Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2011! Chris and I had a wonderful celebration with some dear friends on New Years. We found good use for the pile of snow on our balcony after receiving 2 feet the day after Christmas.

We enjoyed many snacks that included:

Baked Cheese Crisps two ways: cardamom and cayenne and also saffron and black pepper.
Popcorn with Truffle Butter
Dolmas with and without ground lamb
Goat cheese and Gorgonzola Crostini
Red Grapes (for good luck in the New Year)
Vegetarian Lentil Soup (for money in the New Year)

and for dessert, a Sundae Bar courtesy of my boss who thoughtfully sent us 6 pints of Jeni's Ice Cream from Columbus, Ohio!

The Cheese Crisps I had made before and is a variation on a recipe from Food and Wine called Cheddar and Cayenne Crackers. I used a different recipe for a previous dinner party but couldn't remember what I did with it, so I based my dough on this version.

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 cups ap flour plus more for rolling

For black pepper and saffron variety, add 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper and a generous pinch of saffron threads. I happened to have quite a bit of these expensive crocus stigmas since they were given to me by a close friend whose in-laws brought them back from a Mediterranean vacation.

In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the cheese, salt, and spices. Beat at medium speed until blended. Add the 1 1/2 cups of flour and beat at low speed, scraping the side and bottom of the bowl, until a soft dough forms. Pat the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Work with 1 disk of dough at a time and keep the other one refrigerated: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a basic rectangle shape about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch wide strips of varying lengths. Transfer the strips to the baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the straws are lightly browned, shifting the baking sheets halfway through. Slide the paper onto racks and let the crackers cool. Repeat with the remaining dough. You can make these cheese straws 2 days in advance and recrisp them in a hot oven before serving. They look appealing in a short water glass as a snack with cocktails.

It's never too cold for ice cream, and our party agreed!! We had 6 different flavors and everyone was so impressed with the variety:

Queen City Cayenne
Rich chocolate reveals back-of-the-throat spice. Finish is tingly and complex.

Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate
Full and fruity cocoa mellowed by sweet, milky cream. Burst of pure chocolate as flecks melt on your palate and finish with the flavor and scent of Snowville Creamery's cold-condensed milk and cream.

Black Coffee
True strong coffee flavor with absolutely no bitterness; captures and translates the aroma of coffee perfectly.

Brown Butter Almond Brittle
Based on the traditional Norwegian dessert krokan. Browned butter gives depth to salty, sweet almond brittle.

Sweet Potato with Torched Marshmallows
Baked sweet potatoes scented with Saigon cinnamon in Ohio sweet cream, studded with hand-toasted, handmade marshmallows. A holiday classic for your cone.

Gravel Road
Savory and smoky hits of almonds first, rounded out with salty notes for a satisfying finish.

Since the sundaes were dessert, and by that time our snow cooler was looking quite empty, I have no pictures of sundaes from that evening. However, here is one I created last night for Chris and I to share. It's got one scoop of Gravel Road, caramel sauce and crushed ginger cookies, then a scoop of Brown Butter Almond, homemade whipped cream, more caramel and toasted almonds on top.

It tasted amazing!!

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