Monday, February 6, 2012

Chocolate Fruit & Nut Drops

I almost forgot the dessert I served at my Bite Size Party

A very simple dessert that can be made ahead.  Small discs of chocolate (your choice), pieces of slivered almond, pistachio, dried apricot, and dried cranberry.  I wasn’t happy with my first attempt…

P9250240 They didn’t look bad but I couldn’t get the temp of the chocolate right and they puddled too much and I just didn’t like how they looked.  So then I had a light bulb moment…candy wafers!

I knew that when I melt them on a plate for decorating chocolate molds they don’t lose their shape until you stir them, and they were just about the right size I needed, so I thought I’d give it a try.  It worked beautifully!  P9250243I just placed the wafers on parchment paper and microwaved then until just soft.  Immediately after removing I placed the fruit and nut pieces on each wafer.  Quick and easy!  I made some with milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate.  The combination of flavors in one bite work very well together and each chocolate tastes slightly different.  All you need is a fancy serving plate and they look very elegant. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bite Size Party

I recently purchased a cookbook, Bite Size: Elegant Recipes for Entertaining by Francois Payard, and it was my inspiration for this party. I also included recipes from Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites Of Delight Before the Meal Begins, and Hors d'Oeuvre at Home with The Culinary Institute of America. Here's the spread....

P9260264 I LOVE the idea of bite-size prepared bites!  I just think it looks so refined.  Doesn’t everyone want to do this at least once in a while?  Don’t get me wrong it was A LOT of work but the end was totally worth it.  Would I do it for every party?  Probably not…but my girlfriends are the best and they deserve it :)

As usual with these parties I tried all new recipes.  Some worked, and some need slight adjustments for next time.  Some will definitely be made again, others…not likely.  But hey that’s what trying new recipes is all about!

First up, Roquefort Mousse with Port Gelee, Walnuts & Pears.  This was one of those recipes that I had to improvise on the presentation.  The port gelee called for gelatin (which some of you may know is not vegetarian) and three of my guests are vegetarians so I decided to try an alternative.  I did some research and I couldn’t find agar agar P9260249(and didn’t leave myself enough time to order online) so I tried arrowroot.  Well, you can’t really see it in the photo but the gelee did not gel and I ended up with a separated port wine liquid.  It tasted OK so I continued on.  The mousse just sank into the liquid so I decided to precariously perch a small spoon on top of the glass and I piped the mousse on the spoon.  A pear and walnut garnish finish it off.  I learned I’m not a huge fan of Roquefort cheese but the combination of flavors was good. 

Next up…Sesame “Tofu” with Sour Cherry Topping.  I wasn’t sure what this dish would taste like.  A cracker with black and white sesame seeds, a round of sesame “tofu” and P9260250chopped cherry topping.  I love my Chinese spoons and I think this was the perfect appetizer for them.  Each of the components was made ahead and the finished bite was easily put together at the last minute.  The crackers were easy to make and I would make them again.  The “tofu” surprised me and was a smooth texture with a hint of sesame flavor.  The cherries had red wine.  I liked this little bite, the flavors worked really well together I just wish it had a little stronger flavor, everything was very subtle.

Next, was the hit of the party…Crispy Polenta with Pesto and Parmesan.  The recipe called for making each component from scratch but I pre-purchased all of these items and it was fantastic.  Small rounds of polenta fried in olive oil until crispy, a spoonful of pesto and a shave of parmesan.   Who knew something so simpleP9260251 would be so tasty?!  The hardest part was frying the polenta, oil spattered everywhere.  The basil had a little too much olive oil and it soaked through the polenta but they still tasted good.  One of my guest suggested when buying pesto, pour off the oil that separates on the top of the jar before you stir it up.  Good tip, thanks Erika!  That would totally help for next time!  I fancied these up by using a flower cookie cutter to cut the pesto.

P9260253 Another popular dish was the Carrot Soup with Ginger.  Isn’t that a pretty color?  Not your typical carrot soup, the puree was strained so it was very light and the ginger really brightened up the flavor.  When guests ask for the recipe I know they really mean it when they say something tastes good.  It’s always hard to tell if people are just being nice.  Honestly, these are not my personal original recipes so I don’t mind if people say they don’t like something, but I can tell by how many leftovers and recipe requests :)

Next, Shrimp with Apricot-Ancho Barbeque Sauce, another easy P9260254recipe.  The barbeque sauce was made one day ahead and brushed on the shrimp right after broiling.  I thought the sauce was OK and I would make it again.  Would I put it on shrimp? I don’t think so.  Honestly this was probably my least favorite dish of the night, so that’s really all I have to say about it.   

P9260255Finally, Mushroom Ragout with Gorgonzola Cream.  This dish was quite tasty and one I will likely make again.  I think the topping would actually pair well with a steak.  Crostini with shitaki mushrooms, heavy cream, and gorgonzola cheese. The garnish is a fried spinach leaf.  Be careful when frying these they spatter like crazy!  After they are fried they turn translucent and look pretty cool.

For munchies I made roasted chickpeas and puff pastry sticks.  The chickpeas are a great snack and all the comments I read on the P9260263recipe said to double it, I’m glad I did.  I used canned chickpeas, rinsed and dried them, then coated them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roasted for about an hour then sprinkled with smoked paprika.  The puff pastry sticks were made with parmesan cheese, half with smoked paprika and half with crushed red pepper.  Anything with puff pastry is always good. 

As I said earlier this was a lot of work but it was also a lot of fun to put together and execute.  One of my guests even said the spread looked like it belonged in a magazine!  Thanks Susan, I really appreciate that.

So that’s my bite size party.  I hope I’ve inspired you to try one of your own.  With a little planning and preparation you can do it!