With Thanksgiving dinner over it is now time to turn our attention to the upcoming holiday dinner. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or Football, the recipes that I will offer you over the course of this four-part series will be sure to delight your guests and test the limits of the elastic waist band on your sweatpants. Each recipe has been hand-selected and has been thoroughly tested and approved by a panel of expert taste-testers that includes people who know how to test tastes. At least I assume they do.
While the ingredients themselves will be presented unaltered I have, at times, altered the instruction in order to make the recipes more approachable for readers at all-cooking levels. Additionally, in each post I will offer some entertaining tips and tricks that will be sure to “Wow!” your holiday guests. As this series progresses and you try these recipes out please feel free to leave comments complimenting me on these informative and fun posts. Enjoy!
Before any great meal begins it’s important that you have a place to make the meal and a kitchen is the most highly recommended place to do so. If you do not have a kitchen here are a few alternative ways to cook, what will undoubtedly be, a most excellent holiday meal: a grill, microwave, fireplace, E-Z Bake Oven or a city garbage can. Whichever method is most readily available it’s important that you start with a clean area, particularly if you plan on cooking your meal in a city garbage can or your kids E-Z Bake Oven, both of which are most likely to be wrought with germs and, in the case of your kids Oven, boogers. With your cooking area cleaned and sanitized it’s time to grab a drink of your choice. As a person who has cooked many a holiday frozen dinner I can tell you that the cooking process is not only more enjoyable and relaxing with a beverage or two but I’ve also found that the food in general tastes better regardless of how well the recipe is executed. For the holidays I recommend a drink that best represents the holiday season (i.e. love, peace, second mortgages long lines and extended time with the extended family). For me, this means whatever is within arm’s reach.
Now that you are sufficiently sauced, so to speak, it’s time to start preparing the appetizer course of your holiday meal. The word appetizer is of French origin and is loosely translated as, “The first of many reason to drink during the holiday season.” Although many people will put out a simple cheese and meat plate with fancy crackers (ex: triscuits) the recipe I’m about to present to you will separate you from the normal person and will burn itself into your guests’ minds as an appetizer that they will never forget. Here, courtesy of foodnetwork.com, is the recipe for Mount Chevrest, a cheese puff tower:
For the cheese puffs:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 cup packed finely grated gruyere or comte cheese (about 3 ounces)
For the cheese spread:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese, at room temperature
- 1 small clove garlic, finely grated
- 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, tarragon and/or parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Make the cheese puffs:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat (or set fire to the garbage and/or boogers if you are not using the standard cooking method) to 400 degrees C. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper handy you can use torn out pages from the Shakespeare portfolio that you inherited but never read because it’s written in a foreign language). Put three or four of the ingredients of your choosing into a the most convenient pan available and tie said pan to your dog’s tail until the ingredients are sufficiently combined or before it appears that your dog is planning to mark the pan as it’s territory (Note: If you don’t have a dog, a toddler is a good substitute – same directions apply). Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and continue to drink until the ingredients begin to look really good just the way they are.
Having finished a drink or two, you will then transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; and realize that you have no idea how to work this machine. Before your confusion ends make sure that you add the eggs (shells are optional) the celery salt and a few grinds of pepper and beat it the stand mixer with whatever is handy because, really, it shouldn’t be that difficult to work such a simple looking machine. Just for fun you can also beat the gruyere due to its unpronounceable name.
Beatings completed, you will then take whatever you have in the mixer bowl and put it into a large pastry bag or caulking gun and apply it wherever a cement-like substance is needed around the house. If you have any remaining substance left pipe 1 1/2-inch mounds of “dough” 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets (about 18 per sheet). Smooth the tops of the “dough” mounds with gloved fingers (if your skin comes into direct contact with this substance contact Poison Control immediately). Using a long-handled shovel, transfer this stuff to the oven and bake until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes, switching the position of the pans halfway through. Turn off the oven, have another drink and then cut up some Velveeta, bologna and white bread into squares and place on a platter.
To make the cheese spread:
Don’t even bother at this point, just buy a few cans of Easy Cheese instead.
Assemble the tower:
To arrange the tower place the white bread squares on the bottom of the platter and stack, in order, the Velveeta and bologna on top. Finally spray the Easy Cheese over the stacked bread, Velveeta and bologna until thoroughly covered and, generally, in the shape of a tower.
This recipe is not only simple to make but has the added benefit of so many additives and preservatives that it can safely be made decades in advance with little to no effect on its overall taste or appearance.
With the first course completed, it’s time to move on to the second, and main, course. Before you jump into the next recipe, however, make sure that you get yourself another drink – you’re going to need it.