Baked Apples 

A three course dinner for 12 may seem daunting to prepare, but with tactful planning, simple ingredients and a stylish hostess to provide a delicious menu with concise guidancean an At Home Soigné dinner can unfold into an evening guests will be boasting about for weeks!

The grand finale from Friday night’s dinner is a favorite for anytime of year. Baked apples are so elegant and so tasty. With a bit of finesse, this dessert tops the list of At Home Soigné favorites.

Below is a recipe for baked apples. It yields four. If your party is larger, this recipe can easily be converted. I like to use Granny Smith apples, not only because of their tartness, but because they bake well.

  • 4 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon butter, divided in four (or amount of apples)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup hot water

Optional extras: Orange zest, lemon zest, grated ginger, candied ginger, other dried fruit, chopped nuts, cream cheese, mascarpone, peanut butter, Nutella
To serve: Ice cream, crème fraîche, whipped cream, coconut whipped cream

Preheat oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower-middle position.
Remove the core of the apples, cutting to within a half-inch of the bottom of the apple and creating a well roughly 3/4-inch wide. This is easy to do with an apple corer, but can also be done with a melon baller, grapefruit spoon, or a paring knife. Then slice in half.
Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and any extras in a bowl. Divide this mixture between the apples, packing the wells firmly. And sprinkle with raisins
Arrange the apples in a baking dish, and top each one with a pat of butter. Pour the water into the bottom of the dish.
Bake for 20 minutes and remove foil. Continue baking uncovered until the apples are soft and the brown sugar has melted into a syrup, an additional 20 to 30 minutes.

You can test the apples by poking a paring knife into the interior of the apple; it should slide into the apple easily with no resistance. The skin on the apples will also become wrinkled and soft by the end of cooking.

Serve with a scoop of ice cream, crème fraîche, or whipped cream. Leftovers will keep for up to a week and can be reheated or eaten cold.

Frenching. 

Frenching, such a wonderful techinque!  It certainly is a talent we all should learn if we want to impress the ones we love. It takes finesse, patience, a bit of natural talent, but definitely a great deal of skill. It also requires a very sharp knife. 

I am speaking about frenching bones, of course. Removing the meat from the tips of its bones adds a great deal of elegance and looks absolutely beautiful. Think of it as the bowtie of your meat! It adds flair, and is oh, so sexy! 

After a few tips, this daunting task will seem simple. You can apply it to just about any meat; lamb, pork, poultry, beef, even venison if you’re so inclined. The important things to remember are to buy what you can afford, (because meats are expensive), and to be careful when using a very sharp knife. 

The first cut will always be the easiest. Follow the natural slant of the meat, and use smooth strokes rather than sawing the meat. Cut down and out at an angle, but remember to keep your knife steady and straight. Cutting through the membrane and scraping the bones of your meat is the most tedious and requires patience. Using the blunt side of your knife, or your fingers can be helpful, but the sharp blade of a knife will save time! 


                                                                      #athomesoigné 

Croquembouche 

The croquembouche, like most French things is alluring and regal. The dessert is mostly seen at grand celebrations to make an impression, but the dessert is so simple and so fun to make, why wait for a birth or a matrimonial union to enjoy it?!
Inspired by my first niece, Mathilda, the croquembouche has been my go to dessert whenever I entertain. Once again, I offer you a recipe which I found on my rummaging my iCloud! I hope the croquembouche brings you as much joy as it has given me.

Ingredients 

      For puff pastry: 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 7 large eggs. For pastry cream: 6 large egg yolks,  1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour, 2 cups milk, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons corn syrup

Heat oven to 425 degrees. To make the puffs: In a medium saucepan, melt butter in 1 1/2 cups water with salt and sugar. Remove pan from heat, and add flour. Return pan to heat and, using a wooden spoon, beat vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes. (A film should form on the bottom of the pan.) Cool slightly, and add 6 eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously.
Make a glaze by beating the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon water, and set aside. Using a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and a 1/2-inch-wide plain tip, pipe out mounds that are 1 inch high and 3/4 inch in diameter on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg glaze, and smooth the tops. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on racks. (The puffs can be made ahead and frozen until ready to assemble.)

Make the pastry cream: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks, gradually adding sugar, until mixture is thick and pale yellow. Beat in flour. Scald milk, and add in dribbles to egg mixture, reserving 1/2 cup. Place mixture in a clean pot over high heat, and stir vigorously until mixture boils and thickens. If it seems too thick to pipe, add reserved milk. Remove from heat. Using a hand whisk, beat butter into egg mixture, one tablespoon at a time.

Just before assembling croquembouche, fill a pastry tube fitted with a 1/4-inch-wide tip with pastry cream, insert tip into puffs, and pipe in cream to fill.

To make the caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine 2/3 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup, and bring to a boil over high heat. Do not stir. Cover pan, and boil until steam dissolves any crystals. Uncover, and boil 5 more minutes, or until syrup is amber in color. Watch closely. Remove from heat. Dip the bottom of each puff into the caramel, and arrange puffs in a pyramid.

To make a spun-sugar web to wrap around the croquembouche: Cut the looped ends of a wire whisk with wire cutters, or use 2 forks held side by side, and dip the ends into caramel. Wave the caramel back and forth over the croquembouche, allowing the strands to fall in long, thin threads around it. Wrap any stray strands up and around the croquembouche. Serve.

#athomesoigne

Holiday Soirée ideas to entice fellowship! 

December is a busy month for the at home hostess! With so many friends and acquaintances from different pockets of life, it is easy to include every one who has made your year special. Hosting a holiday Soirée may seem more daunting than festive, however. Will your Michelin starred Chef friend get along with your Yoga buddy? Will your Yoga buddy have anything to talk about with your Flute instructor? 

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to collaborate with Nicole Osibodu, the clever genius of Pink Pineapple Event Designs.

 For Affinité magazine, Nicole and I came up with ice breaker Soirée ideas to make any party merrier and bright, while bringing all your friends together. 

Enjoy! 

Marshmallows 

           It has been an eventful week. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and New York is finally decorated and ready for Christmas!

Lately, I have been sorting through my iCloud. While doing so, I have been discovering photos, recipes and all sorts of treasures from my past. One gem I found was a marshmallow recipe from when I was a Pastry Sous Chef at a restaurant called Quay in Chicago. The dessert was an elegant version of a s’more (I know, so trite, but this was almost six years ago).

I have no idea what has become of the restaurant, but long live my marshmallow recipe.  May you enjoy now too!

17 oz Sugar
1.5 oz Glucose
Water as needed
4 oz Egg Whites

13 gelatin sheets (these can be found at specialty stores and Whole Foods).

Cornstarch as needed mixed with Powdered sugar as needed.

Cook sugar, glucose and water to 275 degrees. What professionals call firm ball. 

Bloom the gelatin sheets by placing them into cold water.

Slowly incorporate into whipping egg whites. The mixture will be warm. Once the mixture cools, add bloomed gelatin. It is important that no access water is added to the mixture.

Line a pan with parchment paper and generously dust with cornstarch and powdered sugar mixture.

Whip egg white mixture until cool and stiff peak, or till the mixture is thick and holding independently.

Pour into lined and dusted pan. Let it sit and dry out. Do not refrigerate!

#athomesoigné

French Style Pavóchon!

Holiday Traditions are such a joyful pleasure. For those lucky to have traditions centered around a dinner table; eat, drink and be merry becomes an annual lifestyle!

Yesterday, Thanksgiving, was the busiest day of the year in the gastronomic world. It also traditionally signifies the beginning of the Christmas season.  Ding, Dong Merrily on High!

My brother Jason is quite the at home Chef. With my sister in law Beth at his side to deck their dinner table – (not to mention their home), the duo has certainly Mastered the Art of Living. The Crye family Black Friday Pavóchon is a tradition worth noting. My brother has  adepted his Pavóchon based off a Stephane Reynard recipe: Dinde Farcie de Bonnes Choses.

11 pound, deboned Turkey

3.5 ounces of bacon

3.5 ounces of pork belly

14 ounces pork loin

5 ounces chestnuts

6 cloves of garlic

3 shallots

1 cup heavy cream

half cup pistachios

2.5 Tablespoons Armagnac

half cup of white port

Olive Oil for sautéing, salt and pepper to taste

Peel, dice  the shallots and garlic, and sauté in olive oil.

Chop all the meat. Crush the nuts. Combine with cream, Armagnac, Port, garlic and shallots.

Spoon the stuffing into the Turkey cavity. Close it up with string. Oil the turkey and season.

Roastin a 235 degree oven for 3-4 hours, basting regularly.

#athomesoigné

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Virginia is for wine lovers

Just before Christmas in 1784, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend and wine contact John Bonfield, The American Council in Bordeaux. He expressed a fear. He wrote to his friend, “I have written a letter to Monsieur d’Yquem for 250 bottles of his newest vintage, but I am afraid he will not know who I am.” Mr. Bonfield in favor wrote to Monsieur d’Yquem introducing Thomas Jefferson, Minister of The United States of America. By February of 1785, Jefferson had received his 250 bottles which were described as “bottled with greatest care” in a letter signed by Count Louis-Amédée Lur Saluce, the newest proprietor of what Jefferson referred to as “House of Yquem.”

Thomas Jefferson’s introduction into the circles of French society was welcomed. They viewed him as “warming to intelligent conversation” and found his colonist lifestyle intriguing. His greatest friends included French liberals such as the Duke of Rochefoucauld, the Marquis de Chastellux, and General Lafayette. Through these influences and eventual life long friends, Jefferson discovered that fine wine and fine food is a great way to meet informally with political friends and foes. He approached gastronomy as a gentile art, and encouraged the newly American citizens to embrace it as a refined accompaniment for everyday life. During his time as president, Jefferson frequently used dinner parties as a form of legislative lobbying.

The success of Virginia viticulture was one of Jefferson’s greatest ambitions. He saw a vision in a state of breathtaking views, majestic mountain ranges, favorable climate, and diverse soils. “The best Virginia soil from an agricultural point of view is clay soil.” Exclaims Gabriele Rausse, the dubbed Godfather of Virginia wine and Director of Gardens and Grounds at Jefferson’s beloved home of Monticello. “As the Virginia wine industry started to take off people started to experiment with areas which were not clay.” Says Rausse. “Virginia also has a lot of loamy soil.”

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Virginia has a topography which compares very much to the Friuli region in Italy, and now produces quality wine as well. Though Jefferson’s predictions of Virginia wine were seen as over enthusiastic, now 200 years later Gabriele Rausse along with other Virginia winemakers have turned Jefferson’s vision a reality!