This recipe bursts with colour and can be easily tailored to meet the host's tastes and items they may have on hand. Any kind of sparking wine or Prosecco would work, and it won't impact the taste if an ingredient is omitted, such as the brandy.
1 l (4 cups) strawberries
3 navel oranges
1 l (4 cups) ice
30 fresh mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
1 bottle (750 ml) of your favourite Champagne or Prosecco
45 ml (1 1/2 oz) brandy
45 ml (1 1/2 oz) Cointreau
1 bottle (1 l) club soda
In a bowl, place strawberries and mash them with a masher. Keep mashing until the juices are released and you're left with strawberry pulp. Slice oranges into thin rounds. Peel and core pineapple. Cut half of the pineapple into rounds. Cut the other half into small cubes that will fit into punch glasses.
Add ice to punch bowl. Place a few mint leaves in your palm and slap them. This will release the natural oils and aroma of the mint. Add mint to punch bowl. Pour in Champagne, brandy and Cointreau. Pour in club soda. Add crushed strawberries, orange slices and all the pineapple. Stir well. Serve in punch cups.
Source: Simon Ho, mixologist at The Drake in Toronto, for CBC's "Steven and Chris."
Charcuterie and Cheese Plate 101
This no-cook appetizer is perfect when you're pressed for time. Simply shop, plate, then sit back, relax and enjoy a festive bevvie while your guests graze.
Included is an easy recipe for Bourbon Chicken-Liver Pate for those who would like to make their own.
— The more meat you offer, the more people will eat. For a cocktail party, if you set out only one choice of meat, 30 grams (one ounce) per person will suffice. With two or three different meats, plan for 60 grams (two ounces) total per person. More than three, 90 grams (three ounces). For a dinner party or a gathering lasting longer than a couple of hours, double these amounts.
— Pick three meats: a dry-cured meat (such as serrano ham, the Spanish equivalent of prosciutto), a cooked sausage (such as San Daniele mortadella, a mild, crowd-pleasing Italian-style veal bologna) and a dry-cured sausage (like soppressata).
— If you like, add a fourth, non-pork option like bresaola, a beef dry-cured to the point of perfection. This one's definitely a luxury, but well worth it. It was Picasso's favourite, after all.
— Pick three cheeses: a soft cheese (such as Riopelle, a cow's milk cheese, similar to brie, from Quebec), a blue cheese (like Roquefort Papillon Noir, a blue cheese made by the aristocracy of Roquefort producers from ewe's milk aged in mountain caves) and a hard/sharp cheese (such as Picobello, a uniquely nutty, sweet Dutch cheese with a texture similar to Gouda but a more complex taste and longer finish).
— If you're going to add a fourth cheese, splurge on a conversation starter like Testun Occelli al Barolo, a raw aromatic sheep's milk cheese from Piedmont in northern Italy. It is covered in wine must from the Barolo grape and aged 18 months.
— When laying out your meat and cheese selection, you can serve the meat and cheese together or arrange them on two separate platters.
— Place sweet garnishes (dried pineapple, apricots, honey, honeycomb, fresh or dried figs, fig jam, dried cranberries, grapes) next to the salty cheeses; and pickles, cornichons, olives and other acidic accompaniments (aged balsamic vinegar) next to the meats.
— Nuts (walnuts, plain or candied almonds or pecans) pair especially well with cheese. A drizzle of honey makes them the perfect partner for salty cheeses, in particular.
Bourbon Chicken-Liver Pate
175 ml (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, divided
250 ml (1 cup) finely chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
5 ml (1 tsp) each fresh thyme, sage and rosemary, chopped, plus extra sprigs for garnish
3 ml (3/4 tsp) salt
1 ml (1/4 tsp) black pepper
Pinch nutmeg or allspice
500 g (1 lb) chicken livers, trimmed
30 ml (2 tbsp) each bourbon and 35 per cent cream
125 ml (1/2 cup) pistachios, toasted and chopped
In a large non-stick skillet over moderately low heat, melt half the butter, then cook onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add herbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and livers and cook, stirring, until livers are cooked on the outside but still pink when cut open, about 8 minutes. Stir in bourbon and remove from heat.
Transfer to a food processor, add cream and puree until smooth. Transfer pate to a large bowl and fold in pistachios. Scoop into a 625-ml (2 1/2-cup) crock or terrine or divide among several small ramekins and smooth with an offset spatula.
In a small saucepan, melt remaining butter over low heat. Remove pan from heat and let butter stand for 3 minutes. Place sprigs of herbs on top of pate. Skim froth from butter, then spoon enough clarified butter over pate to cover its surface, leaving milky solids in bottom of pan.
Chill pate until butter is firm, about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours more. Will keep, refrigerated, for about 5 days or frozen for about 2 weeks.
Source: Created by chef Carmine Accogli for CBC's "Steven and Chris."
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Here is a tried-and-true recipe for mashed potatoes, plus some variations.
6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 kg/2 lb), peeled, cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) chunks, rinsed and drained
50 ml (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
125 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk, warmed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Cover and steam potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes in a steamer insert over a pot of boiling water. (Steaming reduces the amount of water absorbed by the potatoes.) Drain and discard water from pot, remove from heat.
For the fluffiest spuds, process potatoes into pot using a ricer or a food mill. Work in batches as required.
With a spatula, gently stir in butter with a pinch of salt before adding warm milk in order to coat potato starch in a layer of fat. Otherwise, water in milk will bind with starch and yield a gooey mash.
Add warm milk. Season with pepper and more salt to taste. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings.
Olive Oil and Lemon Mashed Potatoes
Swap butter for good extra-virgin olive oil, whole milk for Greek yogurt.
Add 30 ml (2 tbsp) each lemon juice and zest and 50 ml (1/4 cup) coarsely chopped fresh herbs such as dill or flat-leaf parsley.
Coconut Milk and Cumin Mashed Potatoes
Swap butter for ghee and whole milk for coconut milk heated with 2 lime leaves.
Add 1/2 yellow onion, 2 cloves sauteed garlic, 15 ml (1 tbsp) toasted whole cumin seeds and 45 ml (3 tbsp) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro.
Lobster and Boursin Mashed Potatoes
Swap milk and butter for Boursin cheese and about 45 ml (3 tbsp) whole milk.
Add 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) chopped cooked lobster meat (warmed) and 45 ml (3 tbsp) chopped fresh chives.
Honey Balsamic Carrots
This recipe works beautifully with any root vegetable, but remember to roast different types of veggies on separate pans as their cooking times vary and colours can bleed.
8 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into even-sized pieces
30 to 45 ml (2 to 3 tbsp) olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
50 ml (1/4 cup) balsamic vinegar
50 ml (1/4 cup) honey
Heat oven to 220 C (425 F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, toss carrots generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast for about 30 minutes or until carrots are browned and crisp on the outside and fully cooked through.
In a measuring jug, combine balsamic vinegar and honey. Set aside.
Once carrots have cooled slightly, place in a large mixing bowl and pour glaze over top. Toss well to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Makes 6 servings.
Source: Created by Joshna Maharaj for CBC's "Steven and Chris."
Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman love coconut and say they were very excited to have this gluten-free treat created for them.
125 ml (1/2 cup) cold butter
250 ml (1 cup) desiccated (dried) coconut
250 ml (1 cup) white rice flour
125 ml (1/2 cup) shredded coconut
5 ml (1 tsp) honey, plus extra for glazing
Pinch sea salt
15 ml (1 tbsp) water
Coconut flakes, for garnish
Sparkling sugar, for garnish
In a medium bowl, cut butter into desiccated coconut until mixture forms irregular pea-sized clumps. Add rice flour, shredded coconut, eggs, honey, sea salt and water. Mix together with your hands until soft dough has formed. Pat dough into non-stick mini-cupcake pan. Bake in a 180 C (350 F) oven (convection: 160 C/325 F) for 15 to 20 minutes.
While still warm, remove from pan and glaze with extra honey. Sprinkle with coconut flakes and sparkling sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Makes about 3 dozen.
Source: Created by pastry chef Kyla Eaglesham for CBC's "Steven and Chris."