December 30, 2011

We are coming to the end of party season. The time of year when we invite friends and neighbors into our homes, cook like crazy, add a little more butter, cream, bacon to our meals. I love this time of year for all the excuses there are to celebrate and I’m resolving as of today to do more entertaining throughout the year. Why save all this merriment for December?

There is so much I am celebrating this year. It’s been quite a transformative time, these last 12 months, and I had many people to thank, some culinary skills I wanted to show off (charcuterie, fresh cheesemaking, liquor-making,) and a freezer full of goodness. Time to party.

One of the great benefits of Charcutepalooza was the focused attention each month. Producing some form of charcuterie on a regular schedule resulted in a freezer bursting with plastic bags. When am I going to get a vacuum sealer?

The guest list was clear, the number of people limited by the number of holiday napkins (16.) I began planning the menu two weeks ahead, organizing recipes, shopping lists, and reviewing serving dishes. I hired Elsa-the-Amazing, a Bolivian woman who has helped me pull off several ambitious parties. We work very well together.

The biggest challenge was the holiday tree standing square in the middle of the doorway from dining room to living room, making circulation hazardous, unruly, and frustrating. We considered taking the tree down, but what’s a holiday party without a tree? Plus we wanted to show off the new Louie ornament.

So, circulation be damned. I arranged the party carefully. Starting in the living room, where we were cozy, in a ’60s retro cocktail party way. One bite, passed hors d’oeuvres. On the sideboard, an offering of charcuterie and Elaine’s favorite radishes with sweet butter and truffle salt.

Rosé cremant d’Alsace. a bubbly pink accompaniment. Anchor Steam’s holiday beer another option.

From the dining room, an easy buffet – cassoulet, a big, glorious cassoulet – cooked in the Gascogne cassoule (a gift from Kate.) An acidic salad. We nosh standing or perched anywhere – living room, kitchen, tv room. Alsatian Reislings were the wines of the evening. We don’t serve red wine at buffet dinners. That’s ok, right? I kicked over one glass of bubbly and broke another while cleaning up after the party. Clearly, I would be the one spilling the red wine on our white chairs. Know thyself.

Finally, into Dennis’ office/acupuncture space, converted to a post dinner gathering spot for oozy cheeses, fruits, sweets, coffee, and an indecent collection of digestifs – both house-made as well as a few collected while traveling. We couldn’t get the Bose to work w/Pandora on my phone – so frustrating! I had hoped for dancing. Dennis thought I was crazy. Have since determined that my new phone is not compatible with the older Bose. It’s also possible my husband is not compatible with dancing.

I’m committed to more entertaining in 2012. It’s a great way to focus my curiousities, use all my organizing and project management skills and learn something new. And it’s always such a treat to connect with people, introduce friends to friends and take a moment to sit, engage, talk, laugh and look people in the eye.

Last night, we raised a glass to thank the Meat Freaks. The gang of five who helped me make and eat charcuterie all year long. I love you all.

And today, I’m raising a glass to all of you, my dear, sweet readers. Thank you for the support, the comments, the feedback, the sharing, the friendships. My wish is for each of you to have your own transformative year. Open your heart. It’s amazing what happens. Happy New Year. xox

discovered in the 'fridge right after dessert. oh well.

Onion Comte Tart
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 50 mins
Total time: 1 hour 5 mins
  • 2 pie crusts (here’s my <a href=”” data-mce-href=””>foolproof crust recipe</a>)
  • For the Onion Comte:
  • 4 Tbls butter
  • 1 cup shallots
  • 6 c. onions, halved lengthwise then sliced in very thin half moons
  • 2 c. grated Comte
  • 4 Tbls. creme fraiche
  • 1 Tbls. fresh thyme
To Prepare the Comte:
  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy sauté pan until foaming. Add the shallots and the onions and cook on medium until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Place the comté, creme fraiche and thyme in a large bowl and mix well. Add the onions and stir well, allowing the cheese to mostly melt.
  3. Taste and correct seasonings. Allow the mixture to cool thoroughly. May be made a day ahead.
To make the Mini-tartlettes:
  1. Roll out the pie dough to 1/8″ thickness and cut out 12 3″ circles, then tuck the circles into a mini-muffin pan. Two dough disks will make 24 tartlettes, rerolling once. Add a heaping tablespoon scoop of filling to each, then bake at 350° for about 17 minutes. Cool completely, then use a flexible offset spatula to remove the tarts from the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For eight first course sized appetizers:
  1. Portion the two pie dough disks into eight pieces then roll out each to a rough circle, 5″ in diameter and 1/8″ thick.
  2. Place the dough circles on a parchment lined baking sheet, four tarts to a sheet. Add about 1/3 cup of the filling to the center of each disk, pat out to an even thickness, leaving a large border around the edge.
  3. Fold in the dough, pleating here and there, to make eight small individual rustic tarts. Bake at 375° for about 22-25 minutes.

Of course, you can also just form a large rustic tart and serve slices. Halve the onion recipe, use one pie crust, and make one 9-10″ circle. Bake at 375° for 30-35 minutes.

Here’s the complete menu. Items in italics were made and forgotten in the kitchen. The sign of a good party.

Onion and Comté Mini Tartlettes
Deep fried olives
Roasted dates with homemade mascarpone, honey and salt
Candied Bacon (crack on a stick)
Asparagus spears wrapped with gravlax and a creamy dill mustard sauce, left in the refrigerator
Pork belly rillettes with armagnac mustard and pickles
Radishes with sweet butter and truffle salt
Tamari almonds
Cassoulet with rabbit, duck confit and saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche and couenne
Vegetarian cassoulet with garlicky bread crumbs
Roasted endive, left in the oven
Arugula salad, shallot honey fig vinaigrette and parmesian tuiles
Cheeses – Epoisses, St Andre, Humbolt Fog
Apples, blood oranges, grapes, cherries
Quetsch plum and hazelnut conserve
Prunes in Armagnac, left on the counter
Homemade Creme fraiche ice cream (Thank you, David Lebovitz! Ah-Maz-Ing.)
Laurie Colwin’s gingerbread (Read Home Cooking. Again or for the first time. Just read it.)
Homesick Texan’s Mexican Chocolate Chewies (Buy this cookbook. These one bowl easy-peasy cookies are reason enough, but the rest of the recipes look terrific.)
Holiday candies
Coffee and Tea
Digestifs: Vin de Pampelmousse, Slivovitz, Limoncello, Pear Cordial (Thank you, Winnie Abramson,) Creme de Violette, Sauerkirsch Brandy, Armagnac

And as a going home gift, a jar of my homemade Rumtopf. A happy takeaway – for everyone.

23 Responses to “savory tarts for this, or any, time of year”

  1. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    What a magnificent party…and though sorry in a small sense about the asparagus in the fridge, I’m thinking more importantly a wonderful treat for you during recuperation! Cheers and to a very Happy New Year!

  2. Sharon Miro

    Wow–nice party..and like all of us that like to cook and entertain, you planned this like a good military campaign. Lots of pre-planning & strategy, preparation in advance but the experience and knowledge to be prepared for those unexpected things that always happen.

    I cannot tell you how many times I have fogotten something in the fridge! Or the oven…

  3. Janis

    What a beautiful party. Happy and healthy New Year to you and Dennis. I feel so thankful that we met. I am determined to get together with you IRL in 2012. Love to you C! Love you lots.

  4. Elyse

    You clearly outdid yourself – what a fete! Happy New Year to you all. So glad to have met you, even if only virtually, this year.

  5. gluttonforlife

    Cathy, you are a great inspiration, so knowledgeable and generous! I thank you for sharing everything with us. (Including those forgotten asparagus! After a party, I once found a huge tupperware full of painstakingly made empanadas under the table…) Wishing you and Dennis a very delicious 2012! xo

  6. Jessica

    I don’t like serving red wine at parties, either – there’s a 99% chance that I’ll knock it over myself. I once knocked over a full saucepan of Glühwein in my kitchen – my friend came over and asked, “Where’s the body?” Red wine everywhere!

    Thank you for such an inspiring blog with great recipes and ideas! Happy New Year to you and your whole family.

  7. nialisa

    Cathy, extraordinary/excellent (you and the food)
    Happy to ring in the New Year with you, Dennis, Louie and friends.
    As I thought during your toast – all I did to help was sample your recipes.
    I am available in 1212 for more yum!
    Thanks for the friendship, love, and fabulous food.

  8. Fanny

    As usual a wonderful post. Lovely food and by all sounds of it, a great party.
    All the times I forgot to serve something, are more than I care to remember. Now I make a list, and then promptly forget to check it off.
    Happy New Year to you, Dennis and Louie am looking forward to more wonderful reading in 2012.

  9. Sally

    Truly inspiring! I have backed away from entertaining in the last few years–not quite sure why (could be, it’s a lot of work!!). It seems your organization skills paid off, and your menu is dumbfounding. Your friends are lucky. I am coveting that cassoulet dish….happy new year!

  10. A Canadian Foodie

    That is a very generous take home gift! Wish I was your friend or neighbour! Oh, how I used to love to host parties! I would challenge myself every Christmas and for 15 years each party was bigger and better with more and more and more food – all made by moi! The last one had 150 guests, too! What was I thinking! 16 is so wise and sensible and dignified. My parties were never bashes – they were definitely galas, but the most fun was always in the preparation – thinking of who I was making this for or that – and who loved this or that, etc… I can completely relate. But never did homemade charcuterie or cheeses in those days. But, everything else. Love your lovely party and your will to stick with your plans and goals. What a year you have had. I cannot imagine what next year will bring for you – but I plan to read and enjoy it all!

  11. A Canadian Foodie

    PS – your menu reminded me of my wedding menu. Yes, cooked all of the food. Hired help and was completely able to enjoy myself – but the menu still blows me away! As does yours!

  12. Gail

    You know what my favorite object is in this post? Louie’s ornament. Is it new?



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