On the Table with Adam

Posted In: Culture, Restaurants,   From Issue 651   By: Chef Adam Bolt

20th December, 2007     0

Well, here we are again with the Holiday Season in full swing - presents to buy, caroling to do, and forgotten relatives to visit. Don't worry, it will soon be over.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I like Christmas music the day after Halloween and all night outlet shopping as much as the next guy, but as far as I'm concerned the best part of the holiday season is always the food.

It's the sharing of food that brings us together and creates lasting memories. Sure there may be that awesome gift when you were twelve that you remember forever, but more often than not it's Mom's holiday cookies or Grandma's sweet potatoes that you crave as the years roll on. My Mm's chocolate covered peanut butter rice crispy balls get made once a year and I eat as many as I can during the season.

The problem for most of us is we're so busy all the time. We all are working hard to pay bills and after the interest payments on your credit cards there isn't much left over to pay for a personal chef or private caterer. But 'Tis the Season' and we all like a good feast!

So how do you minimize the work feeding everybody without breaking your bank and ripping out your hair? It would be easy to call up Fralia's and order sandwiches and salads (which would be great!) but come n, show some class and make it yourself. Your friends and family will appreciate it and the women will swoon.

If you're planning a dinner party this year the main thing is to keep it simple. Sometime the best things are the things that require the least amount of fuss. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to cook a prime rib or a loin of pork; a good pot roast or a great lasagna.
You don't have to make 20 different dishes to satisfy your guests. Think of festive, communal dishes that can be made well in advance so you can be a good host and enjoy your guests.

One of my favorite dishes to feed a crowd is a French country dish called a Cassoulet. I served it at my wedding. Its basically glorified baked beans but all the components can be made ahead, leaving you free the day of the party.

Keep hors d' oeuvres simple. An assortment of cheese and crackers, vegetable crudités with various dips, a platter of olives or simple crostini would be plenty. It may be okay for you to unbutton your pants at home, but your guests don't have that luxury.

It's always nice when planning a meal to keep it seasonal. This way you highlight the flavors of the season while they are at their best.

Strawberries don't grow in December and the three wise men weren't eating tomatoes. Instead think of ripe pears, apples and persimmons. Instead of asparagus think brussel sprouts, squash and even sauerkraut. Chocolate is always in season and tropical fruits are always welcome this time of year.

The absolute key to any successful dinner party is planning. The French call this 'mis en place' or everything in its' place. Any seasoned chef will tell you that if your mis en place is off you are screwed. Read recipes and make lists of ingredients and their preparation before you even turn on the stove. Even more important is to have fun.

Cooking can be very relaxing. Turn on some music, pour some wine, take your time and you'll get it right. The Holidays aren't all about door buster sales and shopping. Slow down, preserve your family recipes and create some new ones.

Maybe you'll find out you like to cook!

Adam's Holiday Menu

Smoked Whitefish Pate
This is a great dip for gatherings. It's full of flavor and much less expensive than smoked salmon. It can be make a couple days in advance and leftovers (if any) can be frozen. Yes, it's rich; but you haven't started your resolutions yet, so enjoy!

Smoked Whitefish fillets                           1 lb.
(preferably from Huron Fish)
Cream Cheese                    One 8 oz. Package
Unsalted Butter                               1/4 stick
Yellow onion                                   1 large
Garlic                                      2 cloves
Salt & Pepper                                              To taste
Tabasco                                  4 drops
Lemon Juice                                      4 drops

1).
Clean whitefish by removing bones & gray areas. I find tail pieces to be the easiest to clean.
2) Rough chop onions & garlic and cook gently in butter until soft but not colored.
3) Place everything in a food processor and puree until absolutely smooth. Add seasonings. I find it's nice to strain it through a wire sieve in case there are any bones or scales mixed in.
4) Scrape into a serving dish and cover with saran to prevent a skin from forming.
5) Can be garnished with capers, red onions or chives.

Serve with toasted croutons or your favorite crackers.

Winter Endive Salad
This is a great salad when summer vegetables are out of season It's simple and full of flavor and beautiful on the plate. If you can't find Belgian endive just use your favorite salad greens.

Belgian Endive                                 4 heads
Granny Smith Apple                             1
Toasted Walnuts                           1/2 cup
Crumbled Blue Cheese          As much as you like
Pomegranate                                          1
Chives    Small bunch
Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper

1)
Clean the Endive by splitting down the center and taking out the core. Rinse with cold water, drain well and dry on paper towels.
2) Quarter the apples & slice thinly. Soak in lemon water if doing in advance.
3) To clean pomegranates simply slice in half and place the cut side in the palm of your hand. Place over a bowl and with a spoon tap the skin side of the fruit. The seeds will fall out of the fruit and into the bowl.
4) Place Endive, apples, blue cheese, walnuts and chives in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper and gently toss.
5) Turn into a bowl and sprinkle with walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

Lemon Roast Chicken with Roasted Winter Vegetables
Kind of a forgotten dish these days but can be as festive and delicious as a Thanksgiving turkey. One bird will usually serve four but just double the amounts if you need more.

One  two-and-a-half to 3 lb. Roasting chicken.
Preferably organic. Nature's Premier Farms in Frankenmuth is a good local source for organic poultry and you can find them at many local groceries. They cost a bit more but are worth every penny.

Lemons                          2
Yellow onion                  2 large
Garlic                             1 small head
Fresh thyme                  1 small bunch
Fresh sage                    1 small bunch
Bay Leaf                       2
Butter                            1 stick
Salt & pepper
Chicken broth               1 can
1)
Remove the gizzard & liver from the chicken. Rinse the bird inside and out and dry with paper towels.
2) Slice one lemon and one onion. Make a bed of the lemon and onion in your roasting pan. Scatter some of the Thyme, Sage and half of the garlic.
3) Rinse the chicken inside and out and dry with paper towels. This will keep the bird from steaming rather than roasting. Season the inside of the cavity and place the other lemon, onion, garlic & bay leaf inside. Place in the roasting pan on top of the other pile.
4) Chop the remaining sage and thyme and mix with the soft butter to make a smooth paste.
5) Separate the skin from the breast by going underneath from the flap above the breasts. Carefully run your fingers along the breast and into the legs. Take the herb butter and rub it under the skin all over flesh under the skin and massage it around. This can be done early in the day.
6) Roast in a 375-degree oven for approximately an hour and 20 minutes or fifteen minutes per pound. It is important to baste the bird all over after about 20 minutes and continue to do throughout the cooking. This will brown the skin nicely. If the onions in the pan start to burn add some of the broth.
7) Check for doneness with a thermometer. It should read 170 or you can poke the inside of the legs. If there is no trace of pink it should be done.
8) Remove from the pan and place on a platter and cover with foil. Add the remaining broth to the pan, skim the fat off the surface and bring to a boil. Reduce for about 10 minutes and strain into a saucepan. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Root Vegetables
This is a great accompaniment to any roasted meats. Feel free to use any of your favorite winter vegetables. The more variety the better, just be sure to cut the pieces in uniform sizes so they will all cook evenly. Place them in the oven along within the chicken and cook at the same time.

Small Yukon Gold Potatoes                                   8
Butternut squash   quartered & seeds removed  1
Whole parsnips  peeled & quartered                    4
Whole carrots  peeled & quartered                       4
Whole shallots   peeled                                          4
Olive Oil
Butter
Salt & Papper

Place everything in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan. Dot with butter and bake 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally in ensure even browning. If the bottom starts to burn add a little broth or water and continue cooking until tender.

Ginger Poached Pears with Tangerines
This is an elegant way to utilize fruits in season.

Bartlett or Bosc Pears                                            6
Tangerines                                             2
Sugar                                      2 cups
Water                                             2 cups
Fresh Ginger                                    1 inch nob
Cinnamon stick                                                    1
Lemon                                                2 slices

1)
Make a syrup with the sugar & water and bring to a boil.
2) Turn down heat & add ginger, cinnamon & lemon
3) Peel & halve the pears and remove the seeds with a melon baler
4) Place pears in syrup and cover. Do not boil.
5) Gently poach for 30 minutes until tender.
6) Peel tangerines and slice crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.
7) Cut pears into smaller slices and arrange in serving dishes. Scatter tangerine slices on top and drizzle with syrup.
8) Garnish with pistachios, bittersweet chocolate or whatever suits your fancy.

If you want to bring it to another level serve it with your favorite ice cream and gingersnap cookies.

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