Invitation Oxford, November, 2012, “Harvest Supper”

Harvest Supper

harvest supper

November is synonymous with hearty meals and families gathered around their table. To help inspire a creative spread, Oxford’s Laurie Triplette, author of Gimme Some Sugar, Darlin’, cooked a feast of cream of peanut soup, spinach salad, roast Cornish hens, asparagus tart and pumpkin flan.











Cream of Peanut Soup
This cream soup provides a tasty change of pace. Serve in a small cup or as a shooter before a heavy meal, or in a large bowl with pumpkin muffins and a salad as a comfort-food supper.

1 medium white onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/4 cup butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 quarts chicken stock or broth (homemade stock is best)
2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 3/4 cups light cream
1 cup chopped peanuts
Chopped parsley for garnish, optional

Sauté onion and celery in butter until soft, but not browned. Stir in flour until well blended. It will be thick and clumpy. Add chicken stock, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and press through a sieve. Puree remaining onion and celery and stir into broth. Pour broth back into hot pan on low heat, adding peanut butter and stirring until melted. Gently whisk in cream until thoroughly blended, stirring about two more minutes to bring up heat. Do not boil. Serve immediately, garnished with peanuts and chopped parsley. This is also good served cold. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

Strawberry Orange Spinach Salad
The salad ingredients may be tossed together, then tossed again with dressing, or layered and topped with crumbled feta cheese and a drizzle of salad dressing. This salad calls for poppyseed dressing, but Triplette mixes it up with homemade raspberry sauce mixed into the poppyseed dressing.

Raspberry-Poppyseed Dressing:
3/4 to 1 cup white granulated sugar or Splenda
1 1/2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons onion juice or 2 teaspoons grated onion
1 cup extra light olive oil
12 ounces fresh raspberries
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoons corn starch

1 head of romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried
and torn into bitesize pieces
3 cups baby spinach leaves, gently rinsed and spun dry
6 green onions, chopped
5 to 7 Clementine oranges, segmented
10 to 20 strawberries, halved or sliced
1 cup roasted, salted pecans
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Feta cheese, crumbled, for garnish

Blend 3/4 to 1 cup sugar, poppy seeds, mustard and salt with a mixer at low speed. Add vinegar and onion juice or grated onion; beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add oil in a steady stream until mixture is thick. Puree raspberries in blender; then strain through small-mesh sieve to remove seeds. Mix with 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch, and bring to boil in medium saucepan. Boil, stirring continuously, about 4 minutes, until clear and thickened. Remove from heat and chill. Whisk into poppyseed dressing 30 minutes before serving, and shake vigorously. Toss romaine and spinach with chopped green onion. Toss again with oranges, strawberries and pecans. Place in large bowl. Top with crumbled feta; then drizzle dressing over salad. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftover dressing. Yield: 12 servings.

Asparagus Tart
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 ounces Baby Swiss cheese, shredded
3 to 5 bunches of fresh asparagus (depending on size)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon makes about 2 Tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (grated peel)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Combine the two cheeses, and divide into two halves. Trim asparagus by snapping off woody tips. Peel away fibrous outer layer of stems with vegetable peeler. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Carefully add asparagus to boiling water, all positioned in same direction. Cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp and tender. Drain and stand the asparagus in a bowl until ready to use. On floured surface, roll out thawed pastry into 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove pastry from oven; prick with fork to deflate. Sprinkle half the shredded cheese over hot pastry. Arrange asparagus on top of cheese in a linear pattern, all spears pointing the same direction. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over the asparagus. Vigorously whisk lemon juice with oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Use teaspoon to flick sprinkles across top of tart. Bake tart 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese has melted but not turned color. Serve warm, slicing with large spatula. Yield: 6 to 9 servings.

Roast Cornish Hens
4 Cornish hens, rinsed and patted dry
Garlic-infused dipping olive oil
Ground poultry seasoning
Powdered garlic
Fresh ground pepper
Sea salt
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 slices crumbled bacon, optional
Cooking twine

Preheat oven to 450°F. Blot hens dry. Rub each with oil; sprinkle each seasoning (poultry seasoning through thyme) over each bird. Place breast-side up on rack in roasting pan, tucking wings behind breasts. Stuff 1 Tablespoon butter into each bird, along with optional bacon crumbles. Tie legs of each hen together with twine. Roast hens uncovered for 15 minutes on high heat, then reduce oven to 350˚F; continue roasting, uncovered, until birds are browned and thighs register at least 170˚F – about 11/2 hours. Transfer hens to carving board, covered, until ready to serve.

Wild Rice Dressing:
Poultry giblets (or several chicken livers)
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup wild rice
1/4 cup butter
2 Tablespoons chopped shallots
1 Tablespoon chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup sautéed mushrooms (white or baby portabellas)
1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Boil giblets about 15 minutes in the chicken broth with 1 teaspoon salt. Remove from water and chop. Bring giblet broth back to a rolling boil and add rice. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is nearly tender, about 30-45 minutes. Melt butter in a skillet and sauté the shallots, pepper and celery. Add mushrooms and cover until mushrooms have sautéed. Stir in hot rice, chopped giblets, pecans and water chestnuts and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into a casserole. Bake at 350˚F for 15-20 minutes.

Pumpkin Flan
The most difficult parts of preparing this dessert are caramelizing the sugar without burning it, and flipping the pan over to turn the flan out onto the serving plate.

1/2 cup white granulated sugar
8 large eggs
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Two 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned plain pumpkin (not pie filling)

Mint leaves and raspberries for garnish

Heat oven to 350˚F. In a heavy saucepan, heat 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat until completely melted and golden brown, gently shaking the saucepan to prevent burning. Quickly, before it hardens, pour the caramelized sugar into a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan, spreading evenly. Don’t worry if it starts to harden before all the edges are covered (it will melt again in the oven).

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add 2/3 cup sugar, salt, evaporated milk, vanilla and pumpkin. Mix just until blended. Carefully ladle pumpkin mixture over caramelized sugar in the pan. Set pan into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Carefully pour boiling water onto the large pan; avoid splashing water into the pumpkin. Add boiling water to 1 inch up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake about 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. The flan will be jiggly. Carefully remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack in the pan of water. Remove cooled flan pan, dry bottom, and continue to cool another 30 minutes before refrigerating, covered. Chill overnight before serving.

Just before serving, run a metal spatula around the edge of the flan to loosen from the sides. Place inverted plate over the flan and, while holding both, carefully flip to turn plate upright. Thump the pan bottom and carefully lift. The flan should slide onto plate, and the caramel should drip down the sides of the overturned flan. Garnish with mint leaves and raspberries. To serve, slice with sharp spatula or cake knife. Yield: 8 to 12 slices.


*Invitation Oxford, November, 2012, “Harvest Supper,” 11-page spread, pages 11 and 33-43