Friday, May 19, 2006

Party Jinx

I am pretty sure I have a party jinx. Whenever I throw a party, invite people over for a get-together, whatever...if it's not family, they don't come. I had ONE person come to the book club meeting last night. Three people emailed to cancel the morning OF the meeting (like they didn't know it was coming up? Even though they got a reminder email a week ago?). Two other people just didn't bother. Whatever.

I, of course, spent the better part of two days cooking & cleaning. I bought $40 worth of wine. I made fantastic food: caramelized onion & goat cheese tarts, prosciutto & gruyere pinwheels, stuffed mushrooms, lacy almond cookies with fresh fruit. And now? I have half a bottle of wine leftover in the fridge (because the one woman who showed up was 8 months pregnant and I had to drink the wine alone), and I gorged myself on mushrooms last night so I wouldn't have to throw them away. I have a couple of the onion & goat cheese things left, and I sent the other lady home with most of the remaining pinwheels, half the cookies, and all the fruit. It's not like I can just keep this stuff around - I'm leaving for Washington tomorrow, for a family reunion.

I am never throwing a party again. It's just not worth the stress.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tarts

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 4-oz log fresh goat cheese
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
Minced fresh thyme (couple teaspoons, I guess. "Just eyeball it," as Rachael would say)
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the onions, salt & pepper to taste, then cook over medium heat for a long time, stirring occasionally, until they get golden brown and caramelized. You can throw in a little sugar if you want (maybe a tablespoon), while the onions are cooking. This helps them caramelize and makes them even sweeter.

When the onions are done, roll out your puff pastry sheet until it's about 18" x 11". Trim off any uneven edges, and then cut into squares about 2-3" on each side. You don't have to get all anal about it, just make roughly the same size/shape for each tart. Put the puff pastry squares on cookie sheets (I use silpats with mine) and with a fork, gently pierce the squares at about half-inch intervals, leaving about a 3/4" border all around that is un-pierced. When you pierce the pastry, that part doesn't puff up; the unpierced part will puff up and make a pretty square border around the filling.

Put a little of the onions and goat cheese in the middle of each square, and sprinkle with fresh thyme. Bake for 15 minutes, until the puff pastry is, well, puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature. They're good either way.

Prosciutto & Gruyere Pinwheels

1/2 lb thinly sliced prosciutto
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten with a little water

Roll out the puff pastry sheet until it's about 18" x 11". Trim off any uneven edges so that it's a rectangle. Starting at the side closest to you, which should be a wide edge, lay strips of prosciutto on the pastry until it's all covered, leaving about a half-inch to an inch of the edge farthest from you uncovered. Sprinkle the Gruyere cheese on top. Then just roll the sheet up until you get almost to the end. Brush the bare edge with the egg wash, the finish rolling. Wrap the entire roll in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for at least half an hour (up to a day or two, if you are making this ahead of time).

Preheat oven to 425°.

After the roll is chilled, pull it out and slice it into circles about 3/4" thick. Lay them down on a parchment- or silpat-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown and puffed up a bit. These are also tasty warm or at room temp.

Stuffed Mushrooms
This is such a "whatever" recipe; the amounts below are really just guesses.

1 lb white button mushrooms (bigger ones are better)
4 Tbsp butter
Olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh minced herbs (thyme, sage, marjoram, whatever you like)
Salt & pepper to taste
Saltines, crushed
1/4 c shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400°, or thereabouts. 425° is fine.

Gently clean the mushrooms (do NOT run under water) with a damp cloth. Pop off the stems and set aside. Lay out the mushroom caps, bottoms up, on a cookie sheet.

Over medium heat in a skillet, melt the butter and add a little olive oil, maybe a couple tablespoons. Chop the reserved mushroom stems finely. Add the shallot to the pan, then a minute or two later add the garlic and the mushrooms. Saute for a couple minutes, then throw in the herbs and salt & pepper. It should be pretty loose at this point, with lots of butter and oil. Add in enough cracker crumbs to soak up the liquid and bind it all together. I can't give you an exact amount here, sorry. It's just one of those things. If it gets too dry, add a little more olive oil. Cook it for another minute or so to keep the crackers from tasting too raw.

With a spoon, push the filling into the mushroom caps, mounding it up slightly. Really kind of pack it in and on top of the mushroom. You should have just about exactly the right amount to fill all your mushroom caps. Sprinkle the mushrooms with shredded Parmesan and then pop it in the oven for about 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms are giving off their liquid and are cooked through, but still a little bit firm to the bite. For the last minute or two, turn on the broiler to brown the tops. Serve immediately.

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