Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Savory starts and sweet finishes!

So we had these people over Sunday who were there to chow down on some rocking good, home-style meatloaf (see post below) during our anti-turkey dinner party, but you can't just throw some slabs of meat down on the plate with a couple of sides and call it good. Well, maybe you can, but not in our world. Besides, the more courses we serve, the more good bottles of wine we can open! With that in mind, both w and I came up with our own value-added contributions to go with the Good Eats Meatloaf....a before and after keep the party going.

I love good soup, and am always on the lookout for something different, interesting, and if it's easy, especially on a night when people are coming over, all the better. This recipe from the New York Times' food writer Mark Bittman seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I've never had, much less made, an apple soup, but the combination of apple and fennel sounded too intriguing to pass up. This was also incredibly easy to put together, and with a couple of modifications to the original recipe, way delicious!

In the soup...warm, silky smooth goodness!

w was in charge of the after diner portion of our night of over-indulgence, and she had her eye on a very seasonal pumpkin mousse. When it comes to dessert, I've already stated that I am a huge "cake guy". But then there really aren't too many desserts that I won't get with. Being a fan of all sweet things served in ramekins, though, this one sounded too good....and it was! Not too heavy, with that light, fluffy, um....moussey texture. It was a perfect finish to the evening, especially served with a big ginger cookie.

Pumpkin pudding, only better!

These were both fantastic, and again, SO easy. Big wow factor with minimal effort....the perfect dinner party equation!


Apple-Fennel Soup
adapted from Mark Bittman

3 apples (Granny Smith, Winesap, Cameo or Cortland)
1 medium-size fennel bulb, stems removed, diced
1 shallot, sliced
2 small inner stems celery, with leaves
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 oz. sweet Italian sausage

1. Peel and core 2 1/2 apples and place in 3-quart saucepan with fennel, shallot, celery, stock, wine, salt and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes, until all are tender.

2. Meanwhile, core and finely dice remaining half apple, toss with half the lemon juice, cover tightly or seal in a sandwich bag and set aside.

3. Put sausage into small skillet, crumble and brown until slightly crisp. Remove from pan and set aside.

4. Purée contents of saucepan in a blender; return to pot. Whisk in remaining lemon juice, cream and mustard. Bring to a simmer, check seasonings and serve, with diced apple and a few bits of crumbled sausage, garnishing each portion.

Yield: 6 servings.

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Pumpkin Mousse
recipe courtesy Dave Lieberman/FoodTV

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Ginger snaps, for garnish

Combine pumpkin, 1 cup cream, sugar and spice in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Cool fully.

Whip remaining heavy cream and vanilla to soft peaks and fold into cooled pumpkin mixture. Pour into a serving dish and crumble the ginger snaps over top before serving.

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