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January

ALL WRAPPED UP

Inspiration:  January, the dead of winter

 

Your guests will arrive all wrapped up. Keep them warm and cozy with foods handsomely wrapped and suitably scrumptious.

 

HOST’S INTRODUCTION

The holidays have come and gone, the days are darker and temperatures have dipped. We all want to ward off winter’s bleakness, so it’s the perfect time to gather with guests and share the warmth of friendship and dining together. What could be better for the occasion than food that’s all wrapped up? Wrappings warm and comfort us. From swaddling, an ageless practice that soothes infants, to the cozy security of a shawl around one’s shoulders, a wrap conveys contentment and well-being. And when everything you serve is wrapped, each dish will be seasoned with mystery and surprise, a strategy guaranteed to build intrigue and interest. Handsome wrappings and alluring aromas will entice your guests. Contrasting textures and warm, satisfying tastes will reward each bite they take. 

 

So there you have it. In the dead of winter, put on your favorite wrap, gather your guests and get 

ALL WRAPPED UP!

 

Appropriate for:  Anytime in January, of course, or whenever it’s cold outside.

 

MENU

 

APPETIZERS

MASCARPONE WITH CAPERS AND CHIVES

Wrapped in Smoked Salmon and Arugula

 

FILET MIGNON WITH ANCHOVY/ROSEMARY MAYONNAISE

Wrapped in Flour Tortilla 

 

PEAR WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Wrapped in Baked Parmesan Cheese

 

SOUP

FENNEL AND LEEK BISQUE

Wrapped in Puff Pastry

 

ENTREÊ

PORK TENDERLOINS AND SAGE LEAVES

Wrapped in Prosciutto

 

SAUTÉ OF RUBY CHARD WITH GOLDEN RAISINS AND PINE NUTS

Wrapped in Chard Leaves Poached in Merlot

 

MUSHROOMS IN MUSHROOM SYRUP

Wrapped in French Bread Crust

 

SALAD

GREEN SURPRISE

Mesclun Wrapped in Belgian Endive with Tie of Chive

 

DESSERTS

BLOOD ORANGE CAKE

Wrapped in Fondant Ribbon

 

ANJOU PEARS

Wrapped in Dessert Crêpe

 

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

Invitation. This invitation is a warm-up! Prepare a small Mason or other glass jar with the makings of hot chocolate. Layer it with cocoa powder, miniature marshmallows and peppermint candies. Print the note below on cream-colored card stock. Cut the note out and wrap it around the glass jar, securing it with tape. Wrap the jar with cream-colored paper and tie with a ribbon of warm brown. Hand deliver. Or, enclose the note in an appropriate card or send an email with appropriate stationery.

Note for Invitation. Please come to a winter dinner designed, like hot chocolate, to keep you warm and cozy. Include time, place and R.S.V.P. if desired. 

 

Entrance Décor. Display a few large scarves, shawls or stoles on a small table or other piece of furniture or, if you have a staircase near your home’s entrance, tie scarves, etc. from the bannister. Or tie them around some boxes or other objects. If children or pets are usually present when guests arrive, dress them in scarves or mufflers. You, of course, will be decked out in your favorite shawl. Or use your imagination to wrap yourself in ribbons, scarves or ties.

 

Greeting guests. Welcome your guests with your warmest smile and hug. Lead them to your cocktail table, hand them a cup of warm mulled wine and present the set of souvenir menus.

 

Souvenir Menu. Print the menu on cream-colored or parchment paper. Wrap it, of course; roll and tie it with suitable ribbon. Tie all the menus together with a broad, fancy, warmth-evoking ribbon. As guests arrive, have each select one from the all-wrapped-up set.

 

Room Décor. Place a decorative throw on your sofa, preferably one that is fuzzy, furry or velvety. If you have a fireplace, use it. Keep the room lighting low, but be extravagant with candles.

 

Table Décor. Show off the appetizers on your cocktail table. Enclose each in a beautiful cloth, scarf or shawl, or large napkin. An alternative is tissue paper in warm colors, although paper does not communicate warmth as well as cloth. If you have one, a three-tier dessert stand enclosed in handsome fabric will beguile your guests. Whichever presentation you use, unwrap with panache before serving.

 

Make your dinner table radiate warmth and light. For the centerpiece, use one or more ice luminaries. Follow instructions from the Internet. Fill with evergreens such as holly and red cranberries with a candle in the center. Place a dish under each luminary to catch drip. The ice represents winter’s cold; the evergreens and berries, its beauty.  The candle flame conveys warmth in the face of winter’s cold. 

 

Use linens in shades of brown or other warm colors, incorporating some contrast.  Examples are tablecloth or placemats in taupe with creamy napkins (or vice versa) or cream with forest green or auburn. Similarly, use dishes that reflect warmth. If you can, avoid white china, which has a cold, formal look. In keeping with the theme, wrap each set of flatware in the guest’s napkin.

 

Mood Music. The occasion calls for soft, relaxing music. Nostalgic love songs, especially oldies, will work for most guests.

 

Favor. Blood oranges, available only during winter months, make a delicious and appropriate take-home souvenir. Place two or more in a decorative pouch or wrap in festive paper.

Note for favor. We hope you enjoy these blood oranges. Unwrap (i.e., peel) these jewels of the citrus family to reveal segments as lush in coloring as they are luscious in taste.  

 

RECIPE GUIDELINES

With Suggestions for Plating and Complementary Beverages

 

COCKTAIL

Warm and spicy, mulled wine makes a perfect start for this dinner. 

Preparation. Choose a recipe from the Internet. Serve in glass mugs or cups with a cinnamon stick. 

 

APPETIZERS

 

 

 

 

MASCARPONE WITH CAPERS AND CHIVES

Wrapped in Smoked Salmon and Arugula

This dish is a sensual symphony of color, taste and texture. With each bite, the firm, smoky flesh of coral salmon yields to soft white cream and emerald counterpoints of parsley, tangy capers, sharp chives and peppery arugula. 

Preparation. Mix mascarpone with minced chives, capers, Italian parsley, a touch of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Lay out a strip of smoked salmon. Place on it a leaf of baby arugula so that some green shows above the salmon strip. Place a spoonful of cheese mixture on the arugula and top with another arugula leaf. Roll it up and tie with a long chive.

 

FILET MIGNON WITH ANCHOVY/ROSEMARY MAYONNAISE

Wrapped in Flour Tortilla 

Guaranteed, your guests will get an explosion of flavor as their taste buds contact the contents of this wrap.

Preparation. Mix mayonnaise with chopped rosemary, some garlic, a touch of anchovy paste, lemon juice and black pepper. Broil or grill filet mignon, in ½-inch slices, and then cut into strips. Over the flame on the stovetop, toast 8-inch flour tortillas on both sides. Cut them in half. Spread each half with a layer of mayonnaise mixture and 2 slices of filet mignon, covering about half of the tortilla. Add a few sprigs of watercress, roll and fasten with toothpick.

 

PEAR WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Wrapped in Baked Parmesan Cheese

The combination of ripe pear, balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese is a popular party dish. Transform it by baking the cheese over the pear. Now, the soft, sweet pear contrasts with the crispy, savory cheese wrap. A good balsamic vinegar adds an extra burst of flavor.

Preparation. Slice ripe Bosc pears into small pieces. Put 1 or 2 drops of balsamic vinegar on each pear piece. For each wrap, put a generous tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese on a plain baking sheet to form a circle about twice the size of the pear pieces. Lightly flatten the center of the circle. Bake in 350°F oven for about 4 minutes until cheese has melted but is not yet crisp. Remove baking sheet from oven and immediately place one pear piece at the edge of one circle.  With a spatula, fold the cheese over the pear so that the edges of the cheese completely cover the pear. Continue for the remainder. Return sheet to oven and bake for about 1 minute, until cheese is crisp and golden brown.

Plating the Appetizers

On circular appetizer-size plates, place 1 or 2 of each appetizer in a circular pattern, with a small bunch of parsley or baby arugula in the circle or middle of the plate.

SOUP

FENNEL AND LEEK BISQUE

Wrapped in Puff Pastry

This soup is a showstopper! The pastry over the bisque puffs up like a huge chef’s hat. A fork breaks the hat and POOF! A cloud of fragrant steam!

Preparation. Recipes for fennel and leek bisque call for sautéing fennel, leeks, onion and garlic in butter. For liquid, we like simmering a combination of Chardonnay wine, vegetable or chicken stock and water followed by the addition of heavy cream (1wine: 1cream: 2 stock: 1water) and a small amount of a licorice liqueur. After pureeing, spoon soup into ramekins. Cover the tops and ½-inch of the sides with puff pastry, pressing the pastry against the sides. Bake in 400°F oven until pastry rises and turns light brown, about 12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and serve.

PlatingPresent each ramekin on a small plate decorated with a few fennel fronds. 

Complementary Beverage.  Make it a buttery Chardonnay, the same as the one in the soup.

 

ENTREÉ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PORK TENDERLOINS AND SAGE LEAVES

Wrapped in Prosciutto

Pork and sage, a classic combination, do double duty in this preparation. Sage lends its dusky flavor to two distinct pork tastes. Savory prosciutto encases sweet tenderloin slices and sage leaves. High heat and fast cooking preserve flavorful juices and the different dimensions of flavor.

Preparation. Cut a room-temperature, boneless pork tenderloin into slices about ¾-inch thick. Place 2 sage leaves on top of each pork tenderloin in a crisscross pattern. Wrap a wide slice of prosciutto, 1/8-inch thick, over the sage leaves and around the tenderloin. Place seam side down in a roasting pan. Brush with olive oil and roast for 10 minutes in a 500°F oven. Garnish each wrap with 2 sage leaves.

 

SAUTÉ OF RUBY CHARD WITH GOLDEN RAISINS AND PINE NUTS

Wrapped in Chard Leaves Poached in Merlot

Strikingly colorful, ruby chard is chock-full of rich flavor. The large leaves wrap a mixture of chopped chard enriched with sweet raisins and nuts. Poaching the leaves in wine subtly alters their flavor.

Preparation. Set aside one large chard leaf for each guest, Sauté chopped ruby chard and onion in olive oil until tender. Add raisins with enough water to prevent sticking and simmer for a few minutes. Briefly poach the large chard leaves in a mixture of vegetable stock and merlot. Lay the leaves out and place about 1 tablespoon of sautéed chard and about 1 teaspoon of toasted pine nuts on one side. Roll and place seam side down.

 

MUSHROOMS IN MUSHROOM SYRUP

Wrapped in French Bread Crust

A mushroom reduction intensifies the earthy flavor of mushrooms. The better the mushrooms, the richer the flavor. The crisp wrap supplies contrast in texture.

Preparation. (1) For the mushroom mixture, sauté roughly chopped mushrooms in butter with minced garlic until they begin to brown and give up their liquid. Cook for a few minutes with minced parsley, tarragon and lemon zest.

(2) For the syrup, sauté mushrooms in butter with shallots or garlic until becoming soft. Boil for about 15 minutes in a mixture of white wine, water and a bit of lemon zest. Strain thoroughly, then boil down to a syrup.

(3) For the wrap, cut a crusty French bread into ½-inch slices. Remove inside soft bread, leaving unbroken rings of crust. Mash olive oil with grated garlic and brush on crusts, inside and out. Bake crusts in 500°F oven for about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Fill with warm mushroom mixture and drizzle warm syrup over top. 

Plating the Entrée 

Place pork wrap at bottom center of plate. Position wrapped chard to one side above it and mushroom wrap to the other side. Use some mushroom syrup to make a pattern of dots such as a half circle in the empty space on the plate.

Complementary Beverage.  A red wine with medium body, such as a Chianti reserve, will work well.

SALAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GREEN SURPRISE

Mesclun Wrapped in Belgian Endive with Scallion Tie

When untied, the salad unfolds like a flower. Add to the surprise with the tantalizing fragrance of vanilla. 

Preparation. (1) Tear mesclun into small pieces. Dress with vinaigrette. We suggest one made of white wine vinegar, a fragrant oil such as hazelnut and vanilla vodka (or plain vodka with enough vanilla extract to clearly flavor the vodka). Use these proportions - 1:2:2. Add a touch of honey, salt and pepper. (2) You will need one head of endive for each guest. For each, in the palm of hand, place two endive leaves so their bottoms overlap.  Continue adding leaves, 8-10 in total, overlapping them until it resembles a completed flower.  Drop in ½ cup of dressed mesclun.  Bring fingers together to close salad within endive leaves.  If you need to add another endive leaf to ensure outside of packet is solid, do so at this point. If you have a helper, have them wrap a long scallion (white bulb removed) around the endive packet and pull ends into a knot. If working alone, hold packet firmly, lay it down and then tie a scallion around it.

Plating. Stand each tied endive bunch in center of a flat, individual plate.  Once scallion tie is removed, endive will unfold like a flower in bloom!

Note: See Easy Dazzle for a simpler salad.

DESSERTS

BLOOD ORANGE CAKE

Wrapped in Fondant Ribbon

Because winter is the season for blood oranges, take advantage of them to make a cake that stands out in color and flavor. 

Preparation. Use a recipe for orange cake, substituting blood oranges for the usual. Decorate with fondant to resemble a ribbon tie. Check the Internet for images of several types of fondant ties. 

 

ANJOU PEARS

Wrapped in Dessert Crêpe

The warm pears, poached in a spicy liquid, will both contrast and harmonize with the cool flavor of the cake.

Preparation. Poach pears in a liquid with a flavor to harmonize with the orange cake such as anise or cinnamon. For intense pear flavor, use pear nectar and water in equal amounts. When pears are soft, remove from liquid and slice. Boil the liquid down to a syrup. Make or buy dessert crêpes and fill with pear slices. Spoon some poaching syrup over the top. Roll the crêpes, drizzle each with a bit of honey and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Plating the Desserts

Sprinkle powdered sugar or a mix of powdered sugar and cinnamon on a dinner plate, preferably colorful. Place a slice of cake on one side and a crepe on the other. A few mint leaves will add color.

Complementary Beverage

A good cognac or brandy to warm your guests before their departure makes a cordial conclusion.

 

EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

Cocktail. Mulled wine is easy to make, but is best if made shortly before serving or no more than one hour in advance. Some websites say that you can make mulled wine a day in advance, refrigerate it and then rewarm. We have tried it but found it unsatisfactory. An alternative is a glass of sparkling red wine. 

 

Appetizers. The easiest one to make is the mascarpone wrapped in smoked salmon. However, a warm appetizer fits the theme better than a cold one and the pear wrapped in parmesan cheese is not much more difficult to make. For a very simple warm appetizer, purchase baked crostini and cover with goat cheese. Make it look like a pretty package by laying two strips of roasted red pepper from a jar (cut ahead of time) in a cross on top and place a small olive at the center. Serve warm.

 

Soup or salad. The soup is spectacular and so very theme-related. It and the pastry can be made in advance and frozen so that’s a plus. The salad suggested here will be easier to assemble. Preparation. For each serving, place a small handful of mesclun dressed with your favorite vinaigrette at the end of a large leaf of Romaine lettuce. Top the mesclun with one pansy or other edible flower. Roll the leaf to form a closed package and secure with a colorful toothpick. 

 

Entrée. The side with chard will be simpler to make than the mushrooms. 

 

Dessert. Substitute a cake from your favorite bakery. Ask them to decorate it to look like a package. The pears can be made as much as two days ahead. It will be simple to wrap them in store-bought crepes.

 

Favor. What could be easier than buying some blood oranges several days ahead and popping them into pretty bags from a crafts store? So do it.

 

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