- Flavors and Flourishes by Maryanne O’Dowd
Ready, Set, Enjoy!
Be a guest at your own party. It’s the philosophy I live by for entertaining and a rule I will not bend. It holds true for holidays when I’m hosting 40 relatives or at intimate summer gatherings with friends on my deck. I want to enjoy the company, conversation and jovial vibe at get-togethers, especially ones I’ve planned and fused over.
People make these occasions memorable. Food and flourishes should be spectacular but not look (or feel) like a major undertaking. And, nothing should get in your way of partaking in the merriment.
A well thought out menu, simple yet stylish décor and a detailed run of show (more on that later) are my pillars for party perfection. I’m not saying there isn’t work involved. There is. But most of it gets done in advance and you come off looking like one cool customer by the time the first guests arrive.
One of the biggest roadblocks to enjoying your own party is being holed up in the kitchen prepping and cooking dishes while everyone else is having fun. A smarter strategy involves recipes that allow you to prep all or parts of each dish in advance and don’t include lots of hands-on cooking once guests arrive. Even for cookouts, with grilling typically done in real time, get meats seasoned in advance, veggies chopped and skewered and sauces mixed early so all you need to do come party time is hand off everything to the grill master (or mistress)!
This month I’m sharing two of my favorite make-ahead party appetizers. Chicken Wonton Cups with Peppery Strawberry Onion Jam and Deconstructed Lox and Bagels Tart. Both work well as nibbles for cocktail parties, to share at impromptu neighborhood potlucks, or for brunch/buffet type gatherings. Each recipe has an element you can prepare in advance and features a store-bought shortcut. Come party time, all you do is assemble and serve.
Pulling off a great party depends a lot on timing (and planning). I started using a run-of-show several years ago. It saves me from chaos in the kitchen and ensures I don’t miss any of the details designed to make guests feel welcomed and wowed. Most important, it makes my “be a guest at your own party” philosophy a reality.
A run of show is different from a timeline, which typically carves out big tasks leading up to an event and can go as far back as weeks or months before a party. A run of show is about the day-of, starting that morning or a few hours before party time, depending on the size of the event. It’s a functional roadmap to get through the final hours. It’s meant to be marked up and scratched out as things get done.
My run of show is typically written in black, fine point marker and taped to a kitchen counter. Working backward from the time guests are scheduled to arrive and the times I plan to serve food, I jot down everything that needs to get done and assign a start time to each. Everything. From selecting serving pieces to chilling wine to making sure trash bins are emptied to preheating the oven. I even build in my time for getting showered and dressed. Seriously!
While a run of show takes a fair bit of thinking through, it’s like a secret weapon and not something guests are even aware of. Full bellies, smiling faces and newly minted memories (theirs and yours) are the ultimate proof if its effectiveness. Ready, set…go be a guest at your next party.
Maryanne O’Dowd is an avid home cook, entertainer and writer. She lives in Lake Barrington with her husband and a loveable yellow lab. Follow her on Instagram @SconesThrowKitchen.
July 2017 Flavors and Flourishes Recipes
Deconstructed Lox and Bagels Tart
Makes two tarts
Two, single layer pie crusts (use your favorite recipe or prepared pie crust rolls from refrigerated section of supermarket)
12 ounces plain cream cheese, softened/room temperature
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
Half of a small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 ½ teaspoon poppy seeds
8-10 ounces good quality lox or smoked salmon
Dill fronds for garnish
Place pie crusts in tart pans with removable bottoms (round or oblong) and bake according to package directions. Let cool. Can be make night before or several hours before serving. Keep in tins until serving.
In medium bowl, place softened cream cheese, capers, dill, onion and poppy seeds and mix well by hand or with hand held mixture on low speed. Carefully spread cream cheese mixture on bottom of completely cooled tart shells. (Keep shells in baking tins for added support during assembly; remove from tins just before serving.) Chill filled tarts for at least 20 minutes.
Just prior to serving, drape lox over cream cheese. Top lox with thin, half-moon slices of lemon and dill fronds. Remove from baking tins and place on serving platter with additional dill and lemon for garnish.
Chicken Wonton Cups with Peppery Strawberry Onion Jam
24 – 30 pieces
Jam* (can be prepared up to one week in advance)
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
2 cups strawberries, cored and rough chopped
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 bay leaves
Olive oil for sautéing
1 teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
Sauté onions in large/deep skillet over medium high heat in a bit of olive oil. Once onions start to soften and start to get translucent (do not brown), add remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered over medium heat until liquid thickens (about 20 – 25 minutes). Add black and white pepper; salt to taste. Remove bay leaves when done. Store in sealed container in refrigerator for up to one week.
Chicken Wonton Cups
1 store-bought, fully cooked rotisserie chicken (skin removed, meat shredded with fork)
Package prepared wonton wrappers (found in refrigerated produce section)
Olive oil for coating pan
To make cups: Preheat oven 350 degree. Cut 12-15 wonton wrapper in half diagonally to create 24-30 triangles. Brush inside of cupcake tin lightly with oil. Place one wonton wrapper half inside each cupcake mold to form small cup. Three corners of each wrapper half should come up sides of cupcake mold. Bake 5-7 minutes until golden. Carefully remove and let cool. (Can be prepared day before serving and stored in airtight container.)
To assemble cups: Place prepared wonton cups on serving platter. Top each with approximately 1 ½ tablespoons shredded chicken and 2 teaspoons onion jam. Taste best served at room temperature.
*Peppery Strawberry Onion Jam also makes a delicious accompaniment to pork chops/pork roast.
- Flavors and Flourishes by Maryanne O’Dowd
Let’s Start At The Beginning
Beginnings. A point in time where something starts. This is the first post on Flavors and Flourishes, a monthly food column on The Pink Geranium & Co. blog where I’ll bring you simple, fresh, seasonally-inspired recipes that appeal to home cooks who love entertaining.
Flavors and Flourishes aims to spark your passion for entertaining. From ideas for casual gatherings to artfully displayed recipes photographed by Kelly Olmstead, to featured tabletop items from The Pink Geranium & Co. Let’s make this the start of something fun – the art of creating a Pink Geranium table.
Entertaining At Brunch
Beginnings are also the source or root of where something originates. Brunch, for example, the late morning meal that lends itself to socializing and lingering over sweet and savory dishes (and a few mimosas) most likely traces its roots back more than a century to England’s abundant hunt meal, though its exact origins are a bit obscure.
Regardless of when or why we started gathering for late morning feasts, I love entertaining with a casual (sometimes lavish) brunch buffet. Brunch is not burdened by rules or formality. Brunch gives you permission to bring together favorite flavors and best-loved dishes and simply savor the company of your guests. If you like it, make it, serve it. Add a few friends (don’t forget the mimosas) and enjoy. A perfect start to the day.
Here are a two of my go-to brunch recipes. Both showcase seasonal produce. Strawberry pistachio scones with a rosewater and strawberry dust glaze. I absolutely love, love scones – the fluffy little bundles are the perfect canvas for an endless number of flavor pairings. A leek and spring greens frittata (or two) is a great make-ahead egg dish that tastes equally as good at room temperature as it does right out of the oven.
Back to the idea of beginnings. This blog marks a beginning, of sorts, for me. I’m putting my culinary passion on the front burner after an executive-level career in public relations. While juggling demands of clients (mostly in the food industry) and the rigors of travel (and the stress), I managed to log 50,000 miles traveling to and from culinary programs around the world, amass a 300+ volume cookbook collection and serve up hundreds of applause-worthy meals to family and friends. Culinary roots are deep in my DNA too. I grew up surrounded by talented home cooks, recipes dating back generations and relatives in the restaurant business. So, in some ways, Flavors and Flourishes takes me back to my beginnings.
Maryanne O’Dowd is an avid home cook, entertainer and writer. She lives in Lake Barrington with her husband and a loveable yellow lab. Follow her on Instagram @SconesThrowKitchen and a soon to launch blog by the same name.
May 2017 Recipes
Strawberry Pistachio Scones with Rosewater Glaze and Strawberry Dust
Preheat oven 425 degrees
½ cup sugar, 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 stick butter, very cold 2/3 cup buttermilk or whole milk, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 3/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, chopped (plus two tablespoons for topping) 1 cup chopped fresh strawberries.
1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon rosewater *, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 tablespoons freeze dried strawberries.
- Wash, dry and chop strawberries in to small pieces. Spread over paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Toss in chopped strawberries and coat with flour/butter mixture. Add pistachios, toss until combines. Combine buttermilk, eggs and vanilla and stir into dry ingredients until moist. Do not over mix, just make sure all ingredients are blended well.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper. For traditional, triangle-shaped scones: Turn dough on to a floured surface and knead lightly until it comes together. Form dough into 8-10” circle and slice triangle-shaped wedges. Should yield six to eight scones. Here’s a shortcut: skip the step above and instead divide dough straight from the mixing bowl using an ice cream scoop. The result: 10-12 perfectly portioned, delicate rounds of flavor with a few nooks and crannies. Perfect for grabbing on to the yummy glaze.
- Whether you’re partial to triangles or circles, refrigerate the divided scones for 20 minutes before baking. Before putting in oven, brush tops of scones with an egg wash of one egg whisked with one teaspoon milk. Bake for 12-15 minutes until bottoms turn golden. Let cool.
For glaze/topping: Mix one cup powdered sugar with one teaspoon rosewater. Whisk, adding melted butter a few teaspoons at a time until you can drizzle glaze and it leaves a trail – don’t make it too runny. Separately, crush two tablespoons of freeze dried strawberries into a fine powder and finely chop two tablespoons of pistachios. Drizzle rosewater glaze over completely cooled scones. Before glaze hardens, sprinkle with chopped pistachios and strawberry dust.
**Rosewater is available in the Middle Eastern section of food markets. If you don’t wish you use, replace with vanilla for icing.
Leek and Spring Greens Frittata makes one 10-12” Frittata
1 small/medium leek, 3 cups assorted baby greens (kale, chard and spinach often come packaged together), 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese,10 eggs, 1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing, salt and pepper.
- Clean, trim (remove the darkest green leaves and roots) and slice leek into thin rings (about ¼ inch thick). Clean, dry and rough chop the greens. Whisk eggs in medium mixing bowl; add parmesan cheese, dill, pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper. Whisk until blended and set aside.
- Set oven to broil and place top rack 6-8” from heat source.
- Heat oil in 10-12” nonstick sauté pan* on medium temperature.
- Add leeks, sauté for about 3-4 minutes, until soft, not browned. Add greens, stir until wilted. Season vegetable mixture in pan with salt and pepper.
- Making sure greens and leeks are dispersed around the pan, pour in egg/cheese mixture. At medium temperature, slowly stir eggs, pulling in from ends of pan with spatula, allowing uncooked egg mixture to run underneath.
- Continue stirring, slowly, until frittata begins to set up. You want the frittata to fill the entire surface of the pan. Cook a few minutes until bottom starts to lightly brown and sides along the top start to firm up. You can cover with pan to hurry along the cooking, but don’t raise temperature.
- Once the frittata is set around edges, but still soft/slightly liquid in middle, place under broiler. Keep close watch. It should puff up a bit in middle and start to turn a light golden in about 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes.
- To serve, you can slide it on to a platter or place a round plate over the pan and flip the frittata. Top with a few grinds of pepper, a bit of shaved Parmesan, chopped dill and parsley and a light drizzle of good quality olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.
*Since you’ll be putting the sauté pan in the oven, be sure the handle is oven proof. If not, wrap it well in aluminum foil, making sure to cover all exposed areas.
We would love to hear your feedback or suggestions.
- A Pink Geranium Table / Flavors and Flourishes – May 23, 2017 – 6:30pm- 8:30pm
The Pink Geranium & Co will be bringing you more inspiration with a new monthly blog column, written by contributing editor Maryanne O’Dowd. We’ll feature table top decor, entertaining ideas and seasonal recipes – simple, fresh, classically-inspired dishes that appeal to home cooks who love to entertain.
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