From FRIENDSGIVING by Alexandra Shytsman. Copyright © 2017 by Alexandra Shytsman. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
A DIY crostini bar is awesome for several reasons:
• It keeps people out of the kitchen, allowing you to put final touches on things without distractions.
• It’s a good icebreaker if you have guests who are meeting each other for the first time.
• It helps guests feel that they participated in the preparation of the meal.
I love to make caramelized onions and sun-dried tomato tapenade from scratch and supplement the bar spread with various toppings. I like to use sliced vegetables and fruits—like radishes, cucumbers, and pears—along with cured meats, crumbled goat cheese, and ricotta drizzled with honey and thyme.
TO MAKE CROSTINI
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice a baguette into thin rounds, place them on a baking sheet in a single layer, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake until crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
TO MAKE CARAMELIZED ONIONS
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over low heat. Add 4 small thinly sliced yellow onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and toss to coat in the oil. Cover tightly with a lid and cook until the steam has softened the onions and they start to become translucent, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium-low. Stir in ¾ teaspoon dried thyme and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Cook until onions are caramel-colored and pasty, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes.
TO MAKE SUN-DRIED TOMATO TAPENADE
In a food processor, combine 1 cup pitted and rinsed Kalamata olives with 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes jarred in oil and drained. Pulse until broken down. Add 2 tablespoons drained capers, 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, 1 medium garlic clove, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and pulse to combine.
Makes 8 Servings
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 ½ pounds)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds
½ teaspoon unrefined coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 bunches of lacinato kale, stemmed and sliced into thin ribbons
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Using a sharp knife, trim the top and bottom of the squash, then halve it widthwise, separating the thinner top from the bigger bottom half. Stand halves on a flat side and slice off the skin, running your knife from top to bottom around the squash. Discard the skin. Halve the bottom portion lengthwise, and using a tablespoon, scrape out and reserve the seeds. Cut all the squash into 1-inch cubes and place into a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper and toss to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking, until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, pick out the reserved squash seeds (you should have about 2 tablespoons of seeds), discarding any squash strings. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse under running water. Transfer the seeds to a kitchen towel and pat dry. Place the seeds in a small skillet and toast over low heat until they are slightly puffy and smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Add the shelled pumpkin seeds and continue toasting for another few minutes. Add the coconut oil and toss to coat. Season with the paprika, garlic, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
4. Place the kale in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt. Using your hands, massage the kale until it is softened and darkened in color, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Transfer the kale to a serving platter and top with the roasted squash, spiced seeds, and goat cheese. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 Servings
3 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken drumsticks and thighs (16 pieces in total), patted dry
About 6 cups buttermilk
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons garlic powder
2 ½ teaspoons sea salt
2 ½ teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
About 4 cups peanut oil, for frying
1 cup honey
4 teaspoons Louisiana-style hot sauce or to taste
Pinches of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the chicken in a large shallow container and pour in the buttermilk, making sure all the pieces are submerged. Cover the container tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. In the meantime, make the spicy honey: Whisk together the honey, hot sauce, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Transfer to a small serving bowl, cover, and set aside until ready to serve.
3. Remove the chicken from the fridge and let it stand at room temperature while you get ready to fry. Fit a cooling rack within a large baking sheet and set aside.
4. Whisk together the flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika in a separate shallow dish.
5. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet or another high-sided, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, making sure there is enough oil to come at least halfway up the chicken once you add it in, about 1 ½ inches. When the oil is hot, working with 1 piece at a time, lift the chicken out of the buttermilk and shake off the excess. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, making sure to firmly press the flour into the chicken to form a generous coting.
6. Carefully place the chicken in the hot oil. Repeat with the remaining chicken, frying about 4 pieces at a time, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken turns a deep golden brown color underneath. (If the chicken is browning too quickly, reduce the heat a bit. If the chicken is not yet ready, resist the urge to flip.)
7. Transfer to the prepared cooling rack and repeat with the remaining chicken. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately with the spicy honey dip.
Do Ahead: The spicy honey can be made up to several days in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Makes 8 Servings
Two 750 mL bottles red wine (see Note)
½ cup honey
4 strips fresh orange zest
Four ¼-inch-thick slices peeled fresh ginger
4 cardamom pods
3 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
1. Combine the wine and honey with all the aromatics in a large pot. Bring to a bare simmer (do not let the wine boil) and cook for about 10 minutes.
2. Strain, if desired, and serve in heat-proof glasses or mugs.
NOTE: Choose a wine that you love to drink but not the priciest one of the bunch. The flavor will intensify as the wine warms, but it will also be enhanced with aromatics, so what you need is an in-between bottle. If you prefer not to buy all the spices individually, many retailers now carry spice mixes for mulled wine.