Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1 Cozy Festive Fall Dinner
Chapter 2 Thanksgiving Buffet
Chapter 3 Thanksgiving Weekend Brunch
Chapter 4 Cocktail Party for a Festive Season
Chapter 5 Open House Decorating Party
Chapter 6 Christmas Eve Dinner for Your Six Best Friends
Chapter 7 ’Tis the Season Festive Buffet
Chapter 8 After-the-Gift-Giving Breakfast
Chapter 9 Elegant New Year’s Eve Dinner
Chapter 10 New Year’s Day “Linner”
Appendix Rosca de Reyes
© 2010 Daisy Martinez
For many people, the term “holiday entertaining” induces fear, if not downright terror. Everyone has heard a story or two of the beautifully browned turkey that is still frozen-raw on the inside, vegetables that are cooked until tasteless, or even, heaven forbid, lumpy gravy that tastes like schoolroom paste. Well, in the words of a familiar cartoon character, “Here I come to save the day!”
The recipes in this book are arranged by menus, each with a theme. This is not to say that a recipe (or even a menu) that is given for an autumnal holiday celebration wouldn’t feel right at home on a winter holiday or an end-of-year party table. For example, the Mushroom-Plantain-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mango-Bacon Gravy found in the Cozy Festive Fall Dinner would be perfectly appropriate for New Year’s Eve, and any one of the soups from the Open House Decorating Party could serve as a delicious first course in any other menu. You get the picture, right?
I’ve been able, through the years, to diminish my holiday-entertaining stress by applying a couple of important lessons I learned as a student at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan: Whether you’re cooking for six or for six hundred, the secret to a successful party is organization, organization, organization! With a bit of foresight and a few freezer-safe plastic containers and bags, you can minimize your last-minute kitchen duties, so that you can actively participate in the creation of your friends’ and family’s memories.
First, double up on recipes that freeze well (I let you know which these are right in the recipes) and get a leg up on future meals. Are you making soup for one of the menus? Do yourself a favor and make twice as much as you need, then freeze half and have the beginnings of an impromptu winter dinner with friends or a family meal on a night you’re too pooped to cook. Making Mushroom Picadillo (page 13)? Make a double batch and freeze half. Keep the picadillo on hand for Mushroom Croquettes (page 59), a next-to-no-effort nibble to offer with drinks for friends who drop in to wish you happy holidays. The second lesson I learned is to prep foods as far ahead as I can without sacrificing quality. (Some foods—like soups and stews—benefit from being made in advance.) Wash your salad greens and other components, and store in damp paper towels and plastic bags in the refrigerator. When it comes time for salad, simply dump, dress, toss, and serve! Throughout this book, in recipes and the preparation schedules that accompany each chapter, I point out what can be made ahead of time and how far ahead of party time it can be crossed off your list. Heads up: You’ll notice that some of the make-ahead times in the preparation schedules don’t match the make-ahead times in the recipes exactly. I grouped tasks together in the schedules in a way that makes the most sense to me. Feel free to fiddle with the schedules, as long as you don’t exceed the make-ahead times given in the recipes.
I also like to differentiate holiday entertaining from events during the rest of the year by providing some memento for my guests, whether it’s homemade, like the Mini-Morsel Mexican Wedding Cookies (page 70), or store bought, like a prettily wrapped bottle of good olive oil or vinegar. One year, at my Christmas tree–trimming party, I gave each of my guests an ornament for his or her own Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush; another year, I made coquito (page 151) and gave everyone a pretty corked bottle to take home. Whatever the case, it’s a very nice touch to honor your guests when your party wraps up.
Last, the majority of the recipes within these pages are extremely user friendly, so that your holiday entertaining is something that you can look forward to with anticipation, instead of with trepidation. Remember that the holidays are truly the most wonderful time of the year to share with friends and family, and this book will definitely help you navigate them, in whatever way you choose to celebrate, with a minimum of fuss. So prepare to deck the halls and party Daisy-style, with a little bit of Latino flair, some sassy dishes, and a whole lot of festive fun!
© 2010 Daisy Martinez
MAKES 12 BUFFET SERVINGS (ABOUT 8 CUPS)
This soup draws inspiration from pumpkin pie, with its creamy texture and familiar autumn spices, but it’s given a tropical punch with coconut milk.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large shallots, finely diced (about ¼ cup)
8 cups diced (½-inch) peeled and seeded calabaza, sugar pumpkin, or butternut squash (about 4 pounds whole)
2 cups homemade or store-bought chicken broth
1/2 vanilla bean
1 cinnamon stick
Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper (preferably white)
One 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Toasted sliced almonds (see Note, page 43)
1. Melt the butter in a 4- to 5-quart soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Keep the heat low so the shallots don’t brown. Add the calabaza and the chicken broth, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the vanilla bean and the cinnamon stick and season lightly with salt and pepper. Adjust the heat so the broth is simmering, cover the pot, and cook until the calabaza is very soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove the vanilla bean from the soup, split it lengthwise with a paring knife, and scrape the vanilla specks from inside the bean into the pot. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Working in batches, blend the soup until very smooth. To avoid splattering, either let the soup cool to tepid or work in very small batches and use a folded-up kitchen towel to clamp the lid to the blender while the machine is running. Pour each batch into a clean pot as you finish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk in the coconut milk, cloves, and allspice. Heat the soup gently until heated through. The soup can be prepared completely in advance up to 2 days before serving. Refrigerate and bring back to a simmer, stirring, over very low heat before serving. Sprinkle a generous amount of the toasted almonds over each bowl of soup.
© 2010 Daisy Martinez
MAKES 12 GENEROUS SERVINGS
Bread puddings were always reserved for celebrations—not just in Puerto Rico, but all around the Caribbean. That was certainly the case when I was growing up and watching Abuela in the kitchen. (For extra-special occasions, we’d add a whole can of fruit cocktail to the mix!) This very simple recipe features a chocolate custard teamed up with two of chocolate’s longtime friends: cinnamon and cherries. It has all the appeal of one of those “cherry cordial” candies (a sweet cherry in a liqueur-flavored syrup encased in dark chocolate). Be sure to give the bread enough soaking time so the chocolaty custard penetrates all the way to the center of the bread cubes. (Break a bread cube open to check.)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 cups heavy cream
12 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rum
One 11-1/2-ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
One 10-inch loaf challah bread, cut (crusts and all) into ¾-inch cubes (about 12 cups; see Notes)
1 cup dried cherries (about 5 ounces)
Using the butter, grease an 13 by 9-inch baking dish.
Beat 2 cups of the cream with the eggs, sugar, and rum in a large bowl until smooth. Heat the remaining 4 cups cream in a medium saucepan until the edges are bubbling. Remove from the heat, add the bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips, let stand for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cinnamon.
Slowly pour the chocolate cream into the cream-egg mixture, whisking continuously until the two are blended. Add the bread, turning gently to coat with the chocolate custard mix. Let stand until the bread has soaked up as much of the custard mixture as it will hold, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how stale the bread is.
While the bread is soaking, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Stir the cherries into the custard mix. Pour the pudding mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until the edges are set and the center jiggles a little when you wiggle the pan,
40 to 45 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving warm, or let cool completely and serve at room temperature. The pudding is best eaten before it’s been refrigerated.
Day-old bread is best for this. It will be easier to cut into cubes and, as an added bonus, will soak up more chocolaty custard the next day.
The bread pudding is best eaten warm or at room temperature without ever having seen the inside of a refrigerator. Refrigerated bread pudding just won’t have that same creamy-custardy texture, but leftovers will still be quite delicious. If you would like to warm them, do so gently, wrapped in aluminum foil on a baking sheet in a 250°F oven.
© 2010 Daisy Martinez