Saturday, December 16, 2006

Potluck Potpourri

It’s that time of year again…when the dreaded office potluck rears its ugly head. You can’t get out of participating and the thought of eating store-bought potato salad and packaged cookies leaves you nauseous. My one suggestion: bring a stellar dish. You can shine above the rest, and, best of all, you will have something worth eating.

Of course, it isn’t all that simple. There is the logistics of bringing something to feed 10-12 from home, as well as cooking or reheating an item once you get there. This can be problematic if there is nothing but a small microwave. For savory dishes, you can use a crockpot, which serves as both the cooking vessel and heating/serving unit. But traditional crockpot dishes such as stews require bowls, which are not typically available at the office. (I had to use coffee cups for the carrot-ginger soup I brought to help everyone ward off winter ills.)

If you are pressed for time, you could rely on a themed cheese platter. A French platter with a selection of cheeses, baguette, sliced pear, grapes, and Nicoise olives or maybe a Middle Eastern plate with hummus and pita (cut into triangles), feta, kalamata olives, dried or fresh figs, and almonds. Plated on a decorative tray, the variety could sustain you throughout the two-hour ordeal.

Alternately, desserts usually function well at the office party. You can do the traditional cookies, or maybe some mini-cream puffs, and a cheesecake serves a large crowd. But I have a simple dessert, that people rave about, that serves 12 easily. It is plain in its initial appearance but can be dolled up in a variety of ways. It is a bittersweet mousse torte—but molded in a long bread pan, for ease of carrying, unmolding, and serving.

The basics:

2 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
½ cup butter
½ cup corn syrup
1 t vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar

Mix ½ cup cream with the yolks and set aside. Melt chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in 3 quart saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring regularly. Once melted, add the yolk mixture slowly. Stir constantly for 4 minutes. Take off heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (you can hasten the process by placing the pot in the fridge). Once cool, whip the remaining 1 ½ cups of cream with the vanilla and powdered sugar just until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the chocolate mixture completely, making sure no white streaks remain.

Line a long, narrow loaf pan with plastic wrap, draping excess over the sides. Pour the mixture into the pan, smoothing the top. Cover top with excess plastic and refrigerate overnight, or freeze for 3 hours. Unmold onto plate, remove wrap and serve with topping of your choice. Serve thin slices, as this is very, very, very rich.

This is best served with a slightly whipped cream and raspberries or raspberry sauce
For a festive touch – whipped cream and crushed candy canes
Layer raspberries or mandarin orange segments in the bottom of the pan prior to pouring the mixture in
Sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger or chocolate curls

Prep: this does require several easy steps, melting the chocolate, waiting for it to cool, whipping and incorporating the cream, so time-wise it takes about 45 minutes, but there is a lot of down time in there, where you could be sipping a glass of wine, addressing holiday cards, or…if need be…doing the dishes.

Tips: Guittard bittersweet chocolate chips work fine as a cheap alternative. For those of you with a KitchenAid mixer—use the whip attachment and once cream is at soft peak stage, slowly pour the chocolate mixture in and blend on low.

Recommended Music: Jack Johnson


Tea said...

Dang but I miss our TT potlucks. They were yummy and fun.

Dusty said...

Hi Mrs B, I was away from the blog world for quite sometime, but am back. Glad to learn about your book. Wishing you a great 2007.