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At one of our first dinner parties of the New Year, we gathered wonderful people, good food and great wine.
We started with champagne, Crab Gratin and a cheese plate, then made our way down to the wine cellar for dinner and dessert, venturing out periodically to watch the exciting Football game that was unfolding that evening.

It was an interesting evening/menu to put together, as one of our guests is not able to eat anything “on the hoof” following a tick bite many years ago, and another of our guests didn’t care much for seafood.
This was our meal, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup seafood stock
1 pound crabmeat
2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 to 12 anchovy filets

Heat oven to 425F. Grease a 2 quart baking dish.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, cook until soft, about 1 minute. Add flour, cook, stirring until smooth, for about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk, cream and stock, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cook until slightly thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, fold in crab meat, 1 cup of cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, spread in an even layer. Arrange anchovies on top and sprinkle with remaining cheese, bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Saveur


4 pears
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 whole star anise
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1/2 cup thinly sliced Manchego cheese

Peel pears and cut in half, scoop out seeds. Place in a pan, cut side down. Combine 1 cup of water with wine, sugar, vanilla extract, star anise, lemon and orange zest and cinnamon stick, and pour over pears. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until pears are tender.
Remove pears from pan, strain the liquid, and reserve 3 tablespoons, discard the spices and remaining liquid. Slice pears into thin strips and set aside.
In a food processor or blender, combine the slices from 2 pears with reserved poaching liquid, oil and vinegar. Pulse until smooth, then add salt and pepper to taste.
Toss remaining pear slices with spinach, walnuts, cranberries and Manchego.
Divide salad evenly among plates and serve drizzled with dressing.

Recipe adapted from Shape Magazine, October 2012


1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken thighs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
crusty bread for serving

In a large skillet, toast the coriander seeds over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and let cool. Crush the seeds coarsely with a pestle.
In the same skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add them to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and crushed coriander and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover and keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk the mustard with the creme fraiche and tarragon. Whisk the mixture into the skillet and simmer the sauce over moderate heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet and turn to coat. Serve the chicken with crusty bread.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, October 2011


4 cups half and half
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325F.
In a medium saucepan, bring the half and half to a boil, then remove from the heat. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, sugar, cardamom and salt until thick ribbons form when the beaters are lifted, abut 2 minutes. Slowly pour the warm half and half into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in the vanilla.
Divide the mixture among ramekins. Place the ramekins in a large baking pan. Transfer the pan to the oven. Pour in enough very hot tap water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake the custards, until the centers are just set, 55 to 60 minutes. Let the custards cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water and let cool on a rack until just warm to the touch.
Refrigerate the custards until chilled completely, about 1 hour.

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine, November 2012