The Friday before Christmas we set out to host a few friends for cocktails and before I knew it, we were hosting a full-blown Christmas Party. Michael decided he wanted to make a big batch of seafood gumbo, so he spent the week going to every grocery store in a five-mile radius to gather all the necessary ingredients. I focused on the bar and putting together a few fun appetizers to accompany the main event. It was a really fun night and one that we’re likely to make a tradition in the years to come. Michael’s already telling me he wants to have a “real” Christmas Party next year, so as with most things around here, it sounds like it’s only going to get bigger.
Here’s our bar all set up for the occassion. Fancy “B” napkins, metalic striped straws, and some “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” Christmas lager and we were all set. First up on the appetizer list were these cheese puffs adapted from a recipie I found on Goop. I kept the recipe largely the same, save the addition of truffle salt for something special, but I did make a few notes on the instructions.
Christmas Cheese Puffs
3/4 cup flour
1 cup water
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
1 teaspoon salt–(truffle if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 large eggs
1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup (packed) Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets and sprinkle with a dusting of flour.
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil and then add the flour, stirring vigorously with a wire whisk until the mixture forms a smooth ball. The whisk helps avoid clumps in the flour and ensures it all comes together smothly. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes more, then remove from heat.
Put the mixture into a mixing bowl and then add mustard and eggs, 1 at a time. Mix well to combine, then add cheese and mix again. Puting the mixture into a mixing bowl first helps avoid scrambled eggs, which is how my first batch ended up going down the drain.
Using a mellon baller, scoop up the batter and drop spoonfuls one by one onto the baking sheets, giving them enough space to cook and expand, about an inch or two apart. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Tops should be golden brown and centers just set.
Note: You can also make these ahead and freeze the little drops of dough on the cookie sheet. Once they’re frozen, you can put them in a zip-lock until you need them. Bake right from the freezer and just add a few extra minutes to the cooking time.
We also made these really yummy fresh figs wrapped in proscuitto. I tested a few different versions out during the week, and they were pretty tasty with fresh and dried figs and with different kinds of cheese in the middle. Our favorites though were the fresh ones with a little gorgonzola tucked inside. I intended to drizzle a little balsamic syrup over the top of these, but ran out of time at the last minute as all our friends were beginning to arrive. Maybe next year…
Halve the fresh figs and remove the stems. Top each fig half with a small crumble of gorgonzola (or manchego or white cheddar, or whatever strikes your fancy). Wrap each with a half a piece of proscuitto and secure with a toothpick. Once they’re all tied up, place in a 400 degree oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, turning once in the middle so that the proscuitto crisps up evenly.
Last on my list was pickled shrimp. I had been wanting to make these ever since we went to Oxford, Mississipi for the Texas/Ole Miss game and had some at a friend’s house. The recipie was her mother’s, and she was gracious enough to share it with me after I devoured half the bowl. I also looked up a few versions in our southern cookbook collection and added in a few tweaks just for fun.
1 cup thinly sliced, yellow onion
6 bay leaves
2 oz. bottle of capers, drained
4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1 whole lemon cut into thin rounds
2 lbs. boiled shrimp
Mix all ingredients together in a large zip lock bag and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight and up to four days. Turn the bag every once in a while to make sure the shrimp are pickling evenly. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, and serve chilled. These were great as a make-ahead appetizer. All you have to do is dump the zip lock into a pretty bowl right before people arrive, and you’re all set.
Here is Michael’s set up for his seafood gumbo. The recipe was, of course, sourced from John Besh and tasted delicious.
And, it wouldn’t be a party at our house without fried oysters. Michael serves his with buffalo sauce, and they’re all usually gone before I can even snap a picture.
It was a great party. Only note for next year is to remember to hire help and someone to clean up the next day! Merry Christmas, everyone!