Open plan living is the bane of my caterering existence. At the party Saturday I was initially impressed by the vast marble island that overlooked a charming living space and dining area. It is how I live, loving how I can talk to my guests or husband while I’m busy in the kitchen or watch TV while mindlessly chopping something or another. However, once the guests arrived, likely around 50 once it reached capacity, I was desperate for walls. As soon as I needed to clean a dish a group would congregate right in front of the sink. Need to warm something in the oven and inevitably another group would park themselves right in front. Funnily, many even seemed aware that they were in my space, offering to leave if they were in the way, but what was I going to say? GET OUT???? This, as one man decided to hop up and sit on the counter right next to the chocolate ganache birthday cake I’d made for the host. He seemed shocked when he got some chocolate frosting on his pristine shirt.
The menu was a mix of things that I’ve prepared over the past couple of months for other parties and favorites of the hostess from parties I’ve done for her in the past. Like I’ve mentioned before, she doesn’t eat any meat and is seven months pregnant so we were limited in the food choices, but I think it was a lovely selection that would satisfy even the most dedicated carnivore. Links to the recipes I’ve written about before are underlined.
Apple Stilton Soup Shooters
Potato Nests with Crab & Apple
Brioche Savory French Toast
Polenta Fried Ravioli with Aribiata Sauce
Crispy Asparagus Straws
Asparagus & Shiitake Terrine
Smoked Salmon Toasts with Avocado Wasabi Puree
I first came across the recipe for these super cute and surprisingly simple potato nests a couple of years ago when I was cooking in Paris. My client declared that it was just so much more fun to eat at home than out in the Paris restaurants while she was briefly in town for Haute Couture Fashion Week and so I was suddenly entertaining all of her Parisian girlfriends. I can’t imagine wanting to eat my food instead of heading out to a bustling Paris hot spot (especially if money was no object as it was in her case), but alas I was running around town searching for ingredients and having to pick up the odd kitchen tool as the supply in this particular kitchen was dreadfully out of date.
One evening, after a busy day of shows and fittings, my client brought home a large packet of smoked salmon that she said was from the best place in the world to get smoked salmon, and I’m sure it was. With friends arriving for champagne aperitifs within the hour, she wanted something to serve the salmon on. Without time to race out and pick up anything, I remembered the recipe for these adorable and delicious potato nests from Beatrice Peltre’s gorgeous cookbook. All of the ingredients were on hand so I got to work, made tiny smoked salmon rosettes to fit in the baskets and topped with creme fraiche and a delicate frond of dill. For Saturday’s party I made the recipe as Peltre suggests, with crab, but as my experience in Paris shows, you can use the little potato nests for a multitude of delicious canape mouthfuls.
Potato Nests with Crab & Apple
adapted from La Tartine Gourmande Cookbook by Beatrice Peltre
for the potato nests:
2 baking potatoes
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon crushed pink peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. FInely grate the baking potatoes (try not to clip your knuckles like I did) and place the potato in a clean kitchen towel. Now squeeze out as much extra liquid as you can. Mix in the beaten eggs, peppercorns, and salt. Spray your mini-muffin tins with cooking spray (thoroughly) and press about a tablespoon of the potato mixture into the tin. I used the end of my pestle to push the potatoes into the little nest shape. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are crispy and golden. Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a rack. If you make these in advance they might go ever so slightly soggy. SImply put them back in a hot oven for 10 minutes to crisp them up and take the chill out of them before service.
for the crab filling:
1/2 pound fresh crab meat
1 golden delicious apple, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons snipped chives
juice of a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Mix together everything but the pomegranate seeds. Let it sit for about an hour to get the flavors to meld. Fill the potato nests with the crab salad top with a couple of pomegranate seeds.