Jan 05 2010
Every year when I was in high school in Mississippi, my mom would conspire with other involved mothers to organize a Christmas Tea for all of the young ladies in my class. There were only about 30 of us, so parents would offer up their living rooms and kitchens for an afternoon to slave away on chicken salad finger sandwiches, holiday punch, praline dessert squares and other impeccably presented goodies — while my classmates and I would dress up in our Sunday best. It should be mentioned that the idea of putting on a dress to attend a tea party with people you see every day is old-fashioned and charming, and thus a uniquely Southern tradition. I don’t think we even served tea.
It’s been several years since the days of the Christmas tea (no need for the more PC term “holiday” in Mississippi — everyone is Christian), but this season, living all alone in San Francisco with my self-proclaimed urban family, I grew nostalgic for the civilized air of it all. I decided to throw a grown-up version of the same event: in other words, less food and more booze, formal attire optional but encouraged.
My assistant John and his roommate Carly have a spacious apartment they offered up for the event, along with their services. One evite and grocery shopping list later, and we were hosting our very own holiday cocktail party! Here’s the menu we decided upon:
- Spicy Crawfish Dip
- Creamy Sundried Tomato and Pesto Spread
- Fruit and Cheese Plate
- Lotus Blondies
Spicy Crawfish Dip
2 lbs. frozen crawfish tails
½ cup green onion, chopped
½ cup butter
24 oz. low-fat cream cheese
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. ground red pepper
1 ½ tsp pepper
Cook onion and garlic in butter until tender but not brown. Add cream cheese, and other ingredients. Stir until cheese is melted. Add crawfish and cook until heated thoroughly and until crawfish are cooked enough (not long). Serve warm with fritos or crackers.
*The hardest part about making this recipe in San Francisco, where I live, is just finding frozen crawfish tails. I bought mine at the San Francisco Fish Company in the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, where they were a little pricey ($30 for the 2 pounds). I served the dip in a copper chafing dish with Frito scoops.
Come On In
Creamy Sundried Tomato Pesto Spread
8 oz. cream cheese
3 oz. jar sundried tomatoes
3-4 oz. pesto (you can buy it pre-made or make it yourself, which I did with basil, lemon, parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil in a food processor)
Use a mold to create a distinct shape with the cream cheese, be it rectangular or circular. top with a thick layer of pesto, and add sundried tomatoes on top of the pesto. Serve with crackers — I used Wheat Thins and Triscuits.
For the fruit and cheese platter, I just bought red grapes and figs, which I quartered. The cheeses I chose were Gruyere, Brie, and a special truffled cheese from Cypress Grove, called Truffle Tremor. I love Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog, and this had a similar consistency but was slightly cheaper (and thus better suited for my budget).
Lastly, the Lotus Blondies. This was a recipe I found on Big Girls, Small Kitchen, a great blog that I found not long ago. I wanted to try a dessert that was a little more fun and interesting than brownies, but not terribly complicated. This recipe definitely fit the bill and the blondies turned out well, but they weren’t nearly as gooey and decadent as they looked in the BGSK picture. Still, I was able to use the leftovers to bring to a company holiday party, so they worked out well. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of BGSK:
Ingredients (Makes 24 blondies):
1 package light brown sugar (2 1/2 cups)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cashews, chopped (I subbed pecans for the season)
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan. Use a smaller baking pan for thicker blondies–just bake a bit longer.
Combine the brown sugar and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and combined and the whole mixture just begins to bubble. Remove and let come to room temperature. This will take about 20 minutes; speed it up in the fridge if need be.
When the butter and sugar have cooled, beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, salt, nuts, and chips, and fold together. Pour into the prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes, until the top has gotten slightly puffed and crusty. Cool, and cut into small rectangles.