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Indulge with holiday favorites

December 18, 2012

By SUSAN FORD

This is the time of year that we all overindulge. In a few short weeks, we will all be back to faithfully logging our calories into our smart phones and amping up our cardio, but for now, we will eat, drink and be merry. I have a few holiday favorites I want to share and a new recipe I went to great lengths to acquire for this column.

If you are looking for a healthy alternative to a holiday favorite, you might as well stop reading now. The healthiest thing I have to offer this month is the splash of cranberry juice that will go in this month’s cocktail. I know we should always strive to practice everything in moderation, but if you are feeling naughty I have a few recipes for you. Let's be in the downward spiral together and enjoy ourselves for the rest of 2012. Like my husband often says, “If you are going to be a bear, be a grizzly.”

The first decadent recipe is out of the Oxford cookbook, Square Table. I love this shrimp appetizer. I made it last New Year's Eve and it is so rich and delicious. It is an impressive dish that is deceptively easy. I get the flash frozen easy peel shrimp for this recipe. The only down fall for this shrimp infused cream cheese, is you really have to make it right before serving and I know that can be a wrinkle if you are entertaining. I will say it is worth the extra effort, you can have your shrimp peeled and chopped and cream cheese room temp so all you have to do is throw it together right before people arrive. It does keep well in a chafing dish.  

The second recipe is straight from award-winning restaurant in Memphis, Iris. I had the good fortune of  having drinks with the chef that makes one of the most popular dishes at there. Naturally, I used my hard hitting journalist skills to find out exactly how they make the famous “surf and turf.” Iris’s take on surf and turf is a New York strip stuffed with blue cheese and fried oysters.

Most of us in Starkville don’t have access to oysters, but it is always fascinating for me to hear the proper way to cook a cut of meat. She said they sear the strip on cast iron and cook it on a high temperature in the oven. For about a year, I have been preparing steak in the cast iron and I will never go back to the grill. If you do plan to visit Memphis soon, Iris is a can’t miss meal. Don’t make my mistake and try for a reservation one week in advance or you will find yourself dining in some other fine restaurant in midtown. This tiny restaurant stays booked, plan accordingly.   

The third may seem simple, but I went on a quest last year to learn to make truffles. Upon leaving one of our favorite holiday parties last year, my husband who isn’t a dessert man, commented on how wonderful the truffles were. I thought to myself if my man is going to be wild about a dessert, I am going to learn to make the best ones in town. I read countless recipes online, and through my cookbooks and combined several different recipes. You can add nuts, coconut or fruit, but Bill Ford is a purest and doesn’t like food surprises so I kept mine simple. I learned that ganache, the inside of a truffle, is really just equal parts cream and chocolate. Also, that the key is getting everything as cold as possible, I even enlisted the help of my first grader’s tiny cold hands to help me to form the  balls. None of the recipes called for salt, but I added some to my ganache because they said on Top Chef, you should always add salt to cut the sweetness of chocolate. I called my dear friend Michelle to see if she had any words of wisdom before I tried my truffles and she informed me that the ones Bill fell in love with at the party were store bought. Oh well, it was my first adventure with chocolate and it was messy but I do not regret my new skill. Really what’s not to like about chocolate, cream and more chocolate?

Last, but not least, is a cocktail called a Poinsettia. It is just equal parts champagne, (cheap is fine) and cranberry juice, and my friend Karen adds triple sec. I surround myself with wise women. It is beautiful in a punch bowl and couldn’t be easier to make. Freeze a ring of cranberry juice to keep it cool. Happy cooking this holiday and I promise to share a recipe involving vegetable of some sort next month.

Shrimp Infused
Cream Cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. white wine
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
chopped fresh parsley

In a saute pan over medium-high heat heat olive oil and add shrimp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, stirring to coat. When shrimp begin to turn pink, add garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Add white wine, stir and reduce heat to medium-low. Cut cream cheese into blocks and add all at once. Stir well until fully combined. Stir in parsley. Serve with crusty bread or crackers.

Iris New York Strip for “surf and turf”

Preheat oven to 450. Rub New York strip with salt, pepper, garlic and “other spices” and set aside. Sear meat on both sides in butter on a hot cast iron skillet. Put skillet with meat in prepared oven for 7 minutes for a good medium rare. Cut slit halfway down steak and stuff with blue cheese, and fried oysters or fried shrimp if you can get them.

Simple Chocolate Truffles

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels, I used Ghirardelli
2 cups heavy cream
3 Tbsp. of butter, melted
1 tsp. salt
2 packages of melting dipping chocolate, I found it next to the strawberries, you heat it in the microwave and it dries hard.

Microwave chocolate and whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl at Medium (50 percent power) for 3 1/2 minutes. Whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. If the chocolate doesn’t melt completely, microwave and whisk at 15 second intervals. Whisk in butter and salt. Freeze ganache covered overnight. With small very cold melon baller form ganache into balls placing on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. When balls are formed place back in the freezer for at least 4 hours. With a fork, individually drop balls into melted dipping chocolate and leave to dry and harden on another cookie sheet prepared with parchment paper. Truffles will last for 10 days chilled.

Email Susan Ford at susanlovesharp@hotmail.com.

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