Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Christmas 101;" "Emeril's Potluck;" "Holiday Fare - Favorite Williamsburg Recipes" - Holiday party fare - appetizers and cookies

Dates I made these recipes:  Week of November 30, 2015 – Holiday Party Fare!

Christmas 101 (revised 2007 edition) by Rick Rodgers, Author of Thanksgiving 101
Published by:  William Morrow
ISBN:  978-0-06-122734-9
Purchased at Barnes and Noble Used books, Barnes and Noble, St. Paul, MN
Recipe:  Stilton and Walnut Balls – p. 11
Recipe: Mocha Nut Crinkles – p. 126-127

Emeril's Potluck – Comfort Food with a Kicked-Up Attitude by Emeril Lagasse
Published by:  William Morrow
ISBN:  0-68-816431-5
Purchased at Goodwill
Recipe:  Kicked-Up Spinach and Artichoke Dip – p. 33-34

Holiday Fare – Favorite Williamsburg Recipes by John R. Gonzales
Published by:  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia
ISBN:  0-87935-196-9
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  Cheese and Chive Crisps – p. 14

'Tis the season to be jolly and, of course, to get things going by making and then eating holiday party food.  It's a good thing that calories don't count at this time of year (wink, wink) because these recipes have just a few grams of fat.  Just a few.  But they are all delicious and if they are delicious then nothing else matters.

Although Andy and I made all these recipes for our annual Mistletoe Madness© holiday open house, you don't need to plan a party as an excuse to make any of these for your own bad selves.  You may need to cut the recipes down as I did with most of the recipes but that all depends on what else you are serving.  We typically make a couple of hot appetizers, several spreads and cheese balls and then about a half dozen sweet treats.  And although in the early years of party planning, I relied heavily on my cookbook collections for party food recipes, these days I mix and match cookbook recipes with those found on the internet or in magazines.  It's all about what we're in the mood to eat.

If you saw our entire menu, then you would see why I joked to friends that this year's fare was "The Year of Meat and Cheese" because recipes either fell into one camp or the other (save for dessert).  We didn't plan it that way but somehow we compiled a plethora of recipes in these categories and didn't see any reason to hold back.  And so for your consideration in the "cheese" category, we have the Stilton and Walnut Ball (made with either Tawny Port or, as we did it, Madeira), Emeril Lagasse's Kicked-Up Spinach and Artichoke Dip, containing brie, Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheese, and the cheese and chive crisps, made with sharp cheddar and Parmesan, as well as Cheese and Chive Crisps.  You're welcome, National Dairy Council!  And then for good measure, we threw in the Mocha Nut Crinkles.

Let's start with the Mocha Nut Crinkles.  I've made variations of these before and so was dismayed when the first batch I made came out chewy instead of light and...crinkly.  I checked over all my ingredients and determined the problem to be that they were chilled too long (the recipe calls for 2 hours). Or, as Andy and I like to joke, "chillaxed."  This also happened with another refrigerator cookie recipe I made for pistachio cookies.  I ended up remaking and re-chilling both cookie doughs and the results were much more to my satisfaction.  Prior to this, I told friends that I was going to rename the cookies Mocha Nut "Chews."  (As an aside, this is why I try to make as many party items in advance so I can fix anything that goes wrong.)

Runner-up in the "degree of difficulty" contest was Emeril's spinach dip which is made using fresh spinach that you blanch and then chop.  Frankly, that part was a little messy and so I think that when I make this again, I'm going to just use frozen.  But it's so very "Food Network" to use fresh spinach (better if you grow it yourself) that I stuck to the plan, Stan.  My only tiny complaint is I made it the night before, then reheated it in the oven but it wasn't very hot so I microwaved it for a few minutes with fantastic results:  all the cheese melted and it went from just "so-so" to "fantastic" just like that.  I'm definitely going to make a note of that for next time.

The Cheese and Chive Crisps were very easy to make and very good but the hand's down winner of the "no degree of difficulty" contest was the Stilton and Walnut Cheese Balls.  I mean, how hard is it to mix cream cheese, Stilton cheese and liquor and then roll it in walnuts?  Not very hard at all, at all!  And when it comes to party time, Andy and I both want more of the "not very hard at all" recipes than we do "incredible degree of difficulty" which is why we have eliminated some of the following from our menu:  anything fried, anything with phyllo dough (hate that stuff – what a mess), anything to be made in a wok, anything with 22 steps that needs to be done the morning of, seafood (messy and stinky) and anything requiring a fork.  In other words, a short list!

All of these dishes should land on your holiday entertaining short list.  Or your Super Bowl party short list.  Or your birthday party short list.  Or heck, your "who needs a stinking list" list.  Enjoy!

Stilton and Walnut Balls – makes 12 to 16 appetizer servings
Can be made up to 5 days ahead
8 ounces Stilton or other blue cheese, rind removed, at room temperature
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons tawny port (Ann's Note:  we didn't have that on hand so I used Madeira)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Water crackers for serving
Cored, sliced, ripe Bosc pears, tossed with lemon juice to discourage browning, for serving

In a medium bowl, using a rubber spatula, mash the Stilton and cream cheese together until smooth.  Work in the port and pepper.  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the work surface, and scrape the cheese mixture into the center of the wrap.  Use the plastic wrap to form the cheese mixture into a ball (it will be soft).  Refrigerate until the ball is chilled and firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, unwrap the ball and roll in the chopped nuts.  Transfer to a platter and serve with the crackers and pears.

(Emeril Lagasse's) Kicked-Up Spinach and Artichoke Dip – makes 4 to 8 servings
Two 10-ounce packages fresh spinach, well rinsed and stems trimmed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup (6 ½ ounces) ½-inch cubes Brie cheese, rind removed
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
One 6 ½-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
4 strips crisp fried bacon, chopped
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for topping)
Assorted chips, such as pita chips, tortilla chips, and bagel chips, for dipping

Ann's Note:  Emeril wants you to start by preheating the oven to 350 and greasing a 9-inch round ovenproof chafing dish and setting that aside but this dish takes some time to assemble.  I preheated my oven about halfway through.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.  Drain and refresh under cold running water.  Squeeze the spinach to remove excess water and chop.  Set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, to make a light roux, about 2 minutes.  Add the milk and cream in a steady stream, and coo, stirring constantly, until thick and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. [Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9-inch round ovenproof chafing dish.]  Add the cooked spinach and lemon juice and stir to incorporate.  Add the cubed Brie and grated Monterey Jack cheeses, artichoke hearts, and bacon and stir well.  Remove from the heat and pour into the prepared dish.  Top with the Parmesan cheese and bake until bubbly, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot with chips.

Ann's Note:  If you are not serving right away, put this dish in the microwave for about 2 minutes until cheese melts.

Cheese and Chive Crisps – makes about 36  (Ann's Note:  the dough needs to chill for at least an hour before baking.)
½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup all-purpose flour

Beat the cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, butter, chives, cayenne pepper, salt, and Worcestershire sauce with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth.

Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon just until the flour is evenly incorporated.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough evenly and shape by hand into two 1-inch-diameter logs.  Wrap the logs in plastic and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the logs into ½-inch thick disks and place them on an ungreased baking sheet.  Using the back of a fork dusted with flour, gently push down on the disks to partially flatten them.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the undersides are nicely browned.

Serve warm or allow the crisps to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container.

Mocha Nut Crinkles – makes 4 dozen
Make ahead:  The dough must be chilled for at least 2 hours.  The cookies can be baked up to 1 week ahead.  Ann's Note:  If you can't bake them within 2 hours, the dough might become too cold, making for chewy rather than light and fluffy.

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
5 tablespoons milk
1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder (the author says if you can't find this, substitute either ½ teaspoon coffee extract or regular instant coffee)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup (2 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts
¾ cup confectioners' sugar for rolling

In the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the water and cool the chocolate until tepid.

In a glass measuring cup, heat 1 tablespoon of the milk in a microwave on High until boiling.  Add the espresso powder and stir to dissolve.  Stir in the remaining ¼ cup milk.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  In another large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer set at high speed, beat together the granulated sugar and shortening until well combined.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.  Reduce the mixers speed to low.  Mix in the melted chocolate.  A third at a time, alternately beat in the flour and milk mixtures.  Stir in the walnuts.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 2 hours.

Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Place the confectioners' sugar in a small bowl.  Using 1 tablespoon for each, roll the dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls in confectioners' sugar to coat, then place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with nonstick baking pads.

Bake, switching the position of the baking sheets from top to bottom and back to front halfway through baking, until the cookies are set with crisp edges, about 15 minutes.  Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 

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