Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Four holiday appetizers... and countdown to Christmas


Christmas Eve is less than a week away, and I have quite a few holiday recipes to share and so little time to do so! Finally done with work, I can fully abandon myself to the Christmas spirit.

First, I'm very flattered to be included (actually, not me, my watercress soup!) in a post for a vegetarian Christmas feast by my wonderful fellow blogger Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes. Check it out for some awesome ideas!

Can I just say what a shameless Christmas nut I am? To give you an idea... you know that song, "All I want for Christmas", that Mariah Carey version from Love Actually, the one that has been playing non-stop in department stores, malls and Starbucks for the past three weeks? Well, I admit it, I just love that song. Can't get tired of hearing it. Just puts me in the Christmas spirit, makes me want to get up and dance and be silly and festive and joyful... I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but not really. When I hear that song, I want to be in the moment, recklessly in abandon in the Christmasy moment, with the tree, Santa, stockings, gifts, friends, songs, good will and hope. So be it.

If Christmas means all those things and so much more, it is also indelibly associated with cooking in my mind. I couldn't visualize Christmas without days in the kitchen, elaborate meal plans, dishes piled up in the sink, running out of plates, glasses and silverware, both ovens going and guests salivating, savoring, or happily digesting with full bellies...

So... I've listened to that song a few times while preparing this post, and I am pumped up for Christmas, and ready to (finally!) share our culinary plans for the holiday. Maybe it can spark some last minute ideas. Look for back-to-back posts this week:

Wednesday night - Recipe for chestnut sunchoke soup with vanilla and truffle oil
Thursday night - Recipe for a hot and cold scallop dish with avocado dressing (my mother's signature dish, a great holiday appetizer for a smaller dinner party)
Friday night - Buttermilk brined capon with chestnut apple stuffing, celery root puree

I am always thrilled to host a Christmas Eve dinner, which is always kind of a big deal for me. My mother and I cook it together, and the menu is usually a mix of traditional French Christmas dinner and recipes I want to experiment with. So here's our menu this year:

Chestnut sunchoke soup with vanilla and truffle oil
First course
Oysters and clams on the half shell
Foie gras
Second course
Roasted capon with chestnut apple stuffing, served with a celery root goat cheese puree
& kabocha puree made by my good friend Elleni from Deer Eats Wolf.
Cheese & Salad
Cheeses and mâche endive salad with pomegranate seeds and fresh herbs (Christmasy colors),
with homemade spelt sourdough bread from Mummy I can cook!
Yule log (brought by guests), accompanied by this

As gifts, I will be making this coconut bread from A Baker's Daughter and these awesome black sesame cookies from Nami at Just One Cookbook, as well as some lavender olive oil madeleines (hoping to share that recipe this weekend.)

But first things first. Today, I wanted to share four holiday hors-d'œuvres recipes, which I picked because they give a good variety, sure to please every palate.
Starting with Tahitian poisson cru, for an exotic bite, a short escape to the tropics between Christmas songs. We brought back this recipe from our trip to Tahiti a few years ago, it also makes an excellent lunch.


I found some tiny crimson apples recently and decided to adapt the baked apple and goat cheese millefeuilles recipe I blogged about recently. The tiny apples baked in individual parcels make an awesome Christmas hors-d'œuvre, looking like a tiny gift to open, and can be picked by the stem and devoured in one scrumptious bite!

Then, I decided it was about time I use the French Laundry cookbook that's been sitting on my shelf for the past few years, untouched. It's always intimidated me a bit, but I figured when it came to the classic French Gruyère gougères (like a cheese puff of sorts), Thomas Keller couldn't lead me astray. They are so delicious, I hope you give them a try.

Finally, also inspired by the French Laundry cookbook, sharing this very easy and delightful goat cheese mousse, a definite crowd pleaser (and kid pleaser too.)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Tahitian poisson cru

Recipe from the friendly Tahitians of Moorea and Bora Bora
Prep time: 25 mn.

Serves 4-6 as a dish, abt 20 appetizer bites

1 lb of sashimi grade tuna
5 limes
1 tomato
1/2 English cucumber
1 carrot
1/2 large onion
3/4 cup coconut milk
Sea salt

Cut the fish in small bite-size pieces and put them in a bowl with lightly salted water.

Squeeze the limes. Then drain the fish and pat dry. Place the fish in a bowl and pour lime juice over it. Let it marinate at least 10 minutes (the lime "cooks" the fish, like a ceviche).

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables: wash and dice or slice the tomato; peel, seed and dice the cucumber; peel, wash and finely grate the carrot; peel and mince the onion.

Drain the fish, discard the lime juice, and put the fish back into the bowl. Mix in the vegetables.

Pour the coconut milk, stir and season to taste.

Serve chilled.

Goat cheese mousse canapés

Recipe lightly adapted from The French Laundry cook book by Thomas Keller
Prep time: 15 mn
Serves 16 canapés
6 oz fresh goat cheese
5 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
Salt & pepper
Parmesan crisps, crackers of choice, or blinis
Place the goat cheese in a food processor and mix. (It may be smooth or crumbly at that point).
Pour 1/4 cup of the cream through the feed tube and mix until smooth. Add the cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.
(Can be refrigerated for 2-3 days, let stand at room temp for half an hour before using)
Place a tablespoon of mousse on a Parmesan crisp, a cracker or a blinis. 

Gruyère Gougères

Recipe from The French Laundry cookbook by Thomas Keller
Prep time: 25 mn
Cook time: 35 mn
Makes 2 dozens approx (depending on size you choose)
1 cup of water
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp kosher salt (not sea salt)
Pinch of sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
5 oz grated Gruyère
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven at 450°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or Silpats if you have them).
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, salt and sugar, and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once, reduce the heat to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes, until mixture forms a ball and moisture has evaporated. (For me, the ball formed much faster than that, but you keep cooking for 2 full minutes anyway.)
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, beat with an electric mixer for 30 seconds at medium speed (you can do it in a stand mixer if you have one, I don't and the hand mixer worked fine.)
Add 4 eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter is smooth and silky.
The batter should form a soft peak with a tip that falls over. (If it's too stiff, beat in the white of the remaining egg, check again, and if necessary, add in the remaining yolk.)
Mix in 3/4 cup of Gruyère and add the pepper.
Thomas Keller of course does this with a pastry bag and pastry tip. I didn't have that, so I just used a cookie scoop to put the small mounds of batter on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle the top of each gougère with the rest of Gruyère.
Place on a lower rack in the oven, and bake for 7-8 minutes, until they puff a bit, then lower heat to 350°F and bake for another 20-25 minutes. When the gougères are done, they should be light golden color. When you break one open, it should be hollow, the inside cooked, but slightly moist (see picture above).
Serve preferably warm.

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  1. those cheese puffs are calling my name!!

  2. I want to be invited to your home! They all look delicious.

  3. Can't wait!!!! -lni

  4. Yummy, i love your Christmas Appetizers. Im considering of adding it to my bucket list of appetizers. Glad i stumbled onto your blog, have a nice day!


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