Holiday Entertaining Tips from Lynette

Updated: Nov 10

Keep it simple & easy & fun for you too



With the holiday season officially upon us, we thought it would be fun to dig up one of our articles from the archives, penned by our founding executive chef, Lynette La Mere, for a Food & Home Magazine winter issue. These timeless entertaining tips will help you make entertaining a breeze this season!


"Smaller, more intimate events really can be so simple to pull together that you won’t need a professional, even during the holiday rush. First off, I’d suggest keeping it minimal; a few great things to eat, maybe some cheeses, wines, or a specialty cocktail, and you’re set, don’t feel obligated to over-purchase or offer a full bar & restaurant experience.


A lovely alternative to the classic cocktail party; a wine and cheese-themed mixer can be elevated with a few simple twists and creates an opportunity to sample some new wines and an excuse to buy some exotic cheeses.


As Pierre Androuet, author of The Complete Encyclopedia of French Cheese said; “These twin fruits of the earth were made for one another.” A great approach is to choose to represent a single region as cheese is ideally partnered best with wine produced near the cheese’s home. You could serve Sancerre wines with Crottin de Chavignol, Chianti with Pecorino Toscano or a strong Spanish Rioja with Cabralas Blue, Manchego, or the Cabralas Blue Cheese Tart recipe here.


For a variety of cheeses, look for a balance of flavor intensity. For this type of party, it is best to avoid what James Beard refers to as “nasty little deli-style slices". I would also steer away from Danish blue cheese and smoked cheeses. Perfect choices with most wines are Parmigiano Reggiano (try the Lemony Parmesan Artichoke Bottoms recipe), very fresh Mozzarella tossed with roasted peppers, olive oil, and fennel seeds, Pecorino; dreamy drizzled with local honey, Taleggio, Chevre, Montrachet, Tomme, Gruyere, Triple Crème Brie, Dutch Gouda, or an English cheddar. Plan on 3 to 6 ounces per guest and allow the cheeses about an hour to come to room temperature and accompany with freshly baked breads & locally harvested pears, apples and grapes from Farmer’s Market.


Black and Blue Torte

Serves 20

Any empty quart container can be used as a mold for this inverted torte, if you’ve got one of those fluted jello or charlotte tins great, otherwise use an empty sour cream tub or bowl. Leave the cheeses out of the refrigerator so they come to room temperature to make the blending effortless.


1 1 /2 lb. cream cheese

1 /4 lb. gorgonzola

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp. salt

1 1 /4 cup black walnuts, toasted & chopped very coarse


In stand-up mixer w/ a paddle attachment – or with a firm hand - blend all but the nuts. Line your mold/container with plastic wrap and pour in half of the walnuts, with a blunt spreading knife press in about a two-inch layer of the cheese mixture, followed by the rest of the walnuts. Be sure the walnuts are going all the way to the edges, so they show. Top it off with the rest of the cheese mixture. When ready to serve just invert the mold onto a platter & pull off the plastic wrap, and surround it with crackers, sliced baguette, some whole black walnuts, and fruit.


Shrimp with Cilantro Lime Dip

Makes about 3 cups

This is a very delicious dip for shrimp or grilled skewers chicken or beef.


For the dip;

1 cup sour cream

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 /2 bunch of fresh cilantro

2 jalapeño chilies

4 oz. lime juice

salt to taste

Alongside;

2 lb. 21/25 cooked shrimp


Fire roast the jalapeño chilies on a fork over the flame on your stove; just let it sizzle there till its got a lot of color, then flip it over and roast the other side. Pop them into a plastic bag & let them steam while you put the rest of the dip ingredients in a bowl. Peel most of the skin off the jalapeños, split them, remove the seeds and stem and chop them up. Add those to the bowl, stir and salt to taste.


Platter the shrimp and dip with the other half of that cilantro as garnish.


Tapenade

Makes one cup

Yes, yes, make your own, it just takes a few minutes and they will notice the difference. Tapenade is very good served with Tomato or Herb Foccacia.


4 cloves garlic, process first then add;

1 cup pitted olives (any kind you like)

2 T. lemon juice

1 T. fresh parsley

2 tsp. drained capers

1 1 /2 tsp. Dijon

1 /2 tsp. thyme

3 oz. olive oil


Blend into a coarse spread in your blender.


Pears with Brie

Makes 40

I like pistachios during the holidays for their cheerful color but any nut would be good. Deceivingly simple to make, this addictive combination of textures & taste will guarantee positive comments and recipe requests. They can be made the day before or just a few minutes before guests arrive.


2 lb. sun-dried pears

1 /4 lb. pistachios, chopped coarse (or toasted pine nuts)

1 lb. brie


The dried pears naturally offer a nice middle open area to fill with brie using a butter knife; I like to use the rind of the brie as well but they do look prettier if you just use the soft cheese and leave the rind out. Press the filled pears upside down into the chopped pistachios to adhere the nuts to the cheese and set them on an oven-ready sheet pan. When you’d like to serve them just heat them in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes.



Cherry Tomato and Cabralas Squares

Yield 36 to 54 squares

If you’ve got twenty minutes to put this together & pop it in the oven it’s well worth the effort. These positively explode with flavor and are beautiful, enticing little nibbles. Perfect with a good martini or Spanish wine. I use a 10x7x1” rectangular tart pan; any square pan of similar capacity with a removable bottom would do fine. They can be made up to a day in advance and hold nicely.


Crust:

1 /2 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup flour

1 tsp. salt

6 oz. butter

3 Tbl. ice water

Filling:

7 oz. Queso Cabralas (Spanish Blue Cheese) at room temp.

3 oz. butter at room temp.

1 /2 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 /2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 pint of cherry tomatoes (yellow or red)


To make the crust, in a food processor process the corn meal alone for a minute. Add the flour, salt, and then the butter and pulse until pea-size lumps; add the water and process until one large ball is formed. Press this into the pan and 1 inch up the sides and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prick the crust a few times with the tines of a fork, line with foil and fill with raw rice or pie weights and bake for 10 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Remove the weights and foil and bake for 5 minutes more.

To make the filling, beat room temperature cheese and butter together with a fork, add the sour cream and eggs, and beat until blended. Fold in the basil and spread evenly into the crust. Press

cherry tomato halves into the filling, cut side up in very even rows about 1 /2 an inch apart much like the stars in a flag. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature cut into small squares with one cherry tomato in each square.


Pure Joy Cosmos

One 60 oz. pitcher, 24 cocktails (recipe multiplies easily)

When wine alone just won’t do, here’s a super easy & impressive cocktail you can make in batches; perfect for holiday entertaining or setting up a self-serve martini station (guests love shaking their own!). Make up one pitcher at a time or in a multiplied batch & just put as you like into a shaker with ice and strain into the honey-drizzled martini glasses.


One Pitcher;

28 oz. vodka

9.5 oz. Limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur)

5 oz. lime juice

10.5 oz. white cranberry juice

7 oz. simple syrup


For the glass drizzle;

1 cup honey, tinted red

red or green swirled candy canes or maraschino cherries, garnish


Simple syrup is just equal amounts by volume of water and sugar boiled a few minutes until it’s clear. Let that cool and then measure the ingredients into the pitcher and stir. Put the honey in a squirt bottle or tint honey that’s already in a squirt bottle and drizzle it into martini glasses like the picture shown. Set those out along with a pitcher of martinis, a shaker and a bucket of ice with a scoop. A cup of green swirled candy canes or green maraschino cherries for holiday garnish."





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