Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Fourth Gourmet Dinner Party

I'm joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday. Be sure to visit and see other lovely table settings like the one my friend set below.

The 4th Gourmet Dinner party was held in December and hosted by Bob and Heather. The "planning committee" met a month earlier and decided on Cioppino for the main course.

When we arrived, I had to stop and admire the table. I love how Heather used white hydrangeas as centerpiece flowers, along with beautiful candles everywhere. Table runner, chargers and glassware by Pottery Barn.

The hostess, Heather! I helped her decorate her dining room several years ago, choosing the terracotta damask wallpaper and captain's chairs. Her sister-in-law, Leslie Sinclair from Segretto in Houston helped her with the window coverings and new monogrammed captain's chairs most recently.

The host and hostess, Bob and Heather

The Planning Committee, Jenny, Delores, Tye and Heather.

Homemade sourdough bread
Pear and grape salad
Crab and halibut remoulade
Caramelized brie with pecans
Ghirardelli brownie
Homemade ice cream

The Sourdough Bread. Tye actually made his own sourdough starter three weeks earlier. It was delicious dipped in the Cioppino!

Tye made both a crab and a halibut remoulade to be served with pita bread.

Tye also made this caramelized brie cheese ring with pecans.

Jenny made this pear salad with roasted grapes, gorgonzola and candied pecans.

Heather made the Cioppino. It was the perfect main course for this time of year.

The Gourmet Club sits down to eat.

I brought dessert. A brownie with two kinds of homemade ice cream. On the left, is
"Blue Bottle Coffee" espresso ice cream, on the right is maple syrup ice cream.

Before we said good-bye, we decided to have another dinner in January which would include our kids before they went back to school. More on that to follow at a later date.

I'm also joining the potluck party at "Foodie Friday" hosted by Designs by Gollum. Be sure to visit and check out what everyone brought to the party.


Caramelized Brie

What could be better than ripe runny Brie? How about ripe runny Brie with a topping of chewy caramel and crisp spiced nuts? Be careful if you serve this as an hors d’ oeuvre – your guests might not save room for dinner!

· 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed

· ½ cup Spiced Pecans (see recipe) or plain pecan halves

· 1/3 cup water

· 1 ripe 8-inch wheel of Brie cheese, with top rind evenly cut off

· ½ cup heavy cream

· 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1. Combine the brown sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage (240o on a candy thermometer), about 4 minutes from the time the mixture begins to boil.

2. Let the mixture cool slightly, and then stir in the cream. Continue to boil for another 3-4 minutes until the mixture is glossy and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Fold in the spiced pecans.

3. Pour the caramel evenly over the top of the cheese so it coats the top surface and runs a little over the sides, distributing the pecans with the help of a knife or spoon. Serve with slices of French bread, crackers or apple wedges.

Makes 1 8-inch round of cheese

Spiced Pecans

The unusual combination of sweet and spicy makes these crunchy nuts irresistible.

· 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

· 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

· 1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed

· 1 egg white

· 1 teaspoon dry mustard

½ pound shelled pecan halves

· ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 300F. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the sugar and spices, remove from the heat and stir to dissolve. Let cool, and then stir in the egg white. Pour the mixture over the pecans in a large bowl, then stir and toss until they are evenly coated.

2. Transfer the pecans to a baking sheet and spread them in a single layer. Toast in the preheated oven, shaking and tossing 2-3 times during cooking, until the pecans are golden brown, about 20 minutes altogether. Transfer the nuts to a bowl or tray. When the pecans are cool enough to handle, rub them between your hands to evenly distribute the sugar coating and avoid clumping. Cool completely. Serve as a snack or with cocktails.

Makes ½ pound




· 1/3 cup mayonnaise

· ¼ cup sour cream

· 1 tablespoon drained capers

· 8 ounces fresh crabmeat, picked over or halibut

· ½ cup finely chopped celery

· 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives plus additional for garnish

· 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

· Purchase baked pita chips or pita bread (cut bread in quarters)

Whisk first 3 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Stir in crabmeat or halibut, celery, 3 tablespoons chopped chives, and lemon juice. Season with pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Transfer remoulade to serving bowl; surround with pita chips or bread. Garnish with additional chives and serve


Basic Sourdough Bread


  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter, recipe follows
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt


In an electric mixer with the dough hook, combine the flour, starter and salt, and knead until it no longer sticks to the sides or bottom of the mixing bowl.

Place a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle lightly with flour and knead gently, removing any large air bubbles. Knead into a small circle, then shape into a tight ball, pinching the seams together underneath. Place on a well-floured board or baking peel, seam-side down. Cover with a kitchen towels and let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat a baking stone, if available, on the bottom rack of an oven at 400 degrees F. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut a large "X" or cross-hatch pattern into the top of the dough.

Spray lightly with a mister and transfer to the baking stone (or place on a heavy baking sheet lightly dusted with cornmeal) and bake until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, about 60 minutes. (Sourdough should have a darker crust than other breads, so leave in the oven 5 minutes after you think it is done.)

Remove the loaf from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Basic Sourdough Starter:

  • 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit until the yeast becomes foamy, about 5 minutes. (If the yeast does not foam, discard the mixture and begin again with a new yeast.)

Add the flour and stir vigorously to work air into the mixture. Cover with a towel let rest in a warm, draft-free place (an oven with its pilot light or light bulb turned on works well) for 8 to12 hours. (The mixture should become very bubbly.) Use immediately or cover loosely with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Preserving the Starter: Each time you remove a portion of the starter for a recipe, reserve at least 1/4 cup and replace the amount you have taken out with equal amounts of flour and water.

For example, if you remove 1 cup of starter, you must replace it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk these ingredients into the starter until blended but not completely smooth, cover loosely, and return to the refrigerator.

Also, the starter must be maintained by feeding it every few days. Refresh by removing 1 cup of the starter (give to a friend or discard it) and adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk until blended but not smooth. Cover loosely and return to the refrigerator.

If you plan to be away longer than a week, freeze the starter in a sterilized, airtight freezer container. Thaw the starter 2 days before you plan to bake with it. Refresh as indicated above with 1 cup each of flour and warm water. Cover and leave at room temperature 12 hours or overnight before using.

CAUTION: Never keep your starter tightly closed! The gasses expelled by the yeast will build up pressure and may cause the container (such as a glass jar) to burst!

Yield: 5 to 6 cups Prep time: 10 minutes Inactive prep time: 12 hours


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