Whipped Cream with Triple Sec
Holidays are rather like a culinary decathlon. A whirlwind of functions for which to cook and friends whom you’d like to please with just a nibble, a yummy dessert, or maybe a homey, comforting meal. Sure, you could pick some things up at the grocery store deli or the bakery, but there’s nothing like a little time in the kitchen to allow yourself to slow down and ponder all the riches of the seasonthe real ones. Play some Christmas music really, really loud and sing along; it’s much better than a day at the mall. Your friends will think so too.
Here are a few recipe ideas for holiday events and gift-giving.
Cheese straws are without question one of my favorite nibbles throughout the year. They’re especially handy at Christmas. The dough is a cinch to make in a food processorthen it can keep in the fridge for slicing and baking at will, and it’ll keep frozen for goodness knows how long. Once baked, the cheese straws will stay tasty for several days in an airtight tinperfect for taking to the office; however, they usually don’t stay around for that long. Addictively tasty, they’re much more festive than your average chip and dip.
makes about 50 small wafers
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne
4 oz. blue cheese at room temp.
1 c. walnuts, pulsed to fine
chop in a food processor
1/2 stick butter, softened
Using a food processor, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cayenne. Add the blue cheese, finely chopped nuts, and butter, and pulse to mix to a crumbly consistency. Gather the dough together with your hands and form into a rough log. Place in the center of a piece of film wrap, pull the wrap around the dough, and roll to make a log approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate at least one hour. (The dough can be refrigerated up to one week before use.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Unwrap the dough and place on a cutting board. Slice off thin wafers and place 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from the baking sheet and cool on wax or parchment paper. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.
Every year, a few of my closest friends get together for a small and casual celebration of accomplishments past and prospects yet to come. It’s my favorite party of the seasonit’s one evening I know that I can actually relax and enjoy myself. One of the reasons is that we always serve something savory, simple, and utterly satisfying, such as this beef pot pie. It may be made ahead of time up to the baking, when you just pop it into the oven.
1 1/2 to 2 lbs. stew beef
salt and pepper
2 T. flour
2 T. vegetable oil
3 T. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. beef or chicken broth
2 medium turnips,
peeled and chopped
3 medium carrots,
peeled and chopped
4 small new potatoes, quartered
1 t. chopped fresh rosemary,
or 1/2 t. dried rosemary
pastry for one 9- to 10-inch
1 egg yolk
1 T. milk
Trim the stew beef. I usually also cut the pieces smaller than they come from the store so that they’ll cook more quickly. Heat the oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven on top of the stove. Sprinkle the trimmed beef with salt and pepper, then flour. Brown the beef on all sides, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. You may need to do this in batches.
Remove the browned pieces from the skillet and wipe out the skillet or Dutch oven well. Place the pan back on the stove and melt the butter. Cook the onion in the butter on medium-high heat until translucent, about four minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the beef back to the skillet along with the stock. Bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and cook about one to one-and-a-half hours, until the beef is just tender.
Add the remaining vegetables, along with the rosemary and additional salt and pepper to taste. Cook until quite tender and the liquid is well reduced, about one hour more. Pour into a deep pie pan. Top with the pastry and vent it with some slits or decorative cut outs. Make an egg wash with the yolk and milk and paint over the pie. Bake until the crust is nicely browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with a big green salad and a simple, robust red wine, such as Rioja or Côtes du Rhône.
I love to make Christmas cookies for gifts, but I frequently don’t have time for all of the rolling, cutting, and icing, and I hate the mess. These are great for just those reasons; they’re quick to make up and then they’re just spooned onto the baking sheet to cook. They’re also delicious, quite simple, yet sophisticatedand they keep for a long time.
They actually contain tea. Earl Grey is flavored with a citrus fruit called Bergamot, which lends the teaand the cookiesa haunting aroma. Just the thing with a spot of sherry on a gloomy afternoon.
makes about 60 small cookies
4 bags Earl Grey tea
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. granulated sugar
5 T. butter, softened
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
Use one tea bag to make a cup of tea. Discard the tea bag and refrigerate the tea. Open the remaining bags and place the loose tea in a food processor along with the brown sugar. Pulse to a fine powder. Place in a mixing bowl and add the granulated sugar and butter. Cream until light and fluffy. Add the egg and 3 T. of the brewed tea. Mix thoroughly. On low speed, beat in the flour and salt. Cover the batter and let stand for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and drop 1/2 t. of batter 3 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes and quickly remove cookies to a wire rack. At this point, you may work cookies into tuilles or cups.
Cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to one week or may be frozen for several months.
I’m one of those rare creatures who’s not that crazy about chocolate or most things very sweet. This is my type of dessertdense and moist with just the right amount of sugar to end a lavish meal. Try it with a Sauterne. You may decorate the cake with a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar, or place a stencil of a snowflake or whatever you fancy over the cake and shake the sugar over that, making a beautiful design. Sliced kumquats around the border would be pretty as well.
5 T. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. mild olive oil
3/4 c. sugar
1 tube (7 oz.) almond paste
grated zest of 2 oranges
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
Preheat the oven to 325. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with wax or parchment paper.
Place the butter, olive oil, and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat until fluffy. Crumble the almond paste into the bowl and add the orange zest. Beat until smooth, then beat in the eggs. In a separate bowl, stir the flour and baking powder together. Mix this into the batter and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan. Invert the cake and place right side up on a platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve with whipped cream sweetened with Triple Sec (see next recipe).
enough for one cake
1/2 pt. heavy cream, well chilled
1 T. Triple Sec
Place the cream in the clean bowl of a mixer fitted with a wire whip. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the Triple Sec and beat to just under firm peaks. Serve cold.
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