In the January/February issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray, our editor-in-chief Lauren Purcell dishes about all things dinner parties. “I’m deeply fond of theme parties,” she says, “But somehow, my theme-mania never translated to dinner parties. Until now!”
As the Queen of Cocktail Parties (she did write her own cookbook on the subject, in fact), it only makes sense that the first party Lauren wants to throw in the new year is an hors d’Oeuvres party: a small (and seated) group so everyone can be in on the same conversations, plus the festive feel you get from having a bite of this, a taste of that. Check out her three recipe picks below!
Goat Cheese and Leek Croustades
For the croustade cups
36 slices high-quality white sandwich bread
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
For the filling
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup finely chopped leeks, white and pale green parts (about 2 medium leeks)
8 ounces soft mild goat cheese
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts
Prepare the cups
Preheat oven to 350°F.
With a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out a round of bread from each slice. Brush one side of each round with the melted butter. Press the bread, butter side down, into the cup of a mini muffin tin. The bread will not reach the top of the cups.
Bake until the top edges are browned, 11 to 13 minutes. Remove the croustades to a wire rack to cool.
Prepare the filling
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. If the leeks begin to brown, lower the heat.
In a food processor, blend the goat cheese, olive oil, yogurt, chives, parsley, salt, and pepper until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in leeks. Set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat, shaking frequently, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.
Return the croustade cups to the muffin tins and fill each cup with goat cheese mixture. Top with 3 to 4 pine nuts. Bake for about 5 minutes.
Makes 36 croustades.
Shrimp with Spicy Lime Dip
For the shrimp
1 pound medium shrimp
2 garlic cloves, crushed
For the spicy lime dip
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3 scallions, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 small chipotle chiles in adobo, minced to a paste, plus 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon juice (1 lime)
Prepare the shrimp
Peel the shrimp and devein them, if desired. Put the garlic in a pot of generously salted water and bring water to a boil. Put shrimp in and cook until they’re pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. (The water may not return to a boil in that time.) Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Prepare the dip
Prepare the dip: Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Makes 40 to 50 shrimp and 1 1/2 cups of dip
Moroccan Lamb Meatballs with Dill Sauce
For the meatballs
1/3 cup minced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound ground lamb
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (about 2 slices white bread, ground in food processor)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
For the sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
ground white pepper to taste
Prepare the sauce
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
Prepare the meatballs
Preheat oven to 450°F.
In a small, nonstick skillet, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a big bowl. Stir in the salt, mint, allspice, and cinnamon. Add the lamb, bread crumbs, egg, cranberries, and sesame seeds and combine thoroughly (the easiest way is to use your hands).
Roll the mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. (Guests will be spearing them with toothpicks, so they should be no bigger than two bites’ worth.) Line up the meatballs on an ungreased baking sheet as you go (they can be close, just not touching). Bake just until no longer pink in the middle, 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve with the dill sauce alongside.
Makes about 32 meatballs and 1 1/4 cups sauce.
For more of Lauren’s recipes, visit her website here.
Weekends are so 2009! Cinco de Mayo falls on a Monday (excuse me, lunes) this year, and that plays right into my margarita-mixing, tortilla-chip- dipping hands—because Monday is one of my favorite nights to entertain. For one thing, it makes scheduling a snap. Finding a weekend night when four or five friends are all available? Forget it. It seems the later in the week a get-together is scheduled, the more likely people are to cancel as the snowball of obligations threatens to roll over them. But on Monday nights, everyone seems to be free! Even more importantly, Mondays have a built-in low-key vibe—you’re practically prohibited from making a fuss. Here are my three relax-the-rules rules.
1. No Elaborate Hors D’Oeuvres
On Mondays, pre-dinner nibbles are anything I can pour directly from a bag, box or jar into a bowl, or unwrap and plunk on a plate: olives, fancy potato chips, cheese and crackers, salted nuts. For a Cinco de Mayo party, the classic is also a crowd-pleaser. Chips and salsa coming right up!
2. Serve a Make-Ahead Main Course
The beauty of Monday is it comes right after Sunday, a day I actually do have time to cook. The goal is to make a one-dish meal, like chili or chicken enchiladas, that I can simply heat up the next night when everybody arrives. That way, it’s no big deal if I race home from work at 6:45 and guests are due at 7.
3. Put Someone Else on Dessert Duty
I remind whoever it is that we’re on the no-shame-for-store-bought plan. If she gets the urge to bake brownies, fantastic. But if she wants to swing by the store for a few pints of ice cream? Make mine chocolate-chocolate chip, please!
My Margarita Musts:
1. A salt rim.
I’m easygoing about rocks versus no rocks—ice changes a cocktail’s strength, not its taste. But salt is mandatory to brighten and balance a margarita’s sweet-sour flavors.
2. Mid-shelf tequila.
Save the smooth, aged, expensive tequila for sipping on its own. Margaritas are best when they’re a little rough around the edges
3. Fresh lime juice.
You’re forgiven if you like your margaritas no-salt, top-shelf or served in a plastic tumbler shaped like a saguaro cactus, but back away from the bottled lime juice. If that’s all you’ve got, switch to beer!
Now that our editor-in-chief, Lauren Purcell, is finally done with her kitchen renovation, she’s sharing her thoughts on what she would do differently next time.
1. Took a Vacation
During the dustiest, loudest, most disruptive phase of the renovation–the demolition of the old kitchen–I was at the beach. Smart move.
2. Relied on Expert Advice
Luckily for me, my designer understood my insane schedule, and for most big design decisions, she presented me with a carefully curated array of options (five paint colors, not 25), so I could make choices quickly.
3. Listed My Major Must-Haves
For instance, I clearly articulated my ideal appliance layout (fridge and range on the same wall); cabinet configuration (floor to ceiling); and flooring (cork). That helped streamline the process.
Shoulda Done This, Too
1. Planned Another Getaway Six Weeks Later
That’s around the time I really hit my limit on living in my bedroom on toaster-oven cuisine and takeout Thai. By the time I was able to emerge from my lady-cave, I was almost too cooped-up and cranky to appreciate the beautiful new space.
2. Picked a Few Details to Focus On
Making choices from a limited selection was definitely efficient. But as it turns out, the aspects I love most about my new kitchen are the ones I got more involved with–like the ceiling fixture, which I picked out after a long, enjoyable afternoon at the lighting showroom. In retrospect, I wish I had done the same with a few other items. I think I’d love my backsplash even more if the tile felt like my personal discovery.
3. Mentioned the Little Stuff
What I didn’t communicate very well were some of the details that make a big difference in my day-to-day. All my lights are on dimmers (big request), but the switches themselves aren’t the kind I prefer–too fiddly. of course, they’re easily changed. But next time, I’ll remember to bring up anything I’m opinionated about, not just the biggies. Wait! Did I just commit in writing to a next time?
I was that kid who in kindergarten was an avid earner of gold stars. In grade school, I cared a lot about my report card. Which may explain my dismay that years later I’m scraping by with a C-minus in kitchen renovation. I have yet to create the binder of inspiration pages torn from magazines that I imagine every “good” renovator has. It took me three weeks to sign off on the refrigerator my designer recommended because I insisted on seeing it in person. I’m the worst kind of perfectionist—one who’s also a procrastinator.
Or maybe I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist. That’s the diagnosis I got when I confessed all to my “kitchen therapist,” ApartmentTherapy.com’s Maxwell Ryan. “You want the renovation to be perfect, but you’re also afraid it’s going to fail,” he said.
Maxwell has a hilarious (but scarily right-on) trick for grouping renovators into four types: Each is one of the Beatles. “You’re George Harrison, the idealist, the guy who took the band to India,” he teased me. “You’re making a simple kitchen renovation into a whole journey.” Luckily, he also told me what I could do about it—and I asked him for advice for the other Beatles, too, so you can identify yourself and make good progress on your own project.
–Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief
What Type Of Renovator Are You?
Tell us below in the comments.
YOU’RE A TOE-TAPPER IF…
you’re take-charge and decisive but can be impatient. You’re fiery, with a bit of a temper.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE: John Lennon. “He ran off with Yoko,” Maxwell says. “He pushed boundaries to get results.”
SO NOW WHAT? To avoid making snap decisions you might regret later, “readjust your time line to account for the fact that some details require a little reflection,” Maxwell says.
YOU’RE AN ENTHUSIAST IF…
you’re easy to please, sometimes too easy. Does “Oh, but I like all of them!” sound familiar?
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:Paul McCartney. “He’s charming, always happy and never cared how much time it took to finish an album because he enjoyed the process,” Maxwell says.
SO NOW WHAT?Let your designer know that less is more—fewer options means you’ll make decisions more quickly.
YOU’RE A PERFECTIONIST IF…
you want—need!—things to be exactly right. So you agonize over even the smallest detail.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:George Harrison. “He was the introspective one, the idealist,” Maxwell says.
SO NOW WHAT?Hire a designer who’s also a perfectionist. That way you can trust that she’s picking the four best backsplash tiles from the hundreds of options. And you can stop obsessing.
YOU’RE A ZEN MASTER IF…
you believe in the slow and steady approach. You take direction well and appreciate support.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:Ringo Starr. “He’s calm and cool,” Maxwell says. “He’s probably got the lowest blood pressure, too!”
SO NOW WHAT? You may need a slight kick to get things moving, so set goals and deadlines with your designer—and then ask him to really push you to meet them.
Follow along with Lauren as she shares her progress and everything else, from the appliances to keeping costs down to injecting personality into one of the most important rooms in her home.
Last night I had dinner at Cole’s Greenwich Village. While I was waiting for my dinner guest, who was dragging himself through the swamp that is New York City in nearly 100-degree weather, I sat at the bar and tried the Cole’s Cocktail (I assumed if they’d named it after themselves, they’re pretty proud of it). Menu description: Crop organic vodka, ver jus, St. Germain, rosemary. It went down very easily, since I’d just come in from that same swamp myself.
A small starter sent out from the kitchen: Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad. It was made that night with burrata. Delicious. Which is why I forgot to take the photo first and all you get to see is the last bite.
Next came stuffed squash blossoms and Quick Seared Squid—both great. Forgive the picture quality. It’s dark in there! (And I never use the flash in a restaurant.)
Main course: cod with bok choy and maitake mushrooms in a red pepper broth. My guest had pork tenderloin with a bourbon glaze with corn succotash and black-eyed peas. We ended with a dessert brought over by Chef Daniel Eardley, who sat and talked for a while. Great guy, fun restaurant. If you’re in the New York City, go check it out. –Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief