Cake pops are all the rage these days because they deliver all the flavors of a large piece of cake in one bite size round. After a full meal of corn fritters, homemade ricotta, short ribs, whipped potatoes and panzanella (whoa) – you are not going to have room for a big dessert. My devil’s food, peppermint cake truffles pack the ultimate holiday punch of flavors in an itty, bitty living space. (If you just got that movie quote, you should be proud and ashamed at the same time…just as I am…)
Before you lay out your gorgeous tray of desserts, treat yourself and your guests to a sip or two of the classic holiday after dinner drink – Barnard Griffin Syrah Port 2009. The aromas of chocolate and toasty wood will have your mouth watering for dark chocolate and peppermint spices. I can taste them already…
Devil’s Food Boxed Cake Mix
12 ounces chocolate bar for melting
6-8 Candy Canes
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces and softened
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake batter according to package directions.
While cake is cooling, in a stand mixer, cream the sugar, butter and cream cheese together until light and creamy. Add peppermint extract and mix to incorporate. Set aside.
Once the cake has cooled, crumble the cake using the tongs of a fork and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the frosting to cake and mix thoroughly. Using a small ice cream scoop, portion out the cake truffles and place them on the prepared baking sheet (try to keep them as round as possible). Chill the cake truffles for an hour in the freezer.
Add candy canes to a small ziploc bag and using a heavy pan or meat pounder crush lightly.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler by placing a heatproof bowl over a small pot of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.
Once the chocolate is melted, dip the cake truffles into the chocolate and, using 2 forks, gently turn the cake in the chocolate. Place the chocolate covered cake truffles back on a sheet of parchment paper and top with the crushed candy canes. Return them to the refridgerator to set, about 30 more minutes.
There are so many different things you can do to potatoes to make them pretty and fancy. But I believe the best potato is still the classic whipped (or mashed) potato. All you need underneath those Decandent Syrah Short Ribs is a heaping spoonful of creamy … velvetly … buttery … whipped potatoes. Is your mouth watering yet?
When it comes to serving wines for the main course, we’ve got you covered. A big bold red for the short ribs; a lighter but still lush and balanced red, Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir 2010 for the whipped potatoes and bread salad; and an elegant, fresh gavi white wine for the salad. A wine for every taste; perfectly paired with the meal but heck it’s the holidays – drink in any order you’d like!
3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into equal-size chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 cup whole milk
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and black pepper, to taste
In a large pot, add the potatoes and garlic, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, season generously with salt and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and immediately put them through a food mill (garlic too!) over a serving bowl that is oven safe. If you don’t have a food mill, you can hand mash or use a hand mixer.
Add milk and butter and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Keep in a low oven to stay warm until you’re ready to serve.
Why don’t we use our slow cookers for holiday dinners? It does just as good of a job on Christmas dinner as it does for a weeknight meal. And it leaves you time to get everything else prepared! It’s a no-brainer.
My absolute favorite thing to make in a slow cooker is a batch of short ribs. These are show stopping delicious, decadent short ribs braised in one of my favorite syrahs. You will even be surprised these came out of a slow cooker and you made them!
It’s not everyday that you will find a #25 on the Top 100 Wines of 2011 for under $30. And it’s not everyday that you’ll get to taste a truly “smokey” red wine because the grapes themselves were actually smokey from a wildfire. Today is that day. Owen Roe Syrah Ex Umbris 2009 speaks true to it’s name, “out of the shadows.” You will be a big fan of this one cooked into the short ribs and along side them.
7-8 pounds beef short ribs (sounds like a lot but they shrink a lot as they cook)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs each fresh oregano and rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Allow short ribs to come to room temperature before working with them. When ready, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Tie parsley, oregano and rosemary together with kitchen twine. Add herbs and all vegetables to the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Working in batches (3-4 ribs per batch) sear the short ribs and add them to the slow cooker right on top of the vegetables. After all ribs are seared, deglaze the pan with the red wine, scrapping up all the brown bits from the bottom. Add wine and beef broth to the slow cooker.
Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours until the short ribs are falling off the bone. Remove the bunch of herbs and all the meat from the slow cooker, set aside.
Carefully pour vegetables and liquid into a strainer over a small saucepan. Add vegetables back to slow cooker and bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 20 minutes until reduced by half and thickened. Skim fat off the top before serving.
Top a generous spoonful of Whipped Mashed Potatoes with short rib meat, vegetables and gravy. Sprinkle with parsley and lemon zest.
What does your typical holiday party have as an appetizer before dinner? Crackers… cheese …. olives … been there, done that. Although there is a reason for these choices – they are low maintenance and not filling. If you give yourself 10 extra minutes for the appetizer course and you can have something unexpected and delicious. You can serve light, airy, fluffy corn fritters with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce to entice the taste buds and get your palette ready for the big holiday dinner. And to satisfy a craving for rich and creamy – Homemade Ricotta with Polenta Crostini.
Now let’s talk wine. What wine entices the palette like these appetizers will? Think light, think refreshing and of course low maintenance. Chardonnay! Who doesn’t enjoy a great Chardonnay? Enter Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2009. A well structured, sophisticated favorite with stone fruit flavors, hints of green apple and may we say – a creme brulee after taste? A great way to start the night…
Corn Fritters with Red Chili Honey
1 3/4 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons chives, minced
1 cup corn kernels
1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup honey
2 teaspoons red chili flakes
In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk and chives. Gradually whisk flour into egg mixture until moistened. Fold in corn. Mixture will look watery.
Pour oil into heavy skillet, heat to 375° F over medium heat. Drop batter by the tablespoonful, a few at a time, into hot oil. Fry 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, flipping half way through. (Be careful! The corn kernels may pop will frying so watch out for hot oil popping out of the pot.) Place fritters on a baking sheet over paper towels to catch excess oil. Sprinkle with salt while they’re hot.
In a small bowl, mix red chili flakes and honey. Serve alongside the fritters for dipping.
You are not going to believe this but homemade ricotta is easyyyy! In the world we live the word “homemade” is daunting to many. This homemade means lightly boiling some milk and then letting it sit for a couple hours while you make everything else. Not daunting, right? And the best part; when you use that magically word “homemade” your guests will be so impressed! (It’ll be our little secret.)
Now onto something else that frightens the masses.. what wine do I serve?! dun, dun, dun. Don’t fret my pets, the wine you are going to serve at your party for appetizers is a wine that everyone loves – good ol’ Chardonnay. Patz and Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2009 packs a punch for being a $30 bottle of wine. With a refreshing structure and natural richness, it’s inviting with just the right amount of heavy body to compliment your impressive rich homemade ricotta and light, airy corn fritters. Welcome friends and family!
6 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
- In a medium saucepan, add milk, heavy cream, vinegar and salt. Place over a medium heat and slowly bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, until you see curds beginning to form.
- Place a mesh strainer over a large bowl. Line the strainer with several layers of damp cheesecloth. Gently pour the milk mixture through the strainer and let drain for 15 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze any excess liquid from the ricotta.
- Transfer the ricotta to a serving dish and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup polenta
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated Parmesan
Fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
- In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add salt, reduce heat to the medium.
- Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk for 5 minutes as the mixture bubbles. Remove from heat, switch to a wooden spoon and continue to stir until the mixture pulls away from the sides, about 5 minutes. Add nutmeg, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
- Invert a rimmed baking sheet on a countertop and cover the surface with parchment paper. Spread the polenta out with a spatula into a smooth, even layer. Cover the polenta with another sheet of parchment paper. Place another baking sheet, right side up, on top of the parchment. With 2 hands, press down evenly on the top baking sheet until the polenta is 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- Remove the top baking sheet and the top layer of parchment paper. Cut the polenta into triangles (about 2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide). Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add triangles to pan, a few at a time and allow to cook until golden brown and crispy, 3-4 minutes per side. Carefully remove triangles from pan and lay on cooling rack to cool.