Monday, December 21, 2009



As some of you know from my “I Love Meat, But…” blog in October, I have been in a Book Group that’s morphed into a “The Food & Wine’s The Thing, Never Mind The Book” Book Group. Over the years we’ve had a couple of brief ‘intermissions’ and members have come and gone, but those of us ‘left standing’ have become a ‘family.’ We try to meet once a month at each other’s homes to catch-up, eat and drink. And for those of us who don’t love to cook all that much, there’s wonderful gourmet, heat-it-up “take-out” (and, at times when it’s my turn, my husband’s wonderful cooking).

Every few years our The Food & Wine’s The Thing, Never Mind The Book, Book Group (hereafter referred to TF&WTTNMTBBG) has a holiday dinner party that includes our husbands… a progressive dinner in that each couple provides a course. We had a truly lovely party last year, so I wasn’t thinking about one for this year, but at our last TF&WTTNMTBBG meeting I was carried away by impending holiday spirit (or the wine) and volunteered to host a TF&WTTNMTBBG holiday party… I mean the house would be decorated anyway, right?! Just because we were having our annual Christmas Eve open house for the entire county of Los Angeles (OK, I’m exaggerating – but at least 30-35 people will be coming and Richard does all the cooking – I make brownies) doesn’t mean we can’t host a sit-down dinner for 13/14 the week before, right?! I mean we’re only providing the appetizers and champagne cosmos, a bottle of white and a bottle of red … No big deal, right?! Yeh, right.

Heaven forbid I put out a cheese platter and a few ‘spreads’ from our local gourmet shop… Not with my husband co-hosting! So for three days before the party I decorated, washed more than a dozen champagne glasses, more than two dozen wine glasses (the red & white thing), more than a dozen ‘cordial’ glasses and more than a dozen water glasses… figured out how to make my antique pine dinner table that sits 8 comfortably expand to over a dozen (a long, wide piece of plywood on top helped)… iron holiday linens… set the table, set up a bar area, etc., etc. WHILE Richard made his appetizers.  Sadly, I was so busy washing glasses and ironing linens I was a little 'lax' in my food picture taking, but I did remember to snap the table.

The first appetizer was a ‘canape’ straight out of Thomas Keller’s “French Laundry” cookbook, page 49 (or on-line): Parmigiano-Reggiano Crisps w/ Goat Cheese Mousse.

The second was shrimp on a fork w/ avocado salsa, also straight out of the Thomas Keller cookbook, page 46 (or on-line).

The third was an Ossabaw dip. Translation: roasted garlic and sun-dried tomato cheese spread (recipe below).

And the fourth appetizer was salmon poached in champagne w/ a mustard dill sauce make from cream cheese, mayo, champagne honey mustard and chopped fresh dill – blended to taste.

See what I mean, between marketing, prepping, cooking, assembling = 3 days!

But everyone else outdid themselves.

Our first course was a rich butternut squash/pumpkin soup. It was so good you felt buttered, squashed and pumped.

The salad course was a sensational concoction of arugula, radicchio, pomegranate seeds, sliced persimmons w/ prosciutto and fresh burrata cheese in a honey mustard dressing.

The entrée was delectable curried chicken and rice w/ many tasty toppings including homemade chutney, raisins, peanuts, toasted coconut, chopped scallions, and cilantro w/ a side of fresh, sautéed (in butter!) string beans.

Sorry, the only pic I remembered to take
of  the tasty toppings was when we
were all cleaning up - but on the plus side you get to see
one of the leftover Ossabaw dips, too 

And then came the dessert, an amazing cheesecake w/ a raspberry grand marnier sauce which you can read all about on my friend’s own food blog:

We ate, we sipped wine, we sipped port and we stole each other’s grab bag presents and when the dinner party was over, we felt sated and happy and very ho, ho, ho’d…

Happy Holidays everyone!

Ossabaw Dip
(Roasted Garlic & Sun-dried Tomato Cheese Spread)

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Cool: 15 minutes


5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons olive oil
¾ cup sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup dry white wine
1-1/2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Place garlic on a piece of aluminum foil; drizzle w/ oil. Fold foil to seal. Bake at
425 degrees for 25 minutes; let cool 15 minutes. Squeeze pulp from garlic cloves into a small bowl.

Combine tomatoes and wine in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until wine evaporates and tomatoes are soft. Process tomatoes and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Add cream cheese, and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

Spoon mixture into a small bowl; stir in green onions and Parmesan. Serve warm w/ crackers. Richard served the spread w/ toasted slices of baguette.

Makes 2-1/3 cups.


Richard said...

Ah, so much fun that night I could write a book. A cookbook, maybe. Or just a book book. I'll have to check my schedule. I don't think I'm booked. Nope, OK, just booked it. A beautiful night with beautiful friends. And some of the best food evah!

Anonymous said...

Sounds divine, Lonie...but I didn't see your usual listing of the wines imbibed! I always enjoy seeing how you've paired the courses with the wines.

Great descriptions!


ilona saari said...

For this dinner each couple brought a red and a white (except the dessert couple that brought a port) -- We started everyone off w/ a champagne "cosmo" (champagne, cranberry juice, Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur)then we switched to the whites and reds. The whites were all good Calif. chardonnays-2 I remember: Souverain and Rodney Strong; the reds I remember were Havens Bourriquot, a Husch (sp?) cab, a Norton malbec, a Cavia Reserve cab and Laetitia pinot -- hope this adds to your reading pleasure re: my non-reading Book Group holiday dinner ;o)

Alexandra said...

I'm going to make that salad for company this weds. Was the honey mustard store bought or home made? Picked up the persimmon, pomegranate and prosciutto yesterday evening :) Very excited for this salad!

ilona saari said...

Richard's pretty sure the mustard was store bought... but if you don't have any, I'm sure you can use a dijon and honey separately then whisk it all w/ the EVOO and vinegar - probably a champagne or white wine vinegar -- you must post about it after the dinner and let me know how it turned out and how Matt and your guests liked it. Are you using Burratta, Buffalo mozarella or brie?

Lana said...

I'm terribly late to this party and the holidays are over, but I will share my "new" holiday cocktail anyway. I call it White Christmas. You make it with White Cranberry juice, Vanilla flavored Vodka, a bit of triple sec and you float a few fresh cranberries in the glass. I serve it in Martini glasses.