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La Belle Cuisine


Recipe Source for this feature:

Complete Entertaining Cookbook
Chuck Williams, General Editor;
Menu Concepts & Recipes, Joyce Goldstein
Weldon Owen Reference, Inc.


“At no other time of year are we more likely to invite friends and family to
drop by than during December.  Holiday gatherings, whether for traditional
gift exchanges or simply to share good cheer, call for a menu that can be
prepared in advance and served buffet-style.
“This Christmas buffet menu for eighteen is as robust and warming as the
season itself. There are light dishes for guests who just want to nibble, as
well as hearty recipes for those who want a complete meal.”

Wine Recommendations:
Offer both white and red.  For the white, pour a medium-to-full-bodied
assertive wine with notes of spice and earth: a rustic Pinot Blanc  or a
flinty Chardonnay .  For the red, try an Australian Shiraz  or a simple
French country wine such as Madiran or Corbières. With dessert, offer
a Malmsey Madeira or a brown or cream Sherry  from Spain.

[The following menu serves 18 guests; for a smaller party, offer fewer dishes.]

Savory Biscotti 
Herbed Cheese Spread 
Country Pâté 
Potato & Onion Pizza 
Mushroom Blintzes (recipe follows)
Duck with Lentils (recipe follows)
Chestnut Torte with Chocolate
Mocha Butter Cream
(recipe follows)


Mushroom Blintzes

Makes 36 blintzes

“In this Russian-inspired dish, thin crêpes, or blini, are folded around
a mushroom filling in neat parcels resembling Jewish deli blintzes.”

For the crêpes:
1 cup (8 fl ounces/250 ml) cold water 

1 cup (8 fl ounces/250 ml) cold milk
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (8 ounces/250 g) sifted all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup (2 ounces/60 g) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/125 g) unsalted butter,
plus additional for cooking blintzes
2 cups (10 ounces/315 g) finely chopped onions
1 1/2 pounds (750 g) fresh mushrooms,
chopped coarsely
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 5 tablespoons
(1/2 ounce/15 g) chopped fresh dill
3-4 tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup (3 fl ounces/90 ml) Madeira or
1/2 cup (4 fl ounces/125 ml) chicken stock, if needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To cook and serve the blintzes:
12 tablespoons (6 ounces/180 g) unsalted butter
Sour cream, optional

To make the crêpes, put the water, milk, eggs and salt in a blender or
food processor. Add the flour and melted butter and blend until smooth.
Cover and let the batter rest in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
Lightly butter a small (about 7-inch/18-cm) crêpe pan or small nonstick
sauté pan and place it over moderate heat. Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter
into the pan and swirl it around until it coats the bottom of the pan. Let
cook for a minute or two until set and not shiny. Loosen the crêpe with
a spatula, then flip it or turn it with both hands and cook for 30 seconds
on the other side. Slide the crêpe out of the pan. Repeat until all the
batter is used, stacking the cooked crêpes.
To make the filling, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan over moderate heat and cook the onions until tender and translucent, about
10 minutes. Lift out and set aside. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons
butter in the pan as needed and cook the mushrooms in batches over
very high heat so they don’t give off too much liquid, about 5 minutes.
Place all the cooked mushrooms in the pan and add the garlic. Cook
for 1 minute, return the onions to the pan, add the thyme or dill and
flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Madeira or
Sherry and cook until the mixture holds together, 3-4 minutes; if too
dry, add enough stock to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.
To assemble the blintzes, place 2 generous tablespoons of filling in the
center of each crêpe. Tuck in the sides and fold the top over the bottom
edge to make a neat packet. Repeat until all the filling is used. Melt about
2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan and fry the blintzes in batches
of 6 until golden on both sides. Keep warm, covered with aluminum
foil. Repeat, adding the remaining butter as needed, until all the blintzes
are cooked. Serve with dollops of sour cream, if desired.


Duck with Lentils

Serves 18

“Based on traditional French and Italian winter fare, this recipe extracts
more fat from the ducks by roasting instead of braising them. If you have
only one small oven, roast the ducks two at a time.”

For the ducks:
6 ducks, about 5 pounds (2.5 kg) each,
necks and wing tips removed and
reserved, and excess fat removed
12 cloves garlic, minced
Grated zest of 6 large lemons
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
12 fresh thyme or marjoram sprigs
3 lemons, cut into quarters

For the lentils:
6 cups (2 1/2 pounds/1.25 kg) lentils,
preferably French green lentils
14 cups (3 1/2 quarts/3.5 l) water
1/2 cup (4 ounces/125 g) unsalted butter
6 large onions, diced, about 6 cups
(1 1/2 pounds/750 g)
6 large carrots, peeled and cut into
1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 pippin or other tart green apples,
peeled, cored and diced
2 cups (16 fl ounces/500 ml) chicken stock
1/2 cup (3/4 ounce/20 g) chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or marjoram
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To prepare the ducks, preheat an oven or ovens to 475 degrees F (240 C). Place 2 ducks on a rack in each of 3 large roasting pans. Prick the ducks evenly all over with a fork. Mash together the garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper and spread this over the inside and outside of the birds. Place the
herbs and lemon quarters inside the ducks. Roast until they are tender
and well browned and the juices run clear when the thighs are pierced
with a knife, about 1 hour. Let sit until cool enough to handle, then cut
the ducks into quarters with shears, cutting off and discarding the
backbones. Set aside.
Meanwhile, to make the lentils, combine them with the water in a large
pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the
lentils are tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes for brown
lentils, or up to 25-40 minutes for green lentils. Test them every 5-10
minutes for doneness. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan with high sides and cook the onions,
carrots and celery over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until they
are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, cumin and apples
and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and their cooking liquid, stock,
herbs and lemon zest; cover and simmer until all the flavors are blended,
about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and adjust the spices
to taste. The duck and the lentils can be cooked to this point up to one day
ahead and refrigerated separately. To serve, combine the duck pieces and lentils in a large heatproof casserole, cover with aluminum foil and place
in a preheated 400-degree F (200-degree C) oven until bubbly and hot,
about 25 minutes.


Chestnut Torte with
Chocolate Mocha Butter Cream

Serves 12

“Chestnuts, synonymous with winter holiday, combine with a
chocolate mocha butter cream for an intensely rich dessert. Look
for glacéed chestnuts in specialty food shops or an Italian market.”

For the Torte:
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces/375 g) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (essence)
2 cups (1 pound/500 g) chestnut purée,
pushed through a sieve
1 cup (4 ounces/125 g) almonds, finely ground

For the Chocolate Mocha Butter Cream:
8 ounces (250 g) bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup (2 fl ounces/60 ml) strong coffee
4 egg yolks
1 cup (8 ounces/250 g) sugar
1/3 cup (3 fl ounces/90 ml) water
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces/375 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons dark rum

 Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (180 degree C). Butter and flour two
8-inch (20-cm) springform pans.
To prepare the torte, place the egg yolks and 1 cup (8 ounces/250 g)
of the sugar in the bowl over hot water and whisk for a few minutes
until warm. Remove from the hot water and beat on high speed with
the whisk attachment until the mixture is very thick and pale and a
small amount trailed from the whisk forms a ribbon on the surface of
the mixture, about 8 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then fold in the
chestnut purée and the ground almonds.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually beat in the
remaining 1/2 cup (4 ounces/125 g) sugar until the mixture is stiff but
not dry. Stir one third of the whites into the chestnut mixture, then fold
in the rest. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans and bake until
the cakes are pale gold and pull away from the sides of the pans, about
40 to 50 minutes. Let cool in the pans on racks. Loosen the edges with
a knife and then remove the pan sides.
To make the butter cream, combine the chocolate and coffee in the
top of a double boiler and melt over simmering water. Set aside and
keep warm. Place the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, set the
bowl over hot water and whisk for a few minutes until warm. Remove
from the hot water and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment
until thick and pale.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and
bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil
rapidly until the sugar reaches 236 degrees F (113 degrees C) on a
candy thermometer. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat
the hot syrup into the beaten yolks. Fold in the chocolate mixture.
Beat in the butter a little at a time. Add the dark rum. Chill until
thick enough to spread.
To assemble, place 1 cake on a serving plate, frost it, then place the
second cake on top. Frost the top and sides. Refrigerate until the
frosting is set, then bring to room temperature for serving. Top with
glacéed chestnuts.

Christmas Season Open House, page 1

Featured Archive Recipes:
Chocolate, Orange, and
Chestnut Pavé

Crêpes Hortobagyi
Forest Mushroom Strudel
Herb-Rubbed Duck with Tart
Cherry and Sage Sauce

Marvelous Mushrooms

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