A Fancy Fall Feast!

The gourmet girls met on Tuesday night, November 10, 2009 for another wonderful feast of delicious food! Bridget was very excited to break out all of her new fancy china for it's inaugural usage after receiving it for her wedding! We started the evening with appetizers by Lynley, Blue Cheese Tartlets, a recipe from a Williams Sonoma cookbook. Next was Jodi's excellent Pistachio and Pear Salad with Cilantro and Feta dressing (a recipe from a friend) and Lara's divine Beer Bread (another recipe from a friend). We might have devoured the entire loaf! By then the hens were finally cooked. (Tip: when buying frozen hens - I purchased mine at Snider's Meats in Holladay - allow two full days for them to thaw in your fridge. Mine were not quite thawed when I put them in the oven and took about an hour and twenty minutes to bake, including turning the oven up to 425 after an hour and turning the hens over once). I think the wait was well worth it however, because the hens were delicious! (Not hard to make, not too expensive - $3.79/hen, and a fun change from chicken or turkey). They were accompanied by Raquel's tasty Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans (a recipe from this month's Martha Stewart Magazine). And as if we were not completely stuffed by now, Andrea broke out her Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce and Whipped cream, a recipe from Thanksgiving Point. It was the perfect meal! The drink was a frozen concentrate Blueberry and Pomegranate juice, mixed with three cans of Sprite. Yummy! As always, we had a wonderful time catching up as friends!

The whole group (we're getting pretty good at the self-timer!) Andrea, Bridget, Jodi, Lynley, Raquel & Lara

Bridget, Jodi, Lynley, Raquel & Lara

Bridget, Jodi & Andrea

Raquel, Lara & Lynley

Blue Cheese Tartlets
The robust flavor of spinach or Swiss chard is more than a match for the tang of blue cheese in these bite-sized tarts. The pine nuts add a mellow richness to balance the assertive flavors of the cheese.
About 3/4 recipe (8 oz) Tart Pastry dough or purchased puff pastry
3 oz spinach or Swiss chard, trimmed
1 egg
2/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup shredded Emmentaler cheese
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 oz Roquefort cheese, crumbled
2 TBS pine nuts

If using tart pastry, prepare the dough and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you are ready to roll it out. If using commercial puff pastry, defrost in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Plunge the spinach into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Immediately drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking. Drain again, pressing against the greens to force out as much water as possible. Set aside.
Break the egg into a bowl. Add the cream, Emmentaler cheese, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Beat with a fork until completely blended. Coarsely chop the spinach and add it to the bowl. Stir well.
On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out as thinly as possible. Sprinkle the Roquefort cheese evenly over the dough. With a fluted pastry cutter about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out 18 dough rounds. Use the rounds to line 18 individual tartlet pans, the cups in tartlet trays, or miniature muffin pans. If using individual pans, arrange them on a large baking sheet. Fill each pastry-lined pan with some of the egg mixture and scatter a few pine nuts on top. Bake until the filling sets and the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Pistachio and Pear Salad with Cilantro and Feta Dressing
Mixed greens
Manchego cheese
2 2 inch strips - 1/4 inch wide lime zest - I used nearly half of a lime
2 1/2 TBS lime juice
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 hot green chile chopped and seeded
1 1/2 TBS cilantro
2/3 cup olive oil
5 TBS feta crumbled
1/2 tsp salt

Cornish Hens with Cornbread Stuffing
For the stuffing:
1 stick butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 cups medium-diced celery (3 stalks)
3 TBS chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
For the hens:
6 fresh Cornish hens (1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the over to 400 degrees. For the stuffing, melt the butter in a medium saute pan, add the onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until translucent. Off the heat, add the celery, parsley, cornbread, and chicken stock and mix well. Set aside.
For the hens, rinse them inside and out, removing any pin feathers, and pat the outsides dry. In a roasting pan that's just large enough to hold the hens loosely, first toss in the onions and then place the hens on top, breast side up. Sprinkle the insides of the hens with salt and pepper and loosely fill the cavities with the stuffing. (If there is stuffing left over, bake it in a separate pan until heated through.) Tie the legs of each hen together and tuck the wings under the bodies. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 50 to 60 minutes, until the skin is browned and the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Serve a whole hen per person.

Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans
This dish is best the day it's made but can be prepared a few hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature until you're ready to serve.
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 cup wild rice
3 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped
2 TBS chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot, and cook stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add rice, and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock, and bring to a biol. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until rice is tender and starting to burst, 45 to 50 minutes. Drain any excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl.
2. White rice cooks, preheat over to 400 degrees. Arrange pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast until browned and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop pecans.
3. Add toasted pecans, cranberries, raisins and parsley to rice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Beer Bread
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix together (I recommend doing this by hand for a better texture):
3 cups SELF-RISING flour
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Add in:
1 12 oz bottle beer (I recommend Miller Genuine Draft but you can experiment if you want)
Pour Batter into greased bread loaf pan and put in oven.
Bake 15 minutes and then open oven and baste/pour over with 1/3 cube of butter.
Bake final 15 minutes and remove bread from oven. Baste/pour final 1/3 cube of butter. Let cook in pan slightly before slicing but serve warm!
You can certainly under bake a bit . . and you can lighten up on the butter - use 1/2 cube total.

Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce
(Thanksgiving Point)

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