After years of traveling from New York City to Boston, there two things I can usually count on upon arrival in my hometown: Some comfort and some good food.
Typically when I visit, my Dad and I like to cook a meal together. It's no secret we both appreciate a great recipe paired with a killer bottle of red. Mom can be quite a genie in the kitchen too, but for this particular occasion, she took a time-out with her kindle and a glass of white (her fave) while Dad and I got to work.
When having friends and family over that you haven't seen in a while, to start your evening, create a "moment" within your menu to catch up. Preferably over something simple to prepare! I love these store-bought canape "cups" in a box, which you can find at Whole Foods or most grocers. I simply filled these cute little guys with what I found in my parents fridge (literally!), a novel sharp cheddar and a great Pecorino. I thinly sliced a bit of each into the individual cups, added some fresh cranberries and topped off with my favorite herb, Rosemary.
After your cups runneth over, lay them on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Jackpot! You just earned yourself an hour or so to enjoy some catch-up time over scrumptious nibbles and sips (hey, dinner can wait, isn't family more important?)
As our Grandparents taught us: "Waste Not, Want Not!" Garnish both your canapes and cocktails with those beautiful cranberries. I always try to prepare a signature cocktail, this one was made complete by simply adding two or three cranberries to an already wonderful glass of bubbly. Don't forget to pre-dip your glasses into a simple mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon to create a tasty and pretty rim.
For me, presentation is EVERYTHING. So, when these cheesy dreams came out of the oven, bubbling and brimming, I found an old wooden chopping block and dressed up the corners with some more of the sliced cheeses, green apples, rosemary sprigs and dusted the whole thing with a little cinnamon. A few cinnamon sticks will always add a little layer and texture to any platter too.
As we deconstructed the menu for our "Comfort Foodie" meal a few days before, the time came where Dad and I decided on our sides. We wanted a wintery, warm comfort foodie kinda feeling on the table. We chose Brussel sprouts, Rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes and little gourds filled with chestnut, apple and cranberry stuffing.
The roasted potatoes are so easy, see below for a quick and easy prep:
Your Grocery List:
- Purchase a mixture of 6-8 medium to large sized potatoes. I love using different colors (purple, red, white) for a beautiful presentation
- 3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tbsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp rosemary
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. I like to soak my potatoes first for about 10 minutes in a large bowl to help some of the dirt and residue lift off the skins before lightly scrubbing them. Slice potatoes into halves. Place your halved potatoes into a large bowl and toss all of the above ingredients in until potatoes are generously coated with olive oil and the other ingredients. Spread out potatoes on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from oven, gently toss and turn over potatoes as needed. Bake for another 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the color--I like them really brown and crispy but you may prefer a lighter bake.
The next side also serves as double decor duty! Hollow out mini pumpkins and gourds and fill with your chestnut, apple and cranberry stuffing. Use extras of the hollowed out items for tea lights or condiments.
Stuffing was inspired by this recipe: http://www.redbookmag.com/recipefinder/herbed-chestnut-cranberry-apple-stuffing-recipe
Finally, the star of the show...Oricchette, sweet Italian sausage and broccoli rabe, inspired by Ina Garten's recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/orecchiette-sausage-and-broccoli-rabe-recipe/index.html
We weren't kidding when we said this meal was all about comfort!
Dessert? Are you kidding?! Maybe a nap...but for this dinner, where cozy good food over great conversation was our North Star--guests left contented, and plenty full.