One of my favorite parts of The Nutcracker is when the Christmas tree grows to giant proportions. I wanted to include a tribute to the tree in our Nutcracker menu, and before long I stumbled across this clever pastry recipe from a website called Tavolartegust. I made a few changes to make it my own, and before long I had a delicious prosciutto and pesto Christmas pastry to snack on.
I think one of the best things about it is that is has that visual wow factor while still being really easy to make. You just put your filling between two layers of puff pastry, cut the pastry in a simple pattern (I’ve included visuals in the instructions below), and twist the sides into branches. Presto: instant Christmas meal! 🙂
This month we’re making a menu for a play: The Nutcracker! The story is so well-known and beloved that I knew it would be downright sinful to pass up the chance to make a menu for it. Plus, what better way to get in the mood for Christmas than with some Nutcracker food?
When I was brainstorming Christmasy, Nutcracker-themed recipes, roasted chestnuts sprang to mind almost immediately. I’d never made roasted chestnuts before planning this menu, so I was really excited to try them. There’s a little bit of a trick to making them easy to peel, but the warm, savory nuts inside are well worth the extra effort.
P.S. I used a method outlined on Tori Avey’s blog, which you can check out here.
Captain Ahab’s gold coin is such a famous bit of Moby Dick iconography that I wanted to pay tribute to it in our Moby Dick menu. But how?
I decided to save the coin as inspiration for dessert since it’s so special, and I whipped up some lemon butter cookies with vanilla frosting and gold sprinkles: gold coin cookies! I’ve been working on developing a lot of my own recipes for baked goods lately, so I decided to make a lemon version of my own butter cookies and combine it with my new frosting recipe. The results were delicately sweet with just the right balance of lemon and vanilla. The cookies themselves are tender and soft, and the sprinkles add just the right combo of shimmer and texture. A fitting dessert for such a classic book!
Back in Herman Melville’s day, ship’s biscuits (which later came to be known as hardtack) were common seaman’s food. As such, they’re mentioned regularly throughout Moby Dick, so I thought it would be fun to whip up an authentic ship’s biscuits recipe. I found one at The American Table based on an old Civil War era recipe.
Of course, designed to last forever and travel well, ship’s biscuits are VERY basic fare. They’re virtually flavorless in traditional recipes, so I added a little bit of extra seasoning to make them more palatable. You can also brush the tops with egg whites and sprinkle extra salt on top, but keep in mind that introducing eggs to the recipe would compromise the biscuits’ ability to be stored for months/years.
There’s no food more synonymous with Moby Dick than chowder. Melville devotes a whole chapter to describing Ishmael and Queequeg’s chowder feast at a little establishment called the Try Pots. The owner serves two varieties (clam and cod). I decided to make clam chowder, since this is the variety Ishmael and Queequeg try first (and I’m a bigger fan of clams than fish).
My chowder (adapted from a Taste of Home recipe) is altered just a bit from the one in the book to allow for more modern ingredients. The chowder in the book is described as containing crushed ship’s biscuits, which I imagine acted as a thickener, so I used flour to achieve the same effect. It also calls for salted pork, which I swapped for bacon, since they’re so similar. I then sauteed some onion and garlic in melted butter and threw in some red potatoes, corn, celery, and—of course—minced clams. The final result was creamy, savory, and salty—just the sort of stick-to-your-ribs meal you need before heading out on a long ocean voyage.
I’ll admit, firecracker shrimp wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when I started planning my Moby Dick menu. But while I was hunting for good ocean-themed appetizers, I saw a firecracker shrimp recipe from Picture the Recipe and was immediately smitten. With Moby Dick on the brain, I couldn’t help but look at the little shrimp wrapped in egg roll wraps and think they looked like little white whales! 🙂
So I cooked some up, and I’m SO glad I did. They might look hard to make, but each step is pretty easy (even the wrapping!). And they’re even easier to eat! The shell is crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and the perfectly cooked shrimp is gently spiced. Saving some to share with the Mister was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
So eat up! We’ve got an ocean voyage to start! 🙂
Wow! Maybe it’s because I’ve been cooking like a madwoman all month, but I feel like October just zipped by. One minute I’m just finishing up my London Fog Lattes for Sherlock at the end of September; the next I’m posting a Poe-themed cocktail for Halloween.
…but the zippiness may also have something to do with the fact that this month we had a wedding, Friendsgiving, the Mister’s grad school graduation party, and a friend stay the weekend. Busy as it was, it was SO GREAT to spend our weekends with family and friends, especially since schedule conflicts have made it hard for us to visit ANYONE the past few months.
But anyway, on to food! Let’s take a look back at our October menu before I share our next Book of the Month hint…
All Hallows Eve is here, and with it, the end of our Edgar Allan Poe menu! Even though I don’t normally post recipes on Mondays, I thought it would be fun to share one on Halloween…and when I found a “The Raven” cocktail recipe a couple months ago, I knew I’d found the perfect way to bookend our Poe menu.
The recipe below is my interpretation of The Raven cocktail, which was originally developed by Ashley at Smarty Had a Party. The cocktail below is a delicious combo of 3 of my favorite flavors: blackberry, pomegranate, and mint. With a little white rum, it makes for a refreshing, darkly sweet (but not too sweet) drink. Enjoy while reading your favorite Edgar Allan Poe poems!
Back when I first decided to make an Edgar Allan Poe menu, I knew I wanted to include a tribute to The Masque of the Red Death, but there were almost TOO many options for how to include it! Should I make red velvet skull cake? Pan de muerto? A grim reaper cocktail? Then I saw a recipe for skeleton cookies on Pinterest developed by Donna Hay, and I knew I’d found my inspiration!
Instead of using a ginger cookie recipe as my base, I used this awesome chocolate cookie recipe from A Baking Moment and added red food coloring to turn it into red velvet. Once I’d baked my “red velvet men,” all they needed was a little icing to give them skeleton bones. Easy and tasty!
Today our spooky Edgar Allan Poe menu continues with Moon Phase French Fries! Several months ago I saw a post by Linda from The Baker Who Kerns, in which she described making moon phase cookies. I loved the concept and decided to make a savory version with roasted potatoes. They’re super easy and fun to make: just slice, season, and bake! And the ready-in-seconds spicy ketchup adds just the right kick to balance it all out (the ketchup is an Epic Meal Time recipe I adjusted to my own taste). Talk about a great side dish for a Halloween party…or a salty snack for some late-night reading!