It feels like only a moment ago we were hosting last year’s holiday party for friends. My how fast a year comes and goes with so many new memories to stowaway in the vault. For this year’s get together in our new Upper West Side home I wanted to bring to life a piece of my past to make the meal even more personal and intimate by taking our friends on a culinary trip down south, to taste my southern roots and warm comfort food.
When I think about southern food I always think about BBQ and biscuits. A saucy slow cooked meat rolled in spices and balanced by the buttery softness of a warm biscuit. It’s sinful and wonderful and went beautifully with Ecco Domani’s full bodied Merlot. For the non-meat eating guests we offered southern catfish baked and served in my cast iron skillet my grandmother passed down to me which is seasoned with love, as I like to say, and a great compliment to Ecco Domani’s Pinot Grigio.
Of course, any time I host friends or family I like to start with a cheese plate for people to graze on while we finish preparing the meal. Following my simple rule I outlined in this post, I chose a wonderful soft goat cheese, aged gouda, manchego cheese to be accompanied by roasted almonds, apples and artisanal crackers. Wanting to start with a crisp and light wine, we opened Ecco Domani’s Pinot Grigio for the cheese course though it goes perfectly well with the Merlot too if you prefer.
In the end, no matter what you serve or what you wear, it’s about making memories with friends and loved ones, sharing stories, being at peace and above all, loving one another this holiday season. Cheers….
See below for entertaining tips and southern recipes created for this night by my friend Jared who is, as we call him, the cookie monster. Everything was served on handmade pottery (a wedding gift from my parents!) by Clayworks in the East Village and another very personal, homey touch to this intimate gathering.
For last year’s holiday party we set individual photographs I had taken of each guest at their place setting to not only arrange the seating in a beautiful visual way but for each of the guests to take home a gift from the evening. This year I decided to create individual bouquets for each place setting that the guests could take home and enjoy for the days to come. Living in New York City this is a wonderfully easy way to play with your creativity. On 28th and 7th is the most fabulous flower market where you can find anything your heart desires. I love more than anything exploring in and out of these shops and creating my own story though flowers.
Above, setting the table in Maud Heline’s Arlanik white button up shirt dress made in Brooklyn (ps- it’ has pockets!!)
Baked Cajun Catfish
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tbspns garlic powder
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 tspns paprika
1/2 tspn cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Brush over both sides of the fish.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 for 10 -13 minutes on middle rack or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Skillet Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta
4 oz pancetta
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound brussel sprouts
6 torpedo onions (red) or half red onion sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook pancetta in skillet until crispy. Remove to paper towel. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In same pan with pancetta juices, add butter, onions and brussel sprouts and place in oven on the top rack stirring occasionally until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss pancetta back into pan. Serve immediately.
2 whole slabs pork baby back ribs
Dry Rub –
3/4 cups brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tbspns kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tbspn garlic powder
1 tbspn onion powder
Whisk together and massage into ribs up to 24 hours before. Wrap in foil and refergirate.
Turn broiler on. Line a baking sheet with foil and set a cooling rack on top. Lay the ribs on top of the rack. Place the ribs in the oven at the top of the oven and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the sugars start boiling and they brown a bit on top.
Then turn over to 300 degrees and move ribs to the middle of the oven and roast for 1 hour. Halfway through cooking, remove the ribs and brush with BBQ sauce and cover the ribs with foil to protect them from drying out and place back into the oven. Finish cooking. Internal tempature should be 145 degrees.
Let the ribs rest for 10 minutes while staying covered with the foil. Brush the ribs again with BBQ sauce, cut and serve.
1 tbspn unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbspns worcester sauce
1 tbspn onion powder
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 dashed hot sauce
1 tspn kosher salt
1 tspn black pepper
Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and cook on medium low heat, stirring occassionaly. Taste as you go.
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter (cold), cut into pieces
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup chilled buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 400
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until the mixture looks like crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour the chilled buttermilk and a shot of Vodka (welcome). Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be sticky.
Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 – 6 times. Press into a 1 inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2 inch cutter.
Place biscuits on baking sheet so they they just touch the sheet. Brush melted butter on top of biscuits.
Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top. 15 – 20 mins.
This post was sponsored by Ecco Domani