Escobar Guido Christmas Party 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

True to form, when we have a party, if I don't take pictures of the food and decorations, no one does. So regretfully, I post this blog sans pictures.

This year, Andrew and I decided to have a Christmas party. We have a fabulous tree with great ornaments, nice house decorations, and I love to make holiday food and cocktails. This year we decided to have the first annual Guido Christmas party, where everything was Italian themed. We had Italian food, Italian wine, and Italian Christmas carols. It was a huge success.

For the menu, I made:

Antipasto Platter with imported meats, cheeses and olives
Shrimp Aragonate
Goat Cheese, Pear and Prosciutto Crostini with Fig Balsamic Vinegar
Gorgonzola Bruschetta
Stuffed Shells with Turkey and Artichokes
Winter Cannelloni
Turkey Meatballs and Mini Bowtie Pasta with Marinara for the kids

Holiday Biscotti

And it was good...

For the Antipasto Platter, I visited my local Guido Mart and got a selection of imported meats: sopresseta, cappicolla, mortadella, salami. For the cheeses I got provelone, castelmagno (which was a fabulous creamy cheese, a lot like the Romanian or Hungarian kashkaval), and marinated mini fresh mozarella. I served two kinds of olives - kalamata (although admittedly greek, not italian, but still rather tasty) and sicilian greens marinated with garlic.

Then I came up with the Goat Cheese, Pear and Prosciutto Crostini. I took some chiabatta bread, drizzled with olive oil and broiled until just grilled, then spread some tangy goat cheese, a thin slice of sweet and ripe bartlett pear and topped with a slice of salty imported prosciutto. I never use domestic prosciutto - I find the taste to be quite inferior and would rather ration my prosciutto intake than dumb it down for my palate. I then drizzled with a bit of fig balsamic vinegar. My original idea was to use a fig jam as opposed to the slice of pear to really get contrast in flavors between the tangy, sweet and salty, but of course my local Vons and Ralph's had to let me down...again...and I didn't have time to visit my nearest Trader Joe's which is 30 min away (!!!).

The gorgonzola bruschetta was a stupidly simple dish - baguette sliced and topped with gorgonzola (I used a fabulous imported one) and baked until the cheese is just melted. Then while still warm, drizzled with clover honey. Omg, it's yum. Clearly you have to have a taste for the bleu to enjoy it, so my guests either loved it or hated it. I for one, loved it. As a general rule for bleu I prefer the more poignant ones - Roquefort as a first choice and English Stilton as an adequate substitute. But in using the gorgonzola I was reminded of its creaminess that the others just don't have. It's making a comback in my house, and I look foward to playing around with some recipes using it!

The Shrimp Aragonate was a great recipe from my Sopranos Entertaining book that Andrew got me a few years ago. It's a hilarious book - the whole thing is written in character form (Carmella writes out the recipes, Silvio Dante offers some advice on something, etc.) and the recipes are totally legit for guido american italian food. This shrimp appetizer is always a crowd pleaser when I make it:

Shrimp Aragonate
1 lb shrimp, deveined and shelled with tails off, and rinsed through then patted dry
2 slices white bread (day old Italian is best)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tspn fresh basil, finely chopped
salt and black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Space out shrimp into one even layer, and season with salt and black pepper.

In a food processor, pulse the bread until small pea-sized crumbs. Place in bowl. Add minced garlic, parsley, basil and some olive oil until crumbs are just moistened (about 3 drizzles worth), combining ingredients well. Top each shrimp with about half a teaspoon of the crumb mixture and bake in oven about 5 minutes until shrimp turn pink and are firm to the touch.

Serve hot.

The pasta dishes I made were Giada De Laurentiis. The Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce was a major success, but clearly the run-away hit of the evening was the Winter Manicotti with Swiss Chard, Sweet Pea and Fonduta Cream Sauce. Omg. Both were excellent and I highly recommend trying out the recipes. With the exception of filling in the manicotti shells, both were very easy to make, using affordable ingredients. And the manicotti was a huge success - the fonduta cream sauce (basically whole milk, cream and shredded fontina sheese) was to die for, and probably my new go-to bechamel-type sauce when I want a cheesier kick to it. I plan to repeat both recipes for our Christmas Eve dinner, and both are definitely getting added to the Escobar dinner rotation.

The struffoli (fried dough balls soaked in honey) and cannoli (ricotta cream stuffed cookie shells) were from the guido mart. I filled the cannoli myself to save money (a tip if you can handle a pastry bag yourself!), and my good friend Virginia and her mom made their killer tiramisu.

I made the holiday biscotti and was kinda pissed about this...

One day it came to me to make a biscotti with dried cranberries (red), pistachios (green), and white chocolate (white) for Christmas. I mean honestly, besides the flavors being great the color scheme would be totally cute for Christmas! While pulling up Giada's biscotti recipe I found she fricken makes one exactly like the one I had thought of. Poo on her. So I just used her recipe to save me time, but added a teaspoon of vanilla and subbed orange zest for the lemon because I thought it would go better. And instead of dipping them in white chocolate, I drizzled the chocolate over the them with a whisk creating a "snow" and "icicle" effect that of course no one but foodies picked up on. Nonetheless, they were delicious. Oh! And if you use her recipe, I recommend cutting down the temperature down to 325 degrees - my first batch burned too much and the second batch I used the lower temp and they came out fine. I could, also, have a super-oven... I dunno.

For party favors (which of course I forgot to give everybody) I gave out mini pannetones with a red/gree/white bow on top. My husband, Andrew's idea.

For drinks we had red wines which everyone brought, olive martinis, limoncello, pellagrino, ginger ale, and those limonata sodas that everyone loved. I should have bought more of those...

All in all, a great success, and I look forward to next year's!

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