Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Eve Dinner

We normally try to do an Italian Menu for Christmas Eve. A traditional menu would have seven fishes, however, we decided to forgo the fish this year and go with pasta instead. We did have some fried calamari for an appetizer so at least there was one fish! For appetizers we served Christmas Eve Punch, Fried Calamari (purchased from a local restaurant), Sun Dried Tomato and Smoked Mozzarella Cigars and a Crudite Platter with Caesar Dip. The mozzarella cigars turned out beautifully despite some issues I had working with the phyllo. We will definitely serve them at future parties. For the main course we had a chopped salad, lasagna with basil leaves and garlic bread. The lasagna took some time to make but was really good. I liked the addition of the fresh basil between the layers and also the fresh mozzarella slices. For dessert, I made one of my favorite go to desserts, Tiramisu Layer Cake. We also had fresh clementines and an assortment of bark and Christmas cookies (see previous post for recipes). Both the Lasagna and Tiramisu Cake are great for dinner parties because they can be made ahead, leaving time to just enjoy the evening. All in all it was a wonderful dinner and wonderful evening with family.

Smoked Mozzarella and Sun Dried Tomato Cigars
Recipe Courtesy of Giada de Laurentis

6 sheets phyllo dough
4 tablespoon butter, melted
8 ounces smoked mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
8 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on a clean dry work surface. Use a pastry brush to brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Fold the phyllo sheet in half lengthwise, resulting in a 12 by 8-inch rectangle. Brush the top of the phyllo with melted butter. Place a few slices of smoked mozzarella at a narrow end of the phyllo rectangle, leaving 1-inch on each side. Top the cheese with a few pieces of sun-dried tomatoes. Carefully roll up the phyllo dough into a cigar shape starting with the cheese and tomato end. About half way through the rolling, tuck in the 1-inch ends of the phyllo dough, and continue rolling. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, seam side down, and brush the top with butter. Continue rolling the 5 remaining cigars. Bake until golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Lasagna with Basil Leaves
Recipe Source: Entertaining with the Sopranos

Serves 8-10

1 1b dried lasagna
5-6 cups meat sauce (recipe follows)
2 lbs ricotta
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cp freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 large bunch basil, leaves removed, rinsed and dried
12 oz fresh mozzarella

In a large pot, bring at least 4 quarts salted water to a boil. Add a few pieces of lasagna and cook, stirring gently, until tender but slightly underdone. Scoop the pasta out of the water with a sieve and cool in a bowl of cold water. Cook the remaining pasta the same way. When cool enough to handle, lay lasagna out flat on lint-free (not terry cloth) kitchen towels. The towels can be stacked.

In a bowl, beat the ricotta and salt and pepper to taste.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce in a 9x13x2 baking pan. Place a few sheets of lasagna in the pan in a single layer, overlapping them slightly. Spread evenly with 1/3 ricotta mixture, 1 cup of the meat sauce, 2 tbsp grated Parmesan. Make a layer of basil leaves and another of mozzarella slices on top. Make two more layers the same way. Top with a final layer of lasagna, sauce, and the remaining grated cheese. (The lasagna can be made ahead to this point. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight).

Place rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 375.

Meat Sauce

1 medium onion chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz sweet Italian-style sausage, casings removed
1 lb ground beef sirloin
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 35 oz can Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 28 oz can tomato puree
6 fresh basil leaves, torn into bits

In large saucepan, cook onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the sausage meat, breaking into lumps with the back of a spoon. Add the beef and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is nicely browned and crumbly. Tip the pan; if there is a lot of fat, spoon some of it out and discard.

Add the tomatoes and tomato puree, then add about 1/2 cup water to each can, swirl and rinse out the can. Add liquid to pan, along with salt and pepper to taste. Partially cover the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce is thickened and the oil has separated from the tomatoes, about 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in basil and cook 5 minutes more. Serve immediately, or cool, cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. This sauce also freezes well.

Tiramisu Layer Cake

  • CAKE:
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package moist white cake mix
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 1/4 cup coffee
  • 1 tablespoon coffee flavored liqueur

  • 1 (8 ounce) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 3 (9 inch) pans.
  2. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions. Divide two thirds of batter between 2 pans. Stir instant coffee into remaining batter; pour into remaining pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. In a measuring cup, combine brewed coffee and 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur; set aside.
  4. To make the filling: In a small bowl, using an electric mixer set on low speed, combine mascarpone, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur; beat just until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  5. To make the frosting: In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the cream, 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur until stiff. Fold 1/2 cup of cream mixture into filling mixture.
  6. To assemble the cake: Place one plain cake layer on a serving plate. Using a thin skewer, poke holes in cake, about 1 inch apart. Pour one third of reserved coffee mixture over cake, then spread with half of the filling mixture. Top with coffee-flavored cake layer; poke holes in cake. Pour another third of the coffee mixture over the second layer and spread with the remaining filling. Top with remaining cake layer; poke holes in cake. Pour remaining coffee mixture on top. Spread sides and top of cake with frosting. Place cocoa in a sieve and lightly dust top of cake. Garnish with chocolate curls. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.
  7. To make the chocolate curls, use a vegetable peeler and run it down the edge of the chocolate bar.

Bake for 45 minutes. If lasagna is browning too much, cover loosely with foil. Bake 15 minutes more if it has been refrigerated, or until top is brown and sauce is bubbling around the edges. Let stand 15 minutes.

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