Canapes Galore - A Party at Ours!

Heather and Ghazi goofing off in SochiTomorrow night we are hosting a party to say good bye to a good friend of ours, Heather, who is sadly moving back to the US. It will be a bittersweet night as I'm terribly sad to see our friend go, and with any luck my cooking will express those feelings of loss and many hopes for her new future. My husband being the social butterfly that he is, took this event from being a small gathering of close friends to an outright bash while he was in Sochi.  He loves to entertain.  While this was all going on from afar, I was putting together a menu of canapes (I really love to entertain too, but I must admit to being better at the culinary side than the hosting side).  The wonderful thing about entertaining on home turf is that I have the opportunity to try out new recipes on friends and get a good feeling for how they work - no paying client as guinea pig.  Also, it's the Oscars Sunday night, so perhaps you'll take a little inspiration from here if you're hosting your own get-together this weekend.Part of my inspiration for the various canapes came from watching Masterchef Australia, The Professionals which was hosted by Marco Pierre White. Every night for more than a month, a group of incredibly talented and creative chefs competed in challenges, using techniques that we'd been taught in culinary school but that I haven't used much since then.  Watching their skilled hands work and the often gorgeous end results, made me homesick for a professional kitchen and being surrounded by fellow chefs with whom to trade ideas and learn new things. There were three techniques in particular that I wrote down and promised myself I'd play with: curing, smoking, and terrines.  Also, with the hope that Springtime is close at hand, I wanted a menu that reflected the imminent change of season and the flavors soon to come. And with those thoughts as my springboard, this is the menu I've ended up with for about 30 people.

So Sad To Say Goodbye MenuAsparagus & Shiitake Terrine with CrostiniPork, Apple & Pistachio Sausage RollsClassic Crab Cakes with Green SauceSavory Brioche French Toast RoundsCrispy Asparagus Straws (click for recipe)Sweet Potato Chips with Tea Smoked Duck & Pickled RhubarbBeet Chips with Beet Cured Salmon & Wasabi Avocado Puree

5N8A7169With all of the groceries delivered, my prep began in earnest yesterday as several of the items require at least a couple of days to sit before service, and like all good party menus, you must stagger your prep over several days or else you're in big trouble (unless, of course, you're just putting out chips and dip). So with all of this in mind, I began with the terrine because I've never made it before and because I plan on serving this at a client's party in a couple of weeks time, so I needed to make notes on what works and what doesn't.  This is a recipe out of Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres Handbook, a bible of mine when it comes to inspiration. When originally I'd been thinking about revisiting terrines, I was thinking about country pate and rillettes and fois gras, but the client for my upcoming event doesn't eat meat.  It was to good old Martha that I turned, vaguely recollecting a gorgeous photograph of three different vegetable terrines. While the final pictures will all be included in a post this weekend, I do have the photos of the assembly and prep all courtesy of my talented husband.   More to come in the coming days!

A note about the leeks that you need for this recipe.  I cut off the root end, very close to the root, and then peeled away all of the layers one by one. This takes some time but allows you to keep the whole leek for lining your terrine mould and decide which inner parts (the thin, wispy, pale inner leaves) you'll use for the filling.  Also, I could not for the life of me find the 12 x 2 1/4 x 1 3/4 inch metal terrine that she requires. Mine is 12 x 3 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches so I've adjusted quantities for mine (which given the large group is good).   Here's what I did.

Asparagus & Shiitake Terrine with Crostini

24 medium shiitake mushrooms, stems removed1 tablespoon salt1 teaspoon black pepper1/4 cup olive oil4 medium leeks, whites finely chopped, greens kept whole30 thin asparagus spears1 cup fresh goat cheese1 cup labneh (or creme fraiche)1 baguette for crostini

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl mix the mushrooms, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread them on a sheet tray and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.  Meanwhile, in a large sautee pan, cook the chopped leeks with a little salt and pepper in the remaining olive oil. Do not allow them to brown at all, so use a medium-low heat, until soft, about 8 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the asparagus spears for 4 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a collander and rinse with cold water so they retain their color.  In the same pan, cook the leek greens for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Also, run under cold water.  Allow everything to cool and make sure the asparagus and leek greens are dry. Mix the goat cheese and labneh together in a bowl until smooth and add the chopped, cooked leeks to it and mix thoroughly.

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The most fiddly part of this preparation is lining the terrine mould with plastic wrap.  Make sure you cover it entirely and allow a 3 inch overhang on all sides.  Now take your cooled leek greens and line the mould carefully overlapping across the short sides of the terrine, again allowing an overhang so you can fold them over the top after it's been filled.  Once the leeks are all in place, spoon a small amount of the cheese mixture into the bottom and spread it out with a spatula to cover the leeks. Now place three spears of asparagus in the bottom and another three to join so they run the length of the terrine (some trimming required). Now another thin layer of cheese, now more asparagus, now more cheese, now mushrooms, now more cheese, now more asparagus, now more cheese, now more asparagus, now more cheese, now mushrooms, now more cheese.  You get the idea.  Really, be as creative with the layers as you want.

When you're done with your fillings - I didn't fill my terrine all the way to the top, but if you don't you must make sure you find a way to weight it so it's pressed down while setting in the fridge - fold the overhanging leek greens over the top and again trim as necessary so it's a neat little package. Now fold in the plastic wrap and find a way to properly weight the terrine before you place in the fridge. You need to at least let it set overnight, but it can be made up to two days in advance, tightly wrapped until ready to serve.

For the crostini, preheat oven to 400 degrees and slice a baguette thinly. Place the slices on a sheet tray, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool completely and then you can store these for 2 days in an airtight container (I use ziplock bags).