A few years ago a friend asked me to help throw a swank cocktail party for 50, on the scale of a Breakfast at Tiffany’s blowout. Done. Vodka and gin alternated the martinis with offerings of blue cheese stuffed green olives, smoked salmon stuffed black olives and lemon twists as garnishes. In keeping with the idea of pomp as well as the circumstances, I did a riff on breakfast food, serving hors d’oeuvres that featured thinly sliced, savory egg soufflés on walnut toasts with a dollop of crème fraiche, bloody mary steak shots, and in an ode to pancakes, blinis with caviar. I also served Jean-Georges Vongerichten's 27 Vegetable Salad as a starter and then Edamame Finger Sandwiches. Silver dragees, white pearls of tapioca, and black caviar lentils were spilled on the serving platters to coyly suit the evening and further set the mood.
The hostess had asked that a subtle dessert also be served, so as not to send the guests rushing home, as cake and coffee might suggest. I thought a cheese course would be right in line. Taking a cue from Mario Batali and how he drizzles truffle honey over a wedge of cheese at Otto to tempt the taste buds and remembering how my Nana used to spread cream cheese over the most delicious molasses pantry cookies when I was a wee ain, I served a wheel of D’Affinois cheese (a sweet, gooey brie) drizzled with white truffle honey and good old ginger snaps alongside. It was just gorgeous (and quickly consumed)!
The recipes are below but if you are wondering about the blinis, I just bought mine as they may be purchased easily enough already made--and check out black paddlefish caviar for a thrifty yet elegant solution to the more pricey stuff. As for the souffles, perhaps quotations should be attached as I improvised on tradition, but eggs briskly whisked with pepper, finely chopped sage and thyme will rise admirably once placed in a casserole dish and then baked in a more than moderately heated oven closely observed. Cautiously slice the expansion and then serve on your walnut toasts.
"27" Vegetable Salad With Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
This salad is a wonderful start to any party, dinner or otherwise and with or without all of the entire 27 vegetables readily serves a reasonable crowd--I've served it often and in return, it's served me well. The involvement is well worth it, and keep this platter of vegetables warm, finally flourished with the herb garnishes.
14 cups mixed baby vegetables
1 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pinch cayenne pepper
10 medium chopped shiitake mushroom caps
ground black pepper to taste
2 cups grape tomatoes
1 1/2 cups mixed herbs and edible flowers
Bring two large pots of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. If using red beets, blanch in one pot, and transfer to water bath to prevent any further cooking. Remove from ice bath, and drain. Set aside. Discard blanching water as it will discolor any additional vegetables.
In the second pot, blanch the remaining vegetables separately, beginning with the lightest in color and proceeding to the darkest in color, until just tender. Transfer to ice bath. Remove, and drain. Set aside. In a blender, combine chives, grapeseed oil, and salt. Puree until smooth. Let rest until mixture has settled. Strain through a fine sieve, and set chive oil aside. In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup water and 4 tablespoons butter to a boil. Season with salt and cayenne. Divide remaining 2 tablespoons butter between two large skillets. Heat over medium heat until melted.
Divide mushrooms between skillets, and saute until tender. Season with salt. Pour half the butter-and-water mixture into each skillet.
Divide vegetables between skillets, and cook until just heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Add tomatoes, and toss to combine.
Transfer vegetable mixture to a large platter. Top with herbs and flowers. Drizzle with chive oil and prepare to stun.
A shout out to my friend Stacey who created a better recipe than I did. Slather your mousse on crustless white bread for terrific tea sandwiches!
3 cups edamame (Stacey buys this frozen and out of the shell, or else it is a major pain!)
½ cups butter
½ cup cream
½ cup truffle oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Onion sprouts or chopped chives
Boil thawed edamame until tender in salted water, about 10-12 minutes. Puree in food processor with rest of ingredients and season to taste. Serve room temp or slightly warmed sprinkled with onion sprouts or chopped chives.
Bloody Mary London Broil Shooters
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
I took this idea and made individual servings, thinly slicing the meat on the bias and placing into egg cups! Rally 'round the recipe and the portions of meat depending on the number of your guests.
2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons prepared commercial horseradish
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons crumbled dried marjoram
1 teaspoon crumbled dried basil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 1/2 pounds London broil, about 1 1/2 inches thick, trimmed
Stir together tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, sherry, marjoram, basil, and pepper in a small bowl. Place steak flat in a glass or ceramic dish. Spoon the tomato-juice mixture over the meat, spreading to cover. Turn the meat to coat the other side. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or set aside at room temperature for no longer than 30 minutes. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Lightly spray the grill rack with vegetable-oil cooking spray. The coals should be moderately hot to hot. Lift the meat from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Grill the steak for 8 minutes. Turn the steak, and grill for 7 to 10 minutes, longer for medium-rare. Let the steak rest at room temperature for about 5 minutes before slicing on the diagonal into thin strips. Salt to taste. First published in part in Next magazine.