Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nuts, Nuts, Nuts

I thought after two months of posting only hors d’oeuvres and finger foods I might get requests for something different, but all the feedback I am getting is asking me to continue until the holidays are over.  Whenever I serve cocktails, I serve nuts along with my typical hors d’oeuvre display.  Bars serve salted nuts to make you thirsty so you’ll buy more drinks, but I always serve nuts because I believe drinks and nuts complement one another.  Today I’m giving you the recipe for two of my favorite nuts.
The Glazed Pecans have a sweet and tart flavor.  The Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts are sweet, salty and spicy with the added flavor of fresh Rosemary….two very different flavor profiles.  I must admit, I like the Glazed Pecans better, but every time I serve the Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts, men can’t tear themselves away.
Glazed Pecans

§  1 cup pecan halves
§  1/4 cup brown sugar
§  1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
§  1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. 
In a large skillet over medium heat, stir brown sugar, oil and balsamic vinegar for about 2 -3 minutes until the sugar melts and syrup bubbles. 
Mix in the pecan halves and stir until the nuts are toasted and syrup coats them evenly, about 4 -5 minutes. 
Turn nuts out onto the prepared parchment paper and separate the nuts using 2 forks, dragging them out of any puddled liquid.
Cool completely.  Nuts can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container.
Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts

§  2 1/4 cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
§  2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
§  1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
§  2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
§  2 teaspoons sea salt
§  1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm and Enjoy! 
For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, got to Nuts, Nuts, Nuts.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Monte Cristo Poppers

The success of this blog has provided me many opportunities, the latest of which is having been asked to be a contributing writer in Travel Host Nashville Magazine.  This magazine is found in hotel rooms city wide and gives visitors to Nashville an overview of our city.  In each publication I will be featuring a local chef who will share a signature recipe with readers.  The first edition is in print and online.  Check out my feature article in the Chef’s Corner on page 46 in the first edition.

All my life I have seen Monte Cristo sandwiches on the menu but never dared order it.  I love the thought of a turkey, ham and cheese sandwich, but even I couldn’t rationalize ordering a sandwich that was deep fried, dusted in powdered sugar and dipped in raspberry jam.  It wasn’t until I met Ms. Frances, Grace's mother, did I dare eat one.  She loved Monte Cristo sandwiches but would rarely order one because it was so big, and she knew she couldn’t finish it. When I offered to share it with her, her eyes lit up and I have to say, so did mine.  I’m not sure if it was dining with me or knowing I was going to share the meal with her that excited her more.  I miss Ms. Frances who passed away earlier this year.  I wish she were here to see my new version of this old favorite.
These poppers have everything I love about the Monte Cristo sandwich…the crusty bread, powdered sugar, raspberry preserves, ham, turkey, and melted cheese, but they are bite size and perfect to serve as an hors d’oeuvre or on a buffet.

§  1 package of Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Biscuits (8 count)
§  1/2 pound of thinly sliced or shredded cooked ham
§  1/2 pound of thinly sliced or shredded cooked turkey
§  1/2 pound of thinly sliced or grated Swiss cheese
The amounts of sliced meats & cheese are approximate; structure the amounts to fit your tastes!
§  Panko breadcrumbs
§  Powdered Sugar
§  Raspberry Preserves
§  Oil for frying

The person at the deli counter is happy to thinly slice my cheese and shred my cold cuts to make them easier to stuff into the dough.
This recipe will make 32 poppers. Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces.  Using your hand or a rolling pin flatten out each piece into a small circle. Onto each disc of dough place a small amount of turkey, ham and Swiss cheese. 
Pinch together the dough to close and roll into a ball. Repeat for all 32 discs.  Roll each popper into Panko breadcrumbs.
Add enough oil to a heavy bottom small pot to be 2 inches deep.  I don’t like to waste a lot of oil on deep frying and do not reuse the oil, so I typically use a small saucepan and can only fry 2 or 3 poppers at a time.  It takes a little longer but I don’t use a lot of oil.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees and add the poppers, in batches, and fry until they are golden brown all over. It will only take a few minutes.
Remove poppers from the oil and place on plates lined with slightly crunched aluminum foil.  I like to use aluminum foil rather than paper towels as it creates small creases where the oil can drain.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are still warm. Serve warm with raspberry preserves for dipping.

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, got to Monte Cristo Poppers.  Enjoy!