All Posts In Entertaining

Flank Steak Lettuce Wraps — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, April 5th, 2013

Flank Steak Lettuce WrapsWhen you hear the phrase “lettuce wrap,” what do you think? If the first thought that springs to mind is a poor low-carb sandwich replacement, you’re not alone. I took an informal poll of my friends and that was the predominant attitude.

I think it’s time to liberate the lettuce wrap from its second-class status and bring it into the mainstream. To my taste buds, there’s something absolutely perfect and appealing about the savory crunch that’s possible with this much-maligned dish.

I like to start with some long-marinated chicken or beef (though crispy tofu works beautifully, too) that’s been grilled or broiled so it’s caramelized around the edges, but still tender. Once you have your starring protein, pick out toppings. Ribbons of carrot, shredded cabbage, slivers of green onion and leggy cilantro leaves are all great. And then there’s the lettuce. If you’re looking for crunch, iceberg is your best bet, though I prefer butter lettuce for its color and flexibility.

Once all of your players are in hand, build. Place a lettuce leaf on your plate and nestle a strip of protein down as the base. Stack on your toppings and then fold, much as you would a burrito. If you have a dipping sauce, a quick dip before the first bite does wonders for wrap unification.

Before you start cooking, read these tips

Spinach Quiche for an Easter or Passover Brunch — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Holidays, March 29th, 2013

Spinach Quiche for Easter - The WeekenderI’m not sure when exactly it happened, but I can no longer bear to go out to brunch. I hate the long waits and the fact that once you do get a table, your meal proceeds at breakneck speed so the restaurant can turn your table. (I don’t dispute their right to do so. I just don’t enjoy rushing through a meal.)

And then there are the prices. As someone who does a lot of grocery shopping and cooking, I know just how much things cost, and the markups on things like pancakes, scrambled eggs and toast make me a little twitchy.

So these days, I stay home and have people over for brunch instead of meeting at a restaurant. It keeps my blood pressure in check and means that I get to flex some underutilized cooking skills.

In pursuit of brunch excellence, I’ve worked my way through crepes, homemade bagels and English muffins. While I’ve got my sights set on conquering the aebleskiver in the somewhat near future, at the moment I’m focused on making a great quiche. The thing that’s so great about quiche is that it can be made ahead and reheated. Served with a green salad and a slice of crispy bacon, it makes for a fairly fuss-free entertaining experience.

Before you start baking your quiche, read these tips:

Easter Dinner Made Simple

by in Entertaining, Holidays, March 27th, 2013

Roasted Mushroom ToastsWith Easter right around the corner, it’s never too soon to start planning — the sooner you create a plan, the more organized the day will be and you’ll wind up enjoying it more yourself.

I’m hosting Easter again this year — it’s become somewhat of a tradition. Or maybe it’s the fact that everyone knows I’m going to cook up a storm so they are all always open to coming to my house. Either way, I love it. I get to decide what’s on the menu and make things I think will please a crowd.

This year I’m going heavy on the appetizers. I want to host a fun outdoor party with plenty of cocktails and lots of delicious appetizers for my guests to choose from. That way they get to taste a lot of different things without getting totally stuffed from the ham. Not to fear, though, there will absolutely be ham, but I’m incorporating it in a little bit of a different way this time. By eliminating the centerpiece of the large-baked ham, it takes the pressure off of the long cook time and preparation. The recipes below incorporate classic flavors you’d see on an Easter table, but in a casual form — perfect for entertaining a large or small crowd.

Click here to get the menu

Cracked Earth Cake — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Holidays, March 22nd, 2013

Cracked Chocolate Earth CakeMy cousin Amy starts planning for Passover in January. The save-the-date email comes first, with the time and location in bold (though they’re the same every year). A few weeks later, dinner assignments follow. Later there are email reminders and carpool arrangements.

It used to be that I willingly accepted whatever meal assignment was handed to me. In recent years, however, I’ve gotten more strategic. As soon as the first Seder planning email goes out, I reply with an offer of what I’d like to bring. This way, I can ensure there will be something on the table that my picky husband will eat, and I get to play to my strengths as a cook.

On Monday (and for the second year running), I’m bringing brisket and a flourless chocolate cake. I bring the brisket because I make a good one, and I do the cake, well, because nothing finishes a meal like a good chocolate cake.

Before you start baking, read these tips

Old-Fashioned Cocoa Cake With Caramel Icing — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, March 8th, 2013

Old-Fashioned Cocoa Cake With Caramel IcingI am the designated birthday dessert baker for my circle of close friends and dear family members. Every year, I make a dozen or more cakes, pies, tarts and meringue concoctions for parties, picnics and small family dinners.

It starts in January with my dad’s birthday. Tradition dictates that he gets a thing called Pinch Pie (though it’s neither pinched, nor is it a pie). It’s a meringue shell filled with ice cream, strawberries, whipped cream and toasted almonds. It’s a sugar bomb, but it’s beloved in my family.

In February, both my sister and my husband celebrate. When she was younger, Raina was into ice cream cakes, but these days she prefers something dense and chocolatey. Scott, on the other hand, hasn’t shifted his preferences since childhood. He likes to celebrate with a Funfetti cake made from a boxed mix. Though it violates my from-scratch sensibilities, that’s what he gets.

As we head into March, I start thinking about baking for my friend Shay’s big day. She doesn’t have a standard cake, instead preferring to try something new. Last time I did a carrot cake, and this year I’ve been planning something layered and featuring chocolate.

Before you start baking, read these tips

Award-Worthy Oscar Party Cocktails

by in Drinks, Entertaining, February 24th, 2013

Oscar Party CocktailsWith the Oscars just hours away, it’s time to get serious — serious about planning a little soiree with your movie-loving friends who also love to get dressed to the nines.

The Oscars are a fun event in my house. We’re big movie people, so I’m always excited to see who takes home the gold. I like to invite over a handful of friends for an Oscars viewing party, mix up a few fun cocktails that are classy, swanky and delicious, and add a few little nibbles too. I mean, let’s be honest here — it’s really all about the cocktails in this case. No one actually eats at those awards shows; it’s more about the drinks, socializing and looking fabulous.

So in honor of that, here’s my Oscar party cocktail menu that you can whip up in no time:

Bobby has a great recipe for a Kir Royale. This drink only has a few ingredients, but they’re fun and decadent, so when you mix them all together you’ve got a gorgeous bubbly concoction that’s going to be a crowd-pleaser! Bonus: you can ask your friends coming over to pick up a bottle of bubbly or two to use for these drinks.
Get the recipe: Kir Royale

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Best-Dressed Eats and Drinks: Oscar-Worthy Recipes for an Academy Awards Party

by in Entertaining, Recipes, February 21st, 2013

Theater-Style Buttered PopcornIn celebration of Hollywood’s biggest night of big-screen honors, the stars of your favorite movies from the past year will come together at the 85th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night to recognize the most outstanding performances in film — and the most fashionable styles, of course. While you may not be in Los Angeles this weekend to partake in the action on the red carpet, you can celebrate top nominees with the next best thing: an Oscars viewing party at your place, complete with fellow movie-buff friends and a spread of elegant yet comforting snacks and sips. We have a crowd-pleasing menu inspired by some of the most popular films, plus classic movie munchies and sweet concessions to help you pull off an award-worthy bash with ease. Check out Food Network’s favorite movie-themed recipes below, then tell us in the comments: How will you be celebrating the Oscars this weekend?

As the celebrities make their way from limousines to red-carpet interviews, raise a glass to the evening to come with Food Network Magazine‘s bright, refreshing Red-Carpet Cocktails made with crimson-colored pomegranate juice and toppers of gin and champagne. Let guests help themselves to a concession-stand favorite — crunchy, salty popcorn — to help recreate the moviegoing experience in your living room. Food Network Magazine‘s Theater-Style Buttered Popcorn (pictured above) is a must-try recipe, boasting clarified butter instead of simple melted butter so that each kernel is coated with flavor but isn’t soggy or greasy.

Keep reading for more recipes

And Now, a Toast…

by in Entertaining, Food Network Magazine, February 16th, 2013

toasts

Have some fun at your next dinner party and serve a cheese course with toast shaped like goats, cows and sheep to match the milk each cheese was made from. Just butter slices of dense bread like rye, raisin walnut or pumpernickel, then cut out the animals (we found cutters at cookiecutter.com) and toast them in the oven. Spread the goat toast with Humboldt Fog, Bucheron or chevre, top the cows with Gruyere, Gouda or aged cheddar and top the sheep with manchego, Roquefort or pecorino toscano.

(Photograph by Kang Kim)

Roasted Leg o’ Lamb Sandwich — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, February 15th, 2013

Roasted Leg of Lamb Sandwich - The WeekenderWhen I was younger, I was a voracious reader. One of my favorite book series in those days was the one about Betsy and Tacy, two girls growing up in the Midwest at the turn of the last century.

One of the events that occurs regularly in these books is Betsy’s family’s tradition of sharing their Sunday lunch with friends and family. This meal happens in the late afternoon and stars a giant platter of sandwiches that are always prepared by Betsy’s father.

Some weeks his sandwiches would feature cold roast meat, while others they’d be simple constructions of fried egg or thinly sliced onion that’d been well-seasoned. Served with coffee and slices of cake to follow, this seemed, to my mind, to be the perfect way to spend a Sunday evening.

Last week, suddenly hit by a craving for a Betsy-Tacy-style sandwich party, I went in search of a little sandwich inspiration. What I found was Guy Fieri’s Roasted Leg o’ Lamb Sandwich. It’s a three-part recipe that has you marinate and roast off a piece of lamb, make a spicy from-scratch mayonnaise and then shred fennel, cabbage, onion and Brussels sprouts into a crunchy topping.

Before you start cooking, read these tips

Hot Corn Dip and Onion Dip From Scratch — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Holidays, February 1st, 2013

Hot Corn Dip and Onion Dip From ScratchWhen it comes to sporting events, I’m really only in it for the food. As a kid, when I went to baseball games with my dad, my mind was on killing time until the seventh-inning stretch, when I’d be allowed to have ice cream. In high school, football games were all about the soft pretzels (and flirting, of course). And to my mind, Super Bowl Sunday is about snacks, dips and wacky commercials.

While there’s nothing wrong with classics like queso dip (made from only the very best processed cheeses) and blender salsas, I do get a kick out of making fancied-up versions of traditional dippy dishes. I’ve entertained a number in recent days and two that have bubbled to the top of my big game hit parade are Trisha Yearwood’s Hot Corn Dip and Alton Brown’s Onion Dip From Scratch.

The Hot Corn Dip is one of those addictive creations where you mix up a few ingredients, scrape the whole mess into an ovenproof bowl and bake it until bubbly (I’m drooling a little just thinking about it). It can be prepped ahead of time and baked off just before the game starts. Served with tortilla chips, it’s a good snacking time.

Before you start cooking, read these tips