2011 Gourmet Kick-Off!

All seven of the gourmet girls kicked off  the new year on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at Miss Raquel's with a lovely winter theme.  We started the evening off with yummy Grilled Bread with Prosciutto by Jodi.  This recipe is from the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook: How Easy is That?  Bridget brought Apple & Spiced Pecan Salad from Keeping Up Cookbook.  Andrea made delicious Braided Egg Bread from Peacocks on My Porch.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this cookbook, it is a local cookbook - a wonderful collection of recipes put together by Whitney Pogue and Tara Lewis.  Our main dish was Chocolate Spiced Pork Chops (a Paula Deen recipe) by Raquel.  We were favored with two side dishes - Creamy Parmesan Polenta  (from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?)  by Lara and Creamed Cipollini Onions and Mushrooms (Food and Wine) by LS. True to form, Lynley made up her own desert recipe - a sugar cookie crust, almond pudding filling, topped with whipped cream and lots of fresh berries!
   Bridget, Laura, Jodi

  Raquel, Lynley, Lara

 Laura & Andrea

 Jodi & Bridget

 Grilled Bread with Prosciutto

6 slices of good Tuscan round bread, sliced 3/4 inch think
1 large garlic clove, cut in half
Good olive oil
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn in pieces
2 ounces fresh smoked mozzarella, grated
3 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Prepare a charcoal grill with medium-hot coals or turn a gas grill to medium high heat.

Grill the bread for 2 minutes, until golden on one side.  Place the bread grilled side up on a platter and immediately rub the cut side of the garlic clove over the surface of the bread.  For really garlicky fettunta, rub hard.  Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over each slice of bread. 

Place the torn prosciutto over the grilled side of the bread and top with mozzarella.  Return to bread to the hot grill, cover the grill, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes - just long enough to melt the cheese and rewarm the toast.  (Be sure the vent is open so the fire doesn't go out!)  Drizzle with a little more olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, salt, and pepper, and serve hot.

 Apple & Spiced Pecan Salad

6-8 cups assorted greens (anything but iceberg)
3/4 cups crumbled feta cheese
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large red-skinned apple, diced (I used a Gala)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 teaspoon salt
Dash Tabasco sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Spiced Pecans
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Over medium heat, melt butter in a pan and add sugar, spices and salt.  Add pecan pieces and stir until well-coated.  Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar caramelizes and pecans darken slightly in color.  Transfer mixture to a paper bag to cool.  Shake bag occasionally to break up pieces.

Assemble salad ingredients and top with cooled pecans.  To avoid browning, apples can be added to directly to dressing, or diced just prior to serving.  Toss salad with dressing and serve.

 Braided Egg Bread
2 cups warm water
1/2  cup warm water 
2 Tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup honey 
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 cup oil
8-12 cups white flour

In a small bowl, prepare yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and dash of sugar.  In a large mixing bowl, blend 2 cups warm water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 3 cups flour.  Add additional flour and yeast mixture to large bowl.  Continue adding flour until the dough leaves the sides of the mixing bowl clean while mixing.  Continue to mix for 10 minutes.Cover dough and let rise to double in size - about 45 minutes.  Punch down and separate dough into 4 equal portions.  Divide each portion into 3 pieces for braiding.  Roll each piece into a long log shape.  Pinch three pieces together at the top and begin braiding.  Place braid into greased bread pan or onto baking sheet and tuck under each end.  Beat one egg.  Brush top of each loaf with beaten egg.  Sprinkle sesame seeds across the top of loaves (optional).  Cover each loaf and let rise until double in size - about 45 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

This makes a huge batch, so they recommend cutting the recipe in half.

 Creamy Parmesan Polenta

4 cups chicken stock (can use vegetable or mushroom stock as well)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground, medium grain
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (the original recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon, but Lara finds it too salty)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/4 cup creme fraiche (or whipping cream)
2 Tablespoons butter

Place the chicken stock in a large saucepan.  Add the garlic and cook over medium-high heat until the stock comes to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and very slowly whisk in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps.  Switch to a wooden spoon, add the salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring almost constantly, for 10 minutes, until thick.  Be sure to scrape the pan thoroughly while you are stirring.  Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, cream and butter.  Taste for seasonings, and serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.

Lynley's Made-Up Fruit Torte


Raquel's fun winter decor - including this gorgeous wreath she MADE!