Archive for December, 2010

I threw a Christmas cocktail last Friday and whipped up this easy and oh so potent punch.   What’s nice about serving punch is that it’s premade. No shaking and stirring while other guests arrive and suddenly you’ve got a queue of cocktail-less guests in need of a hit.  It’s also more glamorous then mulled wine or egg nog and yet, so simple to make.  Just mix together a bottle of Jack,  some fruit juice, spiced rum and a little maple syrup.  The result is intoxicating, mysterious… It’s not just a punch, it’s a potion.

To serve this magical elixir, just fill up a glass bowl with the necessary ingredients and lay it on the counter.  When a new guest arrives, fill a glass with ice from a nearby bucket, scoop in a ladle-full of punch and hand it over (always with the caveat “Be careful, it’s pure booze.” )   My guests loved it.   Some dreamt about it after. It’s a Christmastime keeper and I will definitely make it again next year, or sooner.

Wenzou Punch   – Adapted from The New York Times.

1 bottle of Jack Daniels, 750 ml

375 ml squeezed clementine juice

1/ 4 cup maple syrup

1 /4 cup Captain Morgan Spiced Rum

sliced Clementines for garnish

Mix  ingredients in a big glass bowl (or ceramic, if you do not have glass.)  Ladle indivdual 2 ounce portions in cups or small glasses with ice.  Placing a pretty ice bucket beside the punch works perfectly. I advise YOU controlling the serving. One per guest, two per very special guest. IMPORTANT: Add the ice as the punch is poured not earlier or it’ll water down the mix. I used fresh-squeezed clementine juice instead of tangerine and Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum for the required dram. If you want you can chill the punch first in the fridge but it is not necessary and I like how the ice mellows the room temperature punch as you pour it.  Serves punch for 15 to 20.

I served the punch in tiny wine glasses I found at my local fripperie. (Forget plastic cups! So tacky and and bad for the planet. You can always re-donate your glasses after the party if you don't want to store them.) Smaller glasses work better, since this punch packs a whollop and a little goes a long way. Two ounces on ice is enough to get your guests warmed up and ready to mingle, then they can switch over to wine or beer for the rest of the evening.


On a cool summer evening at the FC’s grandparents home on the Cote D’Azur, I was treated to the most delicious lamb and apricot tagine.  I kept serving myself more (seconds, thirds)  hoping no one would notice, and panicky as I saw others also diving in.  Would there be enough for fourths? I could barely focus on the dinner party conversation, too busy thinking about how I could score another spoonful without raising eyebrows.

Nadette and Henri’s cook, Rose, consistently blows my mind with her simple, homestyle French cooking.  This tagine (which served twelve that night)  is one of my favourites and when the FC asked for the recipe, Rose kindly sent us a scan from her  book. (Alas, the book is not dentified here, but I intend to find her source,  promise!)   Unlike other Morroccan lamb stews,  the recipe doesn’t call for extra vegetables or canned tomatoes, it’s just lamb, onions, dried apricots, spices, and water.  So basic, I love that.   I also love the sweet syrupy texture the apricots add to the stew. Divine.

I made the tagine last night for a winter dinner party and it was a huge hit.  Just like Rose, I served it with polenta instead of the traditional couscous. It’s just the perfect (and crazy-easy) compliment for this dish.   For the vegetarians, I made Julia’s Child ratatouille, which also pairs nicely with polenta but a simple salad would work too if you’re not catering to herbivores (who I totally respect, by the way!)

Here’s the recipe. It serves six, but you can easily double it, as Rose did, for bigger groups.  Serve directly from the pot, buffet style, so your guests can dive right in (and you don’t have to deal with arranging individual plates, which always leaves the first person waiting politely as their food turns to ice.  Just watch out for the gluttons (like me)  this dish goes fast.

The recipe is in French so you’ll have to translate, as I did.  But the dish itself is a breeze.  (Quick Note On The Lamb Preparation: The recipe calls for forty-five minutes of simmering, but I doubled this (making sure to add the apricots only for the last twenty minutes.) You can’t really overcook lamb shoulder, it just gets more and more melt-in-your-mouth tender. I also asked the butcher to leave a few bones in some of the meat cubes, for added flavour. Quick Note On the Polenta: I doubled Giada De Laurentis’  recipe,  adding less butter and about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan for extra kicks. )

Bon appetit!