Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Solstice Feast

I am very pleased to report that Sunday's Solstice feast was a humungous hit with those who attended! As a reminder, here's the menu:

Chicken stuffed with goat cheese & sundried tomatoes and wrapped in prosciutto Caramelized Onion & Brie Bread Pudding
Brussels Sprouts sauteed with pancetta & pine nuts

Green Beans


Tres Leches Cake

This was actually a very easy meal to put together, and the results were stunning! Apart from the bread pudding, here is the complete rundown.

First of all, the chicken. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and for the stuffing used1 package of peppercorn goat cheese and to that I added about 6 or so chopped sundried tomatoes. I mixed it all together in a small bowl, then cut a slit in the centre, thickest part of the chicken breasts. Each breast got about 1 tbsp of stuffing. Then, each breast was wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto and secured with a toothpick. I baked them at 350F for about 40 minutes.

Everyone loved the chicken, which was pretty tasty, I must say. My dad even gave me a wonderful compliment by saying that it tasted like something a fancy restaurant would serve and charge a lot of money for - which was so nice to hear and the highlight of my evening!

I made this recipe up off the cuff and was a little curious about how it would turn out, if the prosciutto would shrink lots or burn, but in the end it turned out fabulously and I'll definitely keep this around.

I also made up the brussels sprouts recipe I used. I love Brussels and I realize they're not everyone's cup of tea. I wanted to do something new and exciting with them because I usually steam them and that's pretty boring. So is a cheese sauce, really. So, I came up with this simple idea.

2lbs Brussels, trimmed and sliced thinly
2 thick (1/2") slices pancetta, diced
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 tbsp olive oil

In a large skillet, fry the pancetta until nice and crisp. Add the pine nuts, and stir until they're just slighly toasted. Add the sprouts and oil and saute until tender and bright green. Voila!

This dish was also a hit, and I even manage to convert one of my diners who previously disliked Brussels sprouts to a new fan. I'd never used pancetta before in any cooking, and I was expecting it to render off way more fat than it actually did. That's what necessitated the addition of some olive oil - the pan was virtually dry when it came time to add the sprouts. The sweetness of the sprouts contrasted well with the saltiness of the pancetta, and the pine nuts added flavour and crunch. Go me! I'm on a roll!

As for the green beans and salad, there's nothing terribly special or important about them, so let's move on to dessert, which was Tres Leches Cake.

I believe I first heard about this South American dessert by doing one of those memes, either this one or this one. I had never had it or even heard of it before, and as I did some research on it, I was really intrigued. The Solstice was a good opportunity to try it out on some discerning eaters. I got the recipe for it from here. Basically, you bake a cake, poke holes in it, then glaze it with a glaze made from three types of milk; the cake soaks up all the glaze, you throw some whipped cream and fruit on top, and there you go.

I made the cake part on Saturday, and it was easy enough, though it did have a lot of eggs in it. I poked holes in it as directed when it came out of the oven. When I put the glaze together, however, I became a little concerned: there was about 5 cups of the stuff and I wasn't sure if I'd followed the recipe correctly because that seemed like an awful lot of liquid for the cake to take on. But, I persisted and followed through. And eventually, the cake soaked up all the liquid in about half an hour or so, so I put it in the fridge overnight.

To serve, I decided to use blueberries I'd bought and frozen at the end of the summer to make a sauce. My brother is a blueberry fiend and he was pretty happy about my choice. Again, I winged the recipe for the sauce, but it's very simple:

3 cups blueberries
zest & juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp cold water

Bring the first four ingredients to boil in a medium saucepan, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and let the sauce bubble until thickened. Set aside to cool slightly or allow it go completely cold, depending on what you're going to do with it. In my case, I wanted it room temperature for the cake, which I also served with whipped cream (I didn't ice the cake with whipped cream because I did anticipate having leftovers and whipped cream doesn't do well left around for a long time).

Everyone totally enjoyed this, but we all agreed that it was very rich. I was back and forth about how I felt about it: I wasn't keen on the texture of the cake, but the flavour was good. The sauce was excellent. The novelty of it was pretty cool and it was a good experiment. I think if I were to do this again, I might find a different recipe that had a lighter cake and less glaze.

So there you have it. It was a spectacular meal and everyone left the table very, very full but very, very happy.

I have two more big meals coming up this week, three if you count Christmas Day breakfast. I'm looking forward to them!


Cherie said...

Thanks for sharing your Solstice meal recipes, WC. They are colorful and fantastic dishes you've created. That chicken looks out of this world and the Brussels Sprouts actually look like something that I - not a fan of that veggie - might try! I'm going to go check out the cake recipe, too.

I've always been interested in pancetta but haven't quite known what to do with it as I've been afraid it'd be too fatty. It's quite interesting that not only did it not render as much fat s you'd think but that you even had to add olive oil. Good to know! I may brave it myself someday.


Meg said...

It all looks great. The cake looks absolutely amazing!

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely trying that sprout recipe. Reckon I could use jamón serrano?

How cool that you made tres leches cake. I first had it at an Italian restaurant here. The chef, Carlos, had just added it to the menu and gave a slice to Nog & I to try. You can see it here (scroll down)...

Tre Fratelli

Wandering Coyote said...

Cherie: You're welcome! Pancetta is very salty, just be aware of that. I suspect a lot of that marbling, since it didn't seem to be all fat, was more connective tissue. It's a bit chewy.

Meg: thanks!

Az: that Tres Leches cake looks amazing! In fact, all the photos in that post look amazing! I think serrano ham would work just fine; any bacon or ham would probably do the trick.

Van said...

Thanks WC for this... I know what I will be trying this weekend.

Wandering Coyote said...

Van: let me know how things go!

Anonymous said...

That sprouts recipe has gone into my file - it sounds YUMMMY!

Wandering Coyote said...

Let me know if/when you make them Archie! I'd love to hear how they turn out for you.

Immi said...

You might even be able to convert me to a brussels sprout eater with that receipe!

mister anchovy said...


Border Life said...

What a wonderful gift you gave!

Van said...

For all others who are interested, this was great. Made it this evening with a bit of direction from WC...

Totally worth making!


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