Thursday, November 18, 2010

Entertaining made a little easier

Ok, as a disclaimer, I actually enjoy going way over the top and cooking 5 course seated dinners with all the stops pulled out. However, I DO NOT enjoy the cleanup involved after such affairs, and more to the point, neither does my beloved. Usually, I plan so much kitchen work that she is invariably left struggling to do everything else to get the party ready. This is really pretty unfair because I enjoy my part of the work, whereas I don't think Danielle actually gets a very big kick out of scrubbing our bathroom "clean for the guests", or trying to remove the fine coating of dog hair that seems to coat pretty much everything in the condo (kitchen not included, don't worry dinner guests). So, that being said I have agreed to tone down my culinary exploits to a heavy hors d'ouevres and lots of wine. I think it'll be a nice change....a little more low key, lots of different flavors in little bites, LESS MESS. So I'm going to give you 3 dead easy, delicious hors d'oeuvres that will take the guesswork, and just a lot of the work out of throwing a holiday/whenever party. No more chafing dishes full of tepid swedish meatballs for us, but if you're like me, your wife may still make you dust the inside of your towel cupboard or some such other non-sensical pre-party cleaning activity......easier not to debate the value of said task by the way, you will lose in the end, and will just be dusting later.

Puff Pastry Squares with Green Olive Tapenade and Shaved Parmesan

Simple, but delicious, and a good option for all those annoying vegetarians who show up (to all my vegetarian friends, just kidding, I love cooking for you :)

1 cup green olives, pitted

1 clove garlic, chopped fine

1 tblsp sundried tomatoes

2 tblsp Olive Oil

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp fresh basil, chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

2 fillets of anchovies (use white anchovies if you can find them)

1 tsp red chili flake

1 pckg puff pastry - unless you have a dough sheeter, if you do, feel free to make your own

1/8 lb good quality parmesan, shaved with a peeler

1)Heat oven to 400 degrees

2)Place pastry on baking sheet lined with parchment/wax paper

3)Using a fork, prick the dough all over. This prevents it from puffing too much

4)Bake 12-14 minutes until light, golden brown all over, remove and set aside

5)Puree all of the top group of ingredients in a food processer till mostly smooth, but with just a little chunk to it

6)Spread a thin layer of tapenade all over pastry. Cut into 1/2 inch squares and top each with a curl of shaved parmesan.

Marinated Crab Salad on Cucumber Rounds with Citrus and Mint

Doesn't get much easier than this, but it's crab so everyone will fawn over it

1 lb lump or jumbo lump crab meat

2 tblsp fresh mint, chopped

2 scallions, chopped thin

1 clove garlic, minced

juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange

1 small thai chile, deseeded and chopped fine

1 tblsp italian parsley, chopped fine

2 tblsp mayonaisse

1 tblsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp clover honey

1 tblsp toasted white sesame seeds

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 large european (seedless) cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch rounds

1)GENTLY fold together all of the ingredients in top list, other than sesame seeds.

2)Let marinate at least one hour in the fridge

3)Scoop a nice quenelle of the crab onto each cucumber round and sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds

Herb Crusted Tenderloin on Crostini with Horseradish-Basil Aioli

Very easy once again, and it will satisfy the carnivores in your crowd

Crostini - Thinly slice baguettes, toss with olive oil, salt & pepper and bake at 400 till golden brown


1/2 c mayonaisse

2 tblsp basil chiffonade

1 tblsp fresh grated horseradish

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1)Mix all together and chill in fridge at least one hour

Beef - I like mine pretty red, so that is how I'll lay out the recipe. If you like yours a little more done, just leave it in the oven longer

2 lb beef tenderloin

1 tblsp fresh rosemary

1 tblsp fresh thyme

1 tblsp mustard powder

1 tblsp cracked black pepper

1 tblsp kosher salt

2 tblsp olive oil

1)Mix together all the spices, herbs, and oil, and rub all over the beef. Refrigerate at least two hours, then pull from fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven to 500 degrees

2)Pour excess oil from marinating pan into large skillet and set on high heat. Sear beef on all sides for 1-2 minutes, or until nicely browned. Place in oven for 5-10 minutes, until internal temperature is 135.

3)Let rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.

4)To plate, top each crostini with a nice heavy smear of the aioli, then place a very thin slice (BTW, always cut the meat against the grain, it is more tender this way) on top folded once.

5)Garnish with a sprinkle of sea salt and some rough chopped parsley.

Just put platters of these three things out, accompanied by many, many drinks, and everyone, hosts included, will have a relaxing, easier to clean up, "dinner" party.

"The best number for a dinner party is two -- myself and a damned good head waiter"
--Nubar Gulbenkian

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