
with Ganache and Edible Flowers

I added just enough
unsweetened, fine cocoa powder
along with
a sprinkling of dried lavender salt
to substitute for kosher salt.

After a
swirl of bittersweet ganache

and the careful placement of
delicate edible flowers,

the delightful cakes were ready to shine!


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