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A January Menu for 6

Baba Ghanoush & Crackers
Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Christmas Salad
Red Wine Braised Duck Legs
Fennel, Celery Root and Potato Purée
Arugula Salad
Grand Marnier Soufflée with Crème Anglaise

With busy schedules it is difficult to find the time to entertain friends at home, but with this menu plan you can spread the work out over several days. Following each recipe here you will find suggestions for advance preparation and at the end I have added shopping lists. I hope you enjoy this winter menu and time to relax with your guests.

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush

1 large eggplant
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped or grated
1 T. tahini paste
2 T. plain Greek 2% yogurt
2 T. lemon juice, or to taste
1/4 t. cayenne
1 t. ground cumin
salt to taste

There are 2 ways to cook the eggplant, one on a barbecue or grill, the other in the oven. Most recipes suggest one or the other. But I like to do both! I like the smoky taste that results from the grilling method, but it takes tending and I like the convenience of grilling it briefly for the flavour, then putting it in the oven to soften. What follows is my hybrid method.

Place the eggplant directly on a barbecue or over a gas element on the stove, rotating it with tongs as it begins to char. This will take about 5 minutes. Then pierce the eggplant all over with a fork, place it on a baking pan, and bake at 450ºF until very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Alternatively, you can do all the cooking in the oven, allowing slightly more time so that the eggplant is very soft.

Regardless of which cooking method you choose, once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel the charred skin off the eggplant and discard it. Slice off the stem and scoop out some of the seeds and discard. In a bowl, mash the flesh well, then add garlic, tahini, yogurt, lemon juice and seasonings, to taste. Serve it with pita bread or crackers. Shown here are Mary’s Organic Crackers which are a perfect size for appetizer bites.
In Advance: Baba Ghanoush keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Christmas Salad

Christmas Salad 2

I love the appearance and the flavour and texture combinations in this salad. The refreshing orange and mint, creamy cheese and salty speck make this a wonderful first course. Jamie Oliver’s recipe calls for arugula, but for this menu I used spinach since I wanted to accompany the duck with the refreshing bite of arugula. If you prefer, you could use arugula in the salad and a green vegetable with the duck.

1-2 large balls of buffalo mozzarella, or bocconcini (2 – 3T. in total per salad)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1 lemon
3 oranges, peeled, white pith removed, and sliced
3 c. spinach leaves
1 small radicchio, roughly torn
1 small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
lemon oil dressing (see below)
6 slices speck (smoked prosciutto)
freshly shaved parmesan cheese
2-3 T. balsamic vinegar

Lemon dressing:
3 T. fresh lemon juice
8 T. extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

On each of six individual plates, place one chunk of torn mozzarella. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grate lemon zest over top. Arrange 3 orange slices, slightly overlapping the cheese. In a separate bowl, toss the spinach, raddichio and half of the mint with some lemon dressing. The dressing should be quite tart, so use sparingly. Roll 6 small portions of the greens in slices of speck and lay this decoratively on top of the fruit and cheese. There will be greens remaining which should now be arranged on each plate. Top with shaved parmesan and sprinkle very lightly with balsamic vinegar.
In advance: Make dressing several days ahead, cover and refrigerate; early in the day, peel orange, combine spinach, radicchio and mint in a bowl and refrigerate.

Red Wine Braised Duck Legs

duck 2

This recipe is one that I have worked on for a while, always trying to achieve moist and tender duck with crispy skin. The added benefit to my method is that you can prepare most of the dish in advance.

6 large whole duck legs
2 t. Kosher Salt
2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
8 fresh thyme sprigs
1 c. dried sour cherries, divided
1/2 cup dry red wine
4-5 cups chicken broth
arugula or green vegetable

Preheat oven to 350°F.Trim duck legs of excess fat, prick with a fork all over and season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. In a covered baking pan that is just large enough to hold the legs in one layer, make a bed for the duck with the garlic, thyme and 1/2 c. of the cherries. Place duck legs over top. Boil the stock and pour it over top so that the level of liquid comes just below the surface of the duck. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven. Lift out the duck, place it on a baking sheet, cool slightly,  cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to finish.

Pour braising mixture into a 1-quart measuring cup and let stand until fat rises to the top. Skim off fat and pour liquid through a sieve into a saucepan, pressing hard on the solids. Boil liquid until reduced by about one third and slightly thickened and add remaining 1/2 cup dried cherries. Simmer sauce until fruit is softened, about 5 minutes, and season with salt and pepper. Sauce may be made in advance and reheated while you finish the duck.

About 40 minutes before you want to serve the duck, preheat the oven to 500°F. When the temperature is reached, place baking sheet with duck in the oven and roast until the skin is well-browned and crisp, about 25 minutes. Serve with vegetable purée and arugula salad (about 1 cup of arugula per serving, tossed with a squeeze of lemon juice and some good extra-virgin olive oil) or a cooked green vegetable. Top duck with sauce.
In advance: cook duck early in the day; make sauce; keep both refrigerated until ready for the last stage of cooking, as described above.

Fennel, Celery Root and Potato Purée
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten‘s recipe. To make it less sweet, I have reduced the apple and substituted chicken broth for the apple cider.

4 T. unsalted butter
1 c. large-diced fennel bulb, tops and core removed
2 pounds celery root, peeled and (3/4-inch) diced
8 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and (3/4-inch) diced
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and (3/4-inch) diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pan. Add the fennel, celery root, potatoes, apples, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Saute the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the stock and tightly cover the pot. Simmer over very low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft. If the vegetables begin to burn or they seem dry, add another few tablespoons of stock or some water.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the cream and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer the mixture to a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade and process. You can also use a food processor but the texture will be smoother than with the food mill. Taste for salt and pepper and return to the pot to keep warm.
In advance: Can be prepared one or two days in advance.

Grand Marnier Soufflée

GM Souflee cooked

You may be surprised to know that these are relatively easy to make and that you can put them together in advance, then bake just before serving. They always make an impression! I have made some minor changes to the original recipe which can be found on Epicurious.

3/4 stick (6 T.) unsalted butter, plus additional for buttering ramekins
1 c. sugar, plus additional for coating ramekins
1/4 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole milk
7 large egg yolks
1/4 t. vanilla
2 T. Grand Marnier
8 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously butter eight 1-cup (3 1/2 x 2-inch) ramekins and coat with sugar, knocking out excess sugar.

In a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, melt 3/4 stick butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until mixture is very thick and pulls away from sides of pan. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool 5 minutes. In a large bowl whisk together yolks, vanilla, and a pinch salt, and whisk in milk mixture and Grand Marnier, whisking until smooth.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat in 1 cup sugar, a little at a time, and beat meringue until it just holds stiff peaks. Whisk about one fourth meringue into yolk mixture to lighten and with a rubber spatula fold in remaining meringue gently but thoroughly.

Spoon batter into ramekins, filling them just to the rim. Arrange them in a large baking pan at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Add enough hot water to pan to reach halfway up sides of ramekins and bake soufflés in middle of oven 20 minutes, or until puffed and tops are golden.

Remove pan from oven and transfer ramekins to dessert plates. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately. Ask guests to open the top of their souffl
ée and pour some crème anglaise into opening.
In Advance: You can spoon batter into ramekins, cover them individually, then freeze for a few days, or refrigerate for a few hours. Bake as directed, allowing about 10 minutes longer if frozen.

Crème Anglaise
1 c. half-and-half
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
3 T. sugar
1 t. cornstarch
1-2 T. Grand Marnier

In a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan bring half-and-half and heavy cream just to a boil. While cream mixture is heating, in a bowl whisk together yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until slightly thickened and pale, about 2 minutes. Add hot cream mixture in a stream, whisking, and transfer custard to pan. Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until a thermometer registers 180°F., about 2 minutes (do not let custard boil). Transfer custard to cleaned bowl, stir in Grand Marnier and cool to warm, stirring occasionally.
In Advance: Crème anglaise may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.

Shopping List

1 large eggplant
3 heads garlic
4 large lemons
3 navel oranges
3 c. fresh baby spinach
1 small head radicchio
1 small bunch fresh mint
8 sprigs thyme
1 bulb fennel
1 celery root, 2 lbs.
8 oz. Yukon Gold potatoes
4 c. arugula
2 Golden Delicious apples

1 carton plain Greek yogurt
1-2 large balls buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini
Parmesan cheese
1 lb. unsalted butter
1/4 heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
9 eggs
1 c. half and half

6 slices speck
6 duck legs

ground cumin

Special Ingredients
1 c. dried sour cherries
1/2 c. dry red wine
5-6 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. Grand Marnier
tahini paste

extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Sidney Williams #

    My Dear, Its way to much work for me!!!! You are amazing! I love that salad. When you are here (and Monday to Monday is fine, and do you mean March 4-11?), maybe you will be kind enough to make some of it for Erik’s birthday????


    January 28, 2013

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