January's supperclub was a winter-themed success, featuring a juicy and tender slow-cooked brisket, a rich chocolatey bread pudding, and lots of red wine! Five friends joined me on a cold, rainy Saturday night to indulge in amazing food and conversation.
Savory Mushroom-Parmesan Palmiers
These little cracker-like pastries were a bit time-consuming to make, but well worth the effort. The good thing about this recipe is that a lot of it can be done ahead of time. You can make the filling at least a couple days in advance, and freeze the unbaked rolls until you're ready to slice and bake them.
I halved the original recipe and only used one puff pastry sheet. The original recipe also includes butter in the ingredient list, but no actual instructions on when or where to add it, so I just left it out. I also didn't use fresh herbs, but 1/2 teaspoon each of dried rosemary, tarragon, and thyme. I only used 1/2 teaspoon of salt, as some of the recipe reviews commented that the originally called for amount was excessive (so season to taste to be safe). I bought some truffle salt in Barcelona that I still had yet to use, so I figured this would be the perfect occasion to use as a finishing salt.
The palmiers were crispy, crunchy, and salty, with lots of umami from the mushrooms and Parmesan and lots of woody herbal notes from the spices. They were quite addictive, and I had to control myself from eating them all before the guests arrived.
Kale-Apple Salad with Maple-Walnut Dressing
This salad was so amazing: salty, sweet, crunchy, and juicy. If you're going to use pancetta drippings throughout the recipe (which I would suggest because it gives everything a smoky flavor), make sure you cook it first. I rendered and crisped it up in bacon grease (because everyone has a jar of bacon grease in the fridge, right?), which added even more to the meaty flavor. The dressing was very sweet, so the salty bits of pancetta in every bite really made this quite a well rounded salad. Sliced endive added lightness and freshness and extra crunch, and Fuji apples (my favorite!) added a nice juiciness. I didn't have currants, so I used golden raisins instead...however I think the currants would have added a bit more tartness, so use those or maybe some dried cranberries.
I do think the star of this salad was the pancetta, so if you're planning on omitting it, make sure to include salted nuts or cheese to balance out the overt sweetness of the other ingredients.
Roasted asparagus is one of my all-time favorite vegetables, and this recipe surely stood out as a winner. Raw asparagus was "marinated" in a mustard-mayonnaise-lemon mixture, although I think I'd use the mixture as more of a baste next time, as the coating did seem a bit thick and goopy.
The original recipe actually calls for grilling the asparagus, but I chose to use my broiler (one of the most underrated kitchen appliances in my opinion) instead. I think the viscosity of the mustard mixture prevented the asparagus from really blistering and charring, but the flavors were amazing: very tangy and tart, the perfect complement to the sweeter kale salad.
Roasted garlic is another favorite of mine. And it's seriously so easy to make, every time I make it I always think, "Why don't I make this more often?" You can spread it on anything for a nice sweet and pungent garlic flavor.
In this dish, it was mixed into mashed red potatoes (skins left on to add a thick, chewy texture) along with milk, heavy cream, and lots of butter. The potatoes were cooked in heavily salted water, which turned out to be the perfect amount because I didn't even need to add any more. The heavy cream added a slight sweetness to the potatoes, which I thought was a bit unusual but it worked well. Sprinkle with fresh minced parsley for some color and pizzazz.
And now to the star of the show... I absolutely LOVE using my slow cooker, and I also LOVE brisket, so I knew I had to make this the focus of the menu. Six of us polished off almost four pounds of beef; I would have done an extra pound if I knew it was gonna go so quickly!
The recipe is super easy to make, with probably the hardest part being lifting four pounds of meat with a pair of tongs (make sure they're good ones!). I seared both sides of the brisket in my cast iron pan, and make sure you get a nice hard sear on it. If it looks burnt, that's okay (and actually a good thing!), as it will tenderize in the slow cooker. The brisket was slow cooked in a mixture of onions, garlic, beef broth, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. That combination automatically sounds amazing, right?
After five hours, the meat was "fall off the bone" tender, and slicing it was like slicing through butter. Create a nice glaze by simmering the juices in a pot with some added cornstarch slurry, and serve it over the meat and potatoes, giving you one of those "I want to lick the plate" kinds of meals.
You know your girl Paula Deen ain't playing when it comes to desserts, and this recipe of hers is no different. French bread was soaked in a milk, cream, and sugar mixture, with added Kahlua that one of the guests could actually taste. Cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate chips give you a double dose of chocolate, and cinnamon and vanilla and almond extracts made this straight up decadent. Personally, I think any dessert including almond extract will always be a winner in my book. I served this with vanilla ice cream which really took this dessert over the top.
My first plate LOL...
Supperclub guests, some of us go way back!
The aftermath LOL (and there's more on the stove)