Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year's Eve Treats

Over the weekend, I shared with you some of the things I made for our NYE celebration at JenFinn's house. Now our lovely hostess is sharing some of the recipes that she herself made (girlfriend went ALL OUT!!). They were all really, incredibly delicious. I actually got to sample the brittle a couple of days before and my friend and I that got to eat it were craving it again later on. I loved the combo of not only sweet and salty, but spicy as well. Jen's thoughts on the brittle: it's very important to work very fast once you pour the candy on the cookie sheet. It gets hard really fast and I found myself stretching it out while it was still warm to make it thinner.

Next up is the Wild Mushroom Macaroni with Three Cheeses and Truffle Oil. As regular readers of this blog know, I am huge fan of the mac and cheese so I gobbled this right up (as did everyone else at the party). Jen's thoughts: It definitely has a spicy bite to it, so if you don't like spicy, you should go easy on the chili flakes...also if you aren't big fans of rosemary, you can either omit it or just half it (I like it and find it reminds me of the holidays, so I used it all)!

Last, but certainly not least, this gorgeous Hazelnut Crunch cake. This was really good and light which was surprising considering how decadent it looks. How awesome does that hazelnut brittle look? It's like stained glass. The cake was so good, you would never have guessed it came from a box!!

Sweet and Spicy Nut Brittle
(From Wilton)

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds of brittle

1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In medium bowl, combine cashews and pistachios. In small bowl, mix oil, hot pepper sauce, chili powder, kosher salt, and cayenne pepper. Drizzle spice mixture over nuts; stir to coat evenly. Spread nut mixture onto cookie pan in a single layer.

Bake 10 to12 minutes stirring once after 5 minutes. Remove from oven; spread nut mixture over paper towels to cool completely. Place cooled nuts into medium bowl; set aside.

Line 12 x 18 in. cookie pan with parchment paper. Generously grease paper with butter; set aside. Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water in medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. (Use pastry brush dipped in water to wash sugar crystals down on sides of saucepan.) Continue cooking, without stirring, 20-30 minutes until sugar mixture turns deep amber in color and Candy Thermometer registers 300ºF. (Carefully watch sugar mixture, as it can quickly turn from amber to dark brown.)

Once sugar mixture reaches 300ºF, remove from heat; using greased wooden spoon, stir in nuts. Immediately pour brittle mixture into prepared pan. Using greased, large angled spatula, spread sugar mixture as thinly as possible. Cool completely. Break brittle into pieces.

Wild Mushroom Macaroni and Three Cheeses with Truffle Oil
(From What We're Eating)

1 1/2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tbsp oil or bacon fat
1 1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3 cup whole milk, warmed
4 oz herb chevre, crumbled
4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
4 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, separated in 2 2oz piles
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
2-3 tbsp white truffle oil, depending on how strong you like it (yes, this is some rich mac-n-cheese)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup panko
10 oz cavatappi pasta
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large pot of water over high heat and cover. Place a large saute pan with 2 tbsp oil or lard over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pan and saute for 7-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully cooked and slightly caramelized. Toss or stir occasionally. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper then deglaze the pan with sherry vinegar. Allow all of the vinegar to cook out, then remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Begin the cheese sauce. Add 4 tbsp butter to a medium-sized sauce pan and place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Once all the butter is melted and hot, whisk in 4 tbsp flour. Cook the flour, whisking, for about 30 seconds , just long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste, but not long enough for the flour to start caramelizing. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and red pepper flakes. Continue stirring and allow the herbs to saute for about another 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking continuously, so the roux and milk incorporate smoothly and there are no lumps. Allow the bechamel to come to a simmer (it won’t gain it’s full thickness until it does), stirring occasionally.

While waiting for the sauce to come to a simmer start the pasta. Liberally salt the pot of boiling water, almost to the point it tastes like sea water. This may take a few handfuls of salt . Add the pasta to the water and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the suggested time on the box.

Once the bechamel has reached a simmer, stir in the chevre, cheddar, 2oz of parmigiano, and truffle oil until all the cheese has melted. Turn off the heat and and taste the sauce for seasoning levels. Season with salt and pepper as necessary. In small mixing bowl, mix together the panko and remaining 2oz of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Strain the pasta immediately once finished cooking. In a mixing bowl, toss the pasta, cheese sauce, and mushrooms together. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a deep glass or ceramic loaf pan and sprinkle the panko/Parmigiano mixture evenly across the top. Bake the mac-n-cheese in the upper part of the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and the cheese sauce is bubbly. Serve hot. Enjoy!

*if you’re lucky enough to have a real truffle, feel free to substitute shaved truffle for the truffle oil!

Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate
(From Giada De Laurentiis)

1 box chocolate cake mix


1 cup (about 4 1/2-ounces) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water


2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 cup cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour 2 (8-inch) cake pans. Prepare the cake mix according to package instructions. Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans and bake according to package instructions. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

For the Crunch:

Place the toasted nuts close together in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir the sugar mixture until dissolved. Bring to a boil and let cook until the sugar is light brown, about 8 minutes. Let the bubbles subside then pour the caramelized sugar over the nuts. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and let the sugar nut mixture cool until hard, about 30 minutes. When the sugar nut mixture is hard and cool, top with another piece of parchment paper and pound into small pieces, or place the sugar nut mixture on a cutting board and cut into small pieces. Set aside.

For the filling:

Put the mascarpone cheese, cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer whip the cream mixture to soft peaks. Fold the Crunch mixture into the whipped cream.

For the topping:

Place the chocolate, sugar and zest in a food processor. Process the mixture until the chocolate is finely ground.

To assemble the cake:

Put 1 cake on a serving plate. Top with 1-inch of the whipped cream crunch mixture. Top with the second layer of cake and continue frosting the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream crunch mixture. Sprinkle the top and sides of the cake with the ground chocolate. Serve.

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Erica said...

Is it lunch time yet? ;)

vanillasugarblog said...

wow, between the two of you, there was some serious food options there! Damn!

Esi said...

Erica, I am already wishing it was Friday and today is my first day back at the office in two weeks!!!

Dawn, this wasn't even half of it. We had an incredible amount of food. I am surprised I didn't put on ten pounds that night alone!!

Unknown said...

what great treats :)

Diana said...

I want your friends.

Esi said...

Diana, yeah I got pretty lucky, huh?

Anonymous said...

What a spread you all enjoyed. I wish I were there, everything looks delicious!

Heather said...

that nut brittle looks so, so good! and i love the mac and cheese, too. so grown up. glad you had a good new years :)

Amira said...

wonderful eats, they all look soo delicious! I'm specially loving the look of that nut brittle, have a great day

Reeni said...

Everything is so sinfully delicious! That cake is gorgeous, especially with the nut brittle!

Sara said...

Everything looks really delicious, I need to make that mac and cheese!

Anonymous said...

The mac and cheese sounds fantastic! I have to get my hands on some truffle oil.

The cake is beautiful. I love the brittle on it.

Summer said...

Amazing. That mac n' cheese looks sooo good. I love truffles / truffle oil. I will be trying that soon. Happy New Year!

Maggie said...

That cake looks fantastic!! And you reminded me that I have a bottle of truffle oil that really needs to be used.

BTW, a trick to getting pralines and brittles to spread out thin and even is to have two sheet pans of the same size (or one smaller). You line the bottom one with parchment and then butter the bottom of the top one (this one can be the smaller one). As soon as you pour the brittle into the bottom pan grab the top pan and firmly press down. This spreads the mix and you can get it much more even and thinner.

Esi said...

Maggie, thanks for the tips! I am sure they will come in handy in the future. :)