By Nancy Pollard
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years—La Cuisine in Alexandria, Virginia—Nancy Pollard writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues.
“HORSES DOOVERS.” We’re not sure how that name got started as the Cuisinette pet name for hors d’oeuvres. It could have been my younger daughter, who had a penchant for mispronouncing words when she was little, and the name just stuck. She has now more than overcome this adorable toddler habit not only in English but also in Italian, which she speaks fluently. We often featured seasonal appetizers for our Saturday La Cuisine tastings, and Kitchen Detail subscribers and readers have emailed me for the recipes from those remembered occasions. These are three of our customer favorites, each perfect for the winter holidays. All are easy to make; can be stored at room temperature in a sealed jar; frozen and then baked; or simply made earlier and stored covered in the fridge until it’s time to bake them in the oven right before you pop a bottle of celebratory bubbly.
Flour Bakery’s Spiced Pecans
I have both of Joanne Chang’s first two cookbooks from her bakery/cafés in Boston. This recipe for spiced pecans is from her second book, and her technique has become my favorite rendition of this American classic nibble with drinks. I use only Caster Sugar to make these (and you know India Tree is my caster sugar of choice), but you can use white granulated sugar too. Do not try this with unbleached sugar or light brown sugar or even turbinado. I tried and it was a disaster, so you don’t have to repeat the same messy error. Use a heavy saucepan with good heat conduction, and be patient with the stirring, as Chang advises. The sugar does crystallize and becomes sandy. I use Vanns’ Marash Pepper or Aleppo Pepper instead of Cayenne.
Roquefort Puff Pastry Pinwheels From ‘Big Sky Cooking’
When Stephanie Gorenflo, La Cuisine’s baking whiz, knew she was moving to Montana, she discovered this neat cookbook written by Meredith Brokaw and her friend Ellen Auld with the title Big Sky Cooking. It is a lot of fun to cook from, and I have made their recipes for Italian and French friends who loved eating what we made. This is such a sinfully easy horses doover. You can cut out the pinwheels and freeze them on a tray, then pop them into a freezer bag. You can brush them and bake them frozen when you have guests for drinks. I have made some variations of this easy rolled puff pastry appetizer, using pesto or tapenade instead of cheese, both with success. It is important to make the layer of the tapenade or pesto very thin. I slathered it on and it was too much. The original version still remains a favorite with our friends, even those who are not thrilled with blue cheese. I usually double this recipe and make the whole sheet of puff pastry. My preference in ready-made puff pastry is still the one by Dufour. For starters, they use a good grade of butter and not a hydrogenated fat.
Simply Holidays Parmesan Bacon-Wrapped Dates
I think being on the East Coast, we miss out on a lot of food-writing luminaries who are not on our Right Coast radar screen. Diane Rossen Worthington is one of them. We always sold out of her cookbooks at La Cuisine, but she’s not a household name. She cut her writing chops as an expert on contemporary Californian and American cuisine and has written more than 20 cookbooks, also serving as the Editor-in-Chief of Epicurious.com. She has twice won the prestigious International James Beard Award. When I see one of her earlier cookbooks for sale, I usually purchase it. This recipe is one of my favorites from her Seriously Simple Holidays. Check out her website, Seriously Simple, for other truly easy recipes for your next party. This recipe was apparently an adaptation of a Spanish Tapa, and it is my go-to cold-weather horse doover.