Sorry it’s been a while, but with two new clients and a whole slew of engagements for which I was also cooking, it’s been a little hectic over here! One of the events gave me a lovely excuse to have some fun in the kitchen and expand my repertoire just a bit. A dear friend of mine is due to have her first baby next month, and while I can’t wait to meet the little guy, I felt we needed to do something to commemorate the end of this era of her life. As luck would have it, back in August I received an email from Benefit Cosmetics on Carnaby Street here in London, saying I’d won a party for six to have makeovers in their party space. I went to check it out and decided it was the perfect spot to have a little soiree for the girls. We could get our nails and makeup and hair done while snacking on treats I’d bring in and sip champagne – how better to see our pregnant pal off to mommy land?
Perhaps because the daddy-to-be is from Georgia, I was drawn to classic American favorites for the menu, and because there were only going to be six of us, I could have fun and do more complicated canapes than I would if I were cooking for 20. Originally I had wanted to make mini lobster rolls, but had a hard time finding lobster (and when I did it was outrageously expensive), so thought shrimp would be a perfect substitution. Finding mini hot dog rolls was a trick (and honestly I’ll be searching elsewhere because the ones I did order ended up being lousy), but having resources for the dishes I enjoy using is part of my job. I think the BLT cups were inspired by my mother who has been craving them lately and raving to me over the phone every time she makes one for herself. Baskets full of Smitten Kitchen’s Spicy Candied Peanuts and root veggie chips were mixed in for the girls to nibble on. To lighten things up, little paper cups full of my favorite kohlrabi and apple slaw as a twist on the classic and shot glasses full of bright pea and mint soup shooters with a little dollop of sour cream.
Finally, I decided to get a little crafty and test my pastry skills. I found a onesie-shaped cookie cutter and researched the best sugar cookie recipes. This recipe from Bake at 350’s site is going to be my forever go-to for cut-out cookies. They were delicious, easy, and gorgeous. She also has recipes for the royal icing I used to decorate the cookies with lots of tips for how to color, pipe, flood, flock (decorating technique terms). The little Roman numeral 4 I choose because we already know this baby is going to be the “fourth” – I just placed each one in a little cellophane bag and tied up at the top for each guest to take home.
32 cherry tomatoes
3 spears romaine lettuce
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup garlic breadcrumbs
To make the tomato cups, using a small serrated knife cut off just the top 1/8 of the tomato and then carefully cut around the inside membranes to allow the seeds and goop to loosen from the flesh and pop out. Now cut another tiny little slice off the bottom so that the filled cups don’t roll around on your platter. Cut the tough rib out of the center of each lettuce leaf and then tear the lettuce into inch long strips. When you place them into the tomato roll slightly so they fit neatly into your hollowed-out tomatoes. Stick a nice bit of crumbled bacon into each cup. In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, along with a good grind of pepper. Place the mayo mixture into a squeeze bottle and pipe a little squirt into each cup. Finally top the tomato cup with a generous pinch of your garlic breadcrumbs.
1/2 cup blue cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup cream cheese at room temperature
splash of madera
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped finely
48 green grapes, completely dried
In a mixing bowl combine the blue cheese, cream cheese, and madera. Take a grape and coat it in the cheese mixture. Now drop it in the pecans and toss to coat. Place on a parchment lined tray and once you’ve coated all 48 pop in the fridge and serve cold. A couple of tips: make sure your nuts are cooled before tossing or they will melt your cheese. I don’t recommend making these more than a few hours in advance or else the nuts go soggy – the play on textures is what makes these irresistible!
1 pound raw peeled jumbo shrimp
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped chives
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
salt and pepper
24 mini hot dog buns, split in the top
2 tablespoons melted butter
Bring a saucepan of water with the bay leaf and peppecorns to a boil and then add the shrimp. Boil for 4 minutes, until pink and opaque. Drain and allow them to cool. Meanwhile, mix together the mayo, celery, chives, lemon juice, horseradish, salt and pepper. Chop up the shrimp into 1/4 – 1/3 inch pieces and mix into the sauce. Brush the melted butter inside the mini buns and place in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, until golden and slightly crispy. Spoon the shrimp into each bun and garnish with more chopped chives if you like.