Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

What to Pair With That Holiday Dish?

Written by Patti on November 16th, 2011

Good Morning Darlings!

Today, I am letting Chef Linnea Johansson take the wheel and give us some tips on holiday entertaining! Enjoy!

Thanksgiving tips, trends & more from chef, celeb-party planner
and all-around entertaining expert, Linnea Johansson

In an effort to balance out the heavy dishes served during traditional holiday dinners, Linnea has taken the best ingredients autumn has to offer and created delectable light-bites to pair alongside her seasonal cocktail creations.

Chef Linnea

Going with this, Linnea recommends these three pairings as great way to start off a long day of Thanksgiving feasting, her recipes for each dish and cocktail are also included (below).

Chevre with candied figs paired w/ a coconut & agave refresher
· Why this pairing works: The juices pair well with the sweetness of the fig and also work to mellow the out the richness and saltiness of the goat cheese. The cocktail also contains coconut water and agave nectar which are highly refreshing and work to cleanse your palette after the earthy flavors of this dish.

· Recipes:

Chevre with candied figs

3/4 pound chèvre or other goat cheese
4 fresh figs or 1/2 cup dried
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp of brown muscovado sugar or brown sugar

1. Slice the chèvre log, and place on an oven pan. Cut the figs into rounds.

2. Pour the balsamic vinegar and sugar into a small pot, and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer until the mixture is reduced and sticks to the back of a spoon.

3. If you are using dried figs, place them in the vinegar mixture and let them absorb some of the fluid while the mixture cools.

4. Heat the chèvre cheese slices quickly by using your oven’s broiler function for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese has slightly started to melt. Place the cheese on a serving plate, and top it with the candied figs and vinegar mixture. Serve warm.

You can replace muscavado sugar with brown sugar, honey, or regular sugar. Always taste the mixture since the different sugars have different sweetness, and you might have to add more.
For a challenge:
With their peppery honey flavor, Black Mission figs are the best money can buy. Fresh Black Mission figs are only available a few weeks out of the year, so if you happen to come across some, make compotes and freeze for later use.
Muscovado sugar:
The sugar is available in light and dark flavors, and is a raw sugar made from sugar canes. Compared with regular refined sugar, it is less processed and high in mineral content. The darker sugar has a liquorish flavor, and the lighter version has a toffee flavor.

Coconut & agave refresher cocktail

2 oz Russian Standard vodka
2 oz Coconut Water
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Agave Nectar
8 Grapes

Muddle the grapes with the agave syrup.
Add the lemon juice, Russian Standard Vodka.
Add coconut water to a shaker and shake all with ice.
Strain into a highball glass and serve.

Kale, mushroom, hazelnut & cranberry salad paired w/ a sparkling cranberry Bellini
· Why this pairing works: The cranberry bellini picks up the more subtle flavors presented in the salad. Linnea explains that a sparking cocktail like this would be an ideal accompaniment for the dish over a more spirit heavy drink because generally, salads are too light for those types of cocktails.

· Recipes:

Kale, mushroom, hazelnut & cranberry salad
1 head of kale
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 cup hard cheese, such as parmesan, cut into chunks
2 cups of mushrooms
2 tbsp of olive oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp of olive oil
Salt/black pepper to taste
Handful of dried cranberries

1. On the stove bring a large pot of water to boil with 2 tbsp of salt in the water. Chop the head of kale into thin slices and wash well in a colander. Once the water is boiling, add the kale and let it boil for 2 minutes. Pour into the colander and cool with ice cold water, let dry. Add into a large salad bowl.

2. Chop the hazelnuts roughly, and roast in a pan over the stove on medium heat till golden about 5 minutes. Ad to the salad bowl.

3. In the pan, add the 2 tbsp of olive oil and sauté the mushrooms for about 7 minutes over medium heat till golden, salt and pepper lightly to taste. Ad to the salad bowl.

4. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the salad and finish with the parmesan chunks.

Thanksgiving Bellini
1 oz Russian standard vodka
3 tables fresh cranberry sauce (with whole cranberries inside)
Sparkling Wine or prosecco (on the dry side)

In a shaker, combine the cranberry sauce and russian standard vodka. Shake well till the cranberry sauce is completely dissolved.

Pour with cranberry’s into a champagne flute, and fill up with sparkling wine and let the cranberry’s float as decor.

Truffle and parmesan infused popcorn paired w/ a rosemary martini

· Why this pairing works: The rosemary complements the truffle and parmesan ingredients of the popcorn; the flavor of the pepper comes alive and contrasts the sweetness of the ginger beer component of the cocktail.

· Recipes:

Black Truffle & Parmesan Popcorn

1/2 stick of butter
2 tblsp of truffle oil
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

Melt the butter and the truffle oil over low heat or in the microwave. Take of the heat. Drip over popcorn and then ad the parmesan cheese.

Rosemary Moscow Mule

2 oz Russian Standard Vodka
4 oz Ginger Beer
1 oz Rosemary Syrup
Fresh Lime
Rosemary as garnish

Build in Collins glass and add thyme & fresh squeezed lime; stir, add ice, stir again

Some more advice on pairing cocktails & food from Linnea:

Why should you pair cocktails with food on Thanksgiving?
· Alcohol helps aid with the digestion of foods, and in many, countries they actually have schnapps (a little shot) to drink with a heavy meal.

· Food paired with different cocktails also will give your guest a unique & flavorful experience they are sure to enjoy!

Her general tips & ways to go about pairing food with cocktails:· Things from the same region naturally go very well together, i.e. if you are looking for a great wine to go with you Argentinean dinner, the answer is almost always Argentinean wine! Same rule applies for cocktail pairing… so, for an all -American meal like a traditional thanksgiving dinner, make sure to use regional ingredients such as apple, cranberry, oranges in the cocktails you make to go along side the meals.

The two ways to go about pairing according to Linnea
1. The first is to match a flavor in the dish (as suggested with pairing the kale salad and cranberry Bellini, above) …

o Keep in mind not to pick up the main flavor of a dish; for example, pumpkin soup paired with a pumpkin cocktail would be too much.

o So you should rather pick up a smaller flavor and make it come alive with the cocktail, so for pumpkin soup, think about a nutmeg infused cocktail instead to pair, this would work lovely as the cocktail would bring alive the more subtle flavors of the soup.

2. The other is to balance flavors…

o In other words if you are serving something rather spicy, pair with something with something sweet or even, slightly a bitter cocktail (like the above cocktail Linnea suggested to pair with dessert).

Thanks, Chef Linnea!

Now, you’ve got some great ideas! Go forth and entertain!

xoxo, Patti

Today blogging to Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Lisa says:

    I love kale in all forms. Unlike spinach or chard (which are also lovely) chard doesn’t shrink down to nothing when you dress or sautee it.

    Long live kale!