Monday, December 23, 2013

OMG a Recipe: Ho-Ho-Holiday Home Stretch

Can you believe we're almost through the holidays? Through the YEAR, even? Thanksgiving flashed by before our eyes. Christmas -- here and gone in a flash. And New Years Eve...?! Sure, you can go out, but many gatherings are with family and friends, so you're expected to bring something else a little more festive than a sixer of High Life and a bag of chips. Wasabi to the rescue, with an easy make-ahead dessert and Avengers-Assemble! appetizers.

Be fancy, schmancy and effortless with pancetta-wrapped persimmons - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Holiday seasons are like weddings -- all this planning, preparation and fuss, and in a flash, BOOM, it's over. And I love the holidays. Way more than weddings -- enough with the Chicken Dance already, people! I have certain must-do's for my holiday season, and while it's a little hectic, it's the Holiday Mojo Spirit that keeps my energy up during this busy time of the year.

I MUST cover everything with bacon. EVERYTHING. And then exercise poor judgement in eating habits and make sure others are involved to share in my shame.

Bacon-wrapping? Check. Turning dog into a fat sausage? Check. - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I MUST shove as many visions of decorated trees into my brainpan, regardless of how freezing cold it may be outside, in the cold darkness of night. And then I put up my own tree (well, this year, at least), and agonize over the hanging of every. single. ornament. Martha Stewart, I feel your pain. Okay, not really.

All the Christmas trees. ALL OF THEM. - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I MUST see/do/experience as much holiday-type-stuff as possible! Braving crowds, crazy hordes of mallrats with ridiculous-sized strollers, holiday shopping extravaganzas, and then drink. Repeat as necessary, especially the last part.

Blinded by the light... then wine - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Somehow amid all of this, there's holiday gatherings and dinners where you want to bring something delicious and more special than a box of Ritz crackers and a can of Cheez-Whiz. Not that there's anything wrong with that when it's just you and your lonesome on a Friday night. I put together these two dishes around Thanksgiving, thinking of things that could be prepped ahead and then travel relatively easily to its final destination of consummation, which is to say the eating of food, not necessarily sexytime.

The appetizers are a riff off a Martha Stewart recipe I saw in one of her magazines, wrapping bresaola around slices of persimmon, which is apparently not just a Martha-thing, Bon Appetit did the same thing as well, but with arugula. I upped the ingredient ante by smearing some cranberry goat cheese over a slice of fuyu persimmon, and using pancetta instead of bresaola, just because in the madness of holiday shopping, you work with what you've got. I had to use prosciutto for Thanksgiving because all the pancetta was sold out, so that's another nice thing about the recipe, it's fairly flexible with the cured meats, as long as it's thinly sliced. It doesn't have to be cranberry goat cheese -- Costco didn't have any plain chevre, just these cranberry-spice-covered goat cheese logs and I figured it would just save a step on seasoning the cheese. Adding a finish of honey syrup and smoked or red volcanic Hawaiian salt is mostly me using up fancy honey and salts that I horde in my pantry. I'm sure you have some of those fancy salts as well, always wondering what the hell to do with them -- here's your chance to rock the finishing salts!

The pancetta/prosciutto-wrapped persimmons are total UnRecipe appetizers. The persimmons are raw -- just clean them and slice into small, bite sizes. Use the fuyu persimmons. There might be seeds, so just remove them. A smear of goat cheese (plain is fine), then wrapping with enough of the cured meat to make them into a neat bundle. You can even prepare them the night before, since persimmons aren't like apples or pears, which discolor. Right before plating and serving, sprinkle with some fancy salt, or just a quick grind of fresh-cracked pepper, and drizzle with watered-down honey. Or skip the honey completely -- it's not a requirement, it just adds a little extra sweetness.

Dessert and appetizers -- easy prep and ready for a party in a snap - Photos by Wasabi Prime
For dessert, I know tiramisu is so 1990-whatever, but one of the reasons why it's the dessert that refuses to die is because it's a great make-ahead dish. It pretty much requires an overnight chill, just to get all the flavors to fully soak into all the layers. This version is of course Thanksgiving-themed, since it's using pumpkin puree, but you can always flavor it with whatever you like. Or if you're like me, you may have an extra can of pumpkin puree from Turkeyday, so keep rocking the squash. The canned stuff is actually best to use, since this dessert has such a silky texture, you don't want the rustic bite of a pumpkin chunk. Instead of ladyfingers, I used crushed gingersnaps for the bready-cookie layer. And I mix some rum with coffee, to soak the cookie layer.

Pumpkin Tiramisu

1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree (just pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
1 (8 oz) container of mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar

3 cups of crushed gingersnap cookies (about half a bag's worth)

Mix these together in a cup (rum optional):
1/2 cup of strong coffee
1/4 cup of dark rum

Using a whisk or mixer, whip the heavy cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla extract. Carefully add the pumpkin puree and mascarpone cheese in spoonfuls, incorporating evenly, but making sure the whipped cream doesn't lose its light texture. 

To form the tiramisu, place a layer of the crushed gingersnaps down, drizzle lightly with the coffee/rum mixture, then an even layer of the pumpkin cream, repeat with the gingersnaps and rum/coffee until you run out of ingredients, and the final, finished layer is the crushed gingersnaps. This can be done in small dessert glasses or cups for single servings, or in a large casserole or souffle-style dish for a  family-style dessert.

Cover the layered dessert with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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