Cooking For Others: All I Want For Christmas is Whitney

EVENT: “Welcome Home Whitney” Holiday Dinner
VENUE: Sophie’s Apartment, West Village
PARTY SIZE: 20
TYPE: Festive, All-American Buffet
MENU: Pigs in a Blanket; Assorted Cheeses; Mustard-y Turkey Meatloaf; Roasted Brussels Sprouts; Carrots & Parsnips; Fennel-Potato Puree with Mascapone; Ginger Pear Cake (Steph); Insomnia Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

After six months of living abroad in London, our beloved friend Whitney realized she wasn’t in Kansas anymore and decided to make a great pilgrimage home for the holidays. But before she moseyed on over to spend Christmas with her family in the Midwest, she decided to make a pit stop in New York to pay a visit to all her adoring fans, like myself, who have been mourning her departure ever since May by refusing to partake in refined activities like eating oysters, drinking Spanish wines, and constructing grammatically correct sentences.

(For those of you who know Whitney and don’t mind oxford commas, that last sentence will make sense. Those that don’t might be better off reading her send-off post for some historical back-story on our friendship.)

When we got word of Whitney’s arrival, Steph, Sophie, and I went into a planning frenzy. Holiday party season had already begun, so we were itching for a reason to celebrate as is, and what better way to honor Santa than by making an American-themed meal for his best Christmas present ever: Whitney?

The menu was filled with creative spins on Midwestern classics: Turkey Meatloaf loaded with two kinds of delicious mustard, Mashed Potatoes made creamy by mascarpone cheese and intensified by a hint of anise flavor from fennel, and to kick of the meal, Pigs in a Blanket, wrapped up tight in puff pastry by Whitney’s gentle touch. As the list of attendees grew from 8 to 18, I was happy to have some little elves in the kitchen to help chop all the potatoes, onions, and fennel, and the resulting spread turned out to be a fairly crowd-friendly one.

After we successfully inhaled all 48 pigs and a good percentage of the meatloaf, the evening moved onto ice cream cookie sandwiches, Steph’s mother’s delicious Ginger Pear Cake, and another American family classic: charades. Well, not your typical game. “Rounds” or “Fish Bowl” as our game was called is more of a taboo-charade fusion, in which the players can write down anything as clues from crude humor (Dirty Sanchez) and historical figures (Pablo Escobar) to produce (cranberry beans) and leisure activities (piggy-back rides). The evening ended with tears of laughter, as Mark gave the clue “writer of the Kite Runner” for the slip of paper that read Hamid Karzai, and some more subtle tears of sadness, as some of us knew we would have to wait until the Easter Bunny lays its eggs to see Whitney again.

From my kitchen, where all I want for Christmas is Whitney, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipes**

Old-School Pigs in a Blanket
Makes 48 mini dogs

Ingredients
16 all beef hot dogs
2 rolls of Pillsbury Crescent dough (8 pieces in each)
Honey mustard
Spicy mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each of the hot dogs into three even pieces. Cut each of the dough pieces into three semi-even triangles (these do not have to be perfect). Place the dog in the center of the dough triangle and wrap all the way around so it overlaps. This does not have to be that pretty—the dough will expand and make up for any mistakes. Repeat with the rest of the dogs.

Place the pigs on a greased cookie sheet (use the Pam or a paper towel doused in oil) leaving a little space between each one.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the dough is puffed and golden brown. Serve on a platter with two types of mustard. My favorites for this are honey mustard and whole grain spicy mustard.

NOTE: If you don’t have small bowls for the mustard, shot glasses are an incredibly useful alternative. They are the perfect size for the pigs, and you won’t have too much excess as you would using a larger bowl.

Mustard-y Midwestern Turkey Meatloaf
Makes 20 servings (two large loaves)

I started making Ina Garten’s Turkey Meatloaf back in college for my token “Meatloaf and Margarita Night.” It’s such an easy dish to make for a crowd and was always a hit. Over the years, I’ve added anything and everything from my pantry to her original recipe. My favorite addition is two types of mustard. But if you aren’t the type of person who keeps up to 5 types of mustard in your fridge, as I am, feel free to stick to her original recipe for a fantastic result.

Ingredients
5 large sweet onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme leaves
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp whole grain mustard
10 pounds ground turkey (dark meat has more flavor)
3 cups plain dry bread crumbs
6 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups ketchup

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven (big enough to serve as your mixing bowl), sauté the onions with a little olive oil over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes or so until beginning to become tender, and then add the salt and thyme. Saute for another 5 minutes, until fully soft and translucent, but not browned. Off the heat, add the worchestershire, chicken stock, tomato paste, and both mustards. Stir until all the ingredients are combined. Allow to cool to room temperature.

NOTE: If you want to speed up the process, once the mixture is not piping hot, add the bread crumbs and some of the turkey to bring the temperature down. You just want to make sure the eggs don’t scramble.

With clean hands, fold in the meat, eggs, and bread crumbs. Make sure the meat is well distributed, without breaking it apart into mush. Turn out onto two rimmed cookie sheets and form into loaves.

Squirt ketchup over the top of both loaves and glaze evenly with a spatula, making sure to go all the way around the sides.

Cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours. Let stand under foil for ten minutes, and then serve along side roasted vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, or Brussels Sprouts.


Fennel-Potato Puree with Mascarpone
Makes 15-20 servings

This recipe was inspired by Giada’s Fennel Puree. While mine is still rather thin, I added more potato than fennel to bulk it up a bit and make it more substantial next to the meatloaf. She used mint to freshen the mixture, but I thought this would be a little weird with the traditional flavors of the meatloaf, and decided to use parsley instead. Either way, the mascarpone is what truly makes this dish special.

Ingredients

8 large fennel bulbs, trimmed, hearts removed, and thinly sliced
5 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed and skins removed
2 quarts chicken stock
1 quart milk
1lb mascarpone cheese
2 teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, combine the fennel, potato, garlic cloves, stock, and milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat, then turn it down to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a food processor and puree until smooth. Alternatively, you can drain most of the liquids from the pot by using the lid to catch the solids, and then puree with an immersion blender. Add the mascarpone, salt, and parsley, and blend until combined. Taste for seasoning, and set aside for at least 15 minutes, but up to an hour (this will allow it to thicken slightly). Serve room temperature with the meatloaf, or reheat right before service.

Mrs Malloch’s Ginger Pear Cake
Makes 1 delicious cake

My friend Steph’s mother makes 20 batches of this cake to give away as holiday gifts, which means, though her kitchen is no doubt transformed into a cake factory during this time, the dessert is both easy and affordable. When I watched Steph make it at Sophie’s it seemed simple enough to add on one batch to any holiday dinner. Not to mention, the batter was outrageously delicious.

Ingredients

3 cups flour
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
1tsp nutmeg
1 24oz can pears cut up (no syrup)
1 ½ tbsp fresh grated ginger
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
¾ cup vegetable oil
1cup diced crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 350.

Thoroughly spray a bundt pan or loaf pan with Pam for baking (or regular Pam and a dusting of flour). Combine flour, soda, salt and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla with a whisk or electric mixer. Slowly add the oil. Add the fresh ginger and stir to combine. Add flour mixture and pears in alternating batches. Stir in diced crystal ginger. Pour into pan and bake for about an hour. Use the toothpick test (the pear and ginger will be a bit sticky, so dont mistake them for the batter and over bake). Cool, unmold and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Be sure not to forget the LOVE.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
Buy Now - In The Small Kitchen
  • Jessie

    Though I doubt I'll be making meatloaf for twenty anytime soon, I have never thought of putting mustard in my meatloaf before and I LOVE the idea! I may even be able to sneak it past my mustard-hating fiance…

  • preventionrd

    I don't know which recipe I want to make first…they all look out of this world! So impressed! And I don't ever forget the love… 😉

  • cornellcrawford

    Have you ever tried using puff pastry instead of crescent dough for the pigs-in-blankets? I think it really "classes" up this appetizer.

  • Caitlyn

    Mmmm I'm still dreaming about those pigs in a blanket…and Whitney. Sigh.