Monday, November 22, 2010

POM Wonderful Party Recap; or, 9 Recipes to make up for my Slacking (#'s 18-10)


     As anyone who is close to me knows, I am a fan of the cocktail. My usual involves a delightful man named Jack, and his good buddy Coca-Cola, but as of late years, I've experimented with, and fell in love with, several new liquors and mixers which have expanded my breadth and understanding of basic cocktail elements. During these "studies", I dreamt of one small wish - to throw a great cocktail party.
     When I conjure cocktail party in my mind, it is a white Christmas. I am in a shiny A-line dress, my hair coiffed, wearing pearls and a brooch, delicately balancing a Martini in one hand while effortlessly setting the buffet table with the other. I am smiling, laughing, chatting up a girlfriend. My husband is wearing a suit, the guests glitter in candlelight. My daughter sleepily greets the 'grownups', then is shuffled off to slumber.  Sinatra and Dean croon in the background. Vodka flows like water, ice tinkles like jingle bells in the shaker. The table, wearing its best winter white, proudly displays miniature foods of all sorts, laden with butter and cream, toothpicks and tiny plates at the ready. We toast the air, the season, the food, and each other, everyone reveling in the indulgence of the moment, wishing it could last forever...'cause Lord knows we all have to go back to WORK at some point this week.
     My cocktail party dreams became (almost) reality this past weekend, courtesy of the fine folks at POM Wonderful. You know them: It's the blood red, slightly tart juice in the produce section, next to the overpriced smoothies and pre-cut fruit. Pomegranates have been a traditional holiday fruit for millenia, glowing alongside the kumquats, quince, and winter squash in many a fall display. What most people do not appreciate is their incredible culinary value. When you crack that leathery red shell, you are greeted with crimson juice running down your arm (or in our case, staining the countertops), and a mess of tightly packed, shiny red gems that seem to glow from inside.
These gems are the arils, the heart and soul of the pomegranate. Inside each is a tiny, hard edible seed. Popping an aril into your mouth, they explode with a juiciness and exotic floral tart note that cannot be equaled in the food world. There's no surprise that since ancient times, the pomegranate has been the stuff of mythology and lore. It is the star of many common beverages thanks to Grenadine, the sweet liquor mixer that is distilled from  pomegranate juice (bet you didn't know that!). Beyond its bar use, however, pomegranates are widely seen as only decorative. My goal for this cocktail party: to showcase the versatility, flavor, and fun of the pomegranate fruit.
     The pomegranates arrived: two huge boxes of softball-sized, pinkish-red fruit, many of whom had tiny cracks that began to seep a sticky, bloody juice. I immediately broke them down to arils, freezing a good portion, and snacking on the rest. I began my cocktail party layout: the goal was a retro-inspired, Rat Pack-esque throwback to the cocktail parties of yore. I devised a pom-centric menu that featured classic miniature cocktail buffet foods, rounded the table out with traditional homemade Chex mix and whole nuts, and mixed a few vintage cocktails with a pom twist. The wheels were in motion....

concentrating to make
the shot
      Unfortunately, my only time option was a Sunday night, due to my incessantly hectic work schedule. Doubly unfortunate, this is not a great time for any NORMAL person to attend a cocktail party, because they all need to be sober for work Monday morning! We threw the party anyway, a few guests came (although none in the sparkling retro duds I hoped), and the small group of us dined and drank until way past midnight, reveling in the spontaneity and naughtiness of such a feast on a Sunday night. What I did realize is that while the "perfect" cocktail party is certainly achievable with the right timing, patience, and planning, it is equally as enjoyable(and less stress) to just present a couple great friends with fabulous nibbles and drinks, and let the night unfurl itself. There was a hilarious rendition of Top Chef mise en place competition, involving two (tipsy) men and sharp knives...needless to say, I'm still finding juice spots on the ceiling! We also shot Pom Pong, using arils instead of balls (again...cleaning pomegranate juice from floor), and I vaguely remember my complete domination at Wii wakeboarding (!)...the point is, we did nothing 'classic', except to enjoy one another's company...and isn't that the goal of any great party anyway?

Sean thinks a whole pom is a good snack!

explaining a pomegranate breakdown to our contestants..who seem quite concerned.


     Since my embarkment on this 27 Days of Thanksgiving recipe spree, I've been sidetracked by events not in my control, so I apologize to my regulars for the lack of recipes. However, in retrospect, the recipes I created for the POM Wonderful party are easily incorporated into any holiday buffet/party, especially when hungry house guests are banging on your Turkey Day door at noon. They can all be made the day before, and reheated in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. Pomegranates are a terrific seasonal fruit to incorporate something new to the Thanksgiving table...they're not just for Christmas decoration anymore! 
proper breakdown of a pomegranate

     My voluminous thanks to the fine people at POM Wonderful for the inspiring ideas, recipes, fruits, and juice, and giving me the opportunity to treat my friends to something special. Thank You! I'm a customer for life!
     With that, I give you 9 recipes to delight, intrigue, and toast your holiday guests, whether for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Enjoy!

Find out more at:
http://www.pomwonderful.com/

Watch our pomegranate-opening race at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erVVHqA_o7Q



Mini Beef Wellington Bites with Pomegranate Glaze
L: Brie gougeres, R: beef Wellingtons

1 pound beef tenderloin, silver removed
½ c. buttermilk
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
2 tbsp. white truffle oil
16 oz. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, in pieces
8 oz. baby portabello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 ½ tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. canola oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbsp. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
¼ c. heavy cream
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. milk
Cut the beef into 1 inch cubes. Place in a large zip top bag with the buttermilk, salt, white pepper and truffle oil. Turn several times to mix and coat; place in fridge to marinate.
In a small saucepan, bring 16 oz. of pomegranate juice to boil. Add the sugar, reduce heat to medium, and allow to reduce to just about ¼ cup. Remove from heat; stir in butter 1 tbsp. at a time, letting each addition nearly melt before adding the next. Set aside.
In a sauté pan, cook the mushrooms and shallot in the 1 ½ tbsp. butter and oil over medium high heat, stirring often. When all the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms and it is thick, add 1 tbsp. pomegranate juice and cream, bring to a boil, and remove from heat. Stir in nutmeg; season with salt and white pepper to taste. Allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain marinade from beef and pat dry. To assemble, lay out puff pastry 1 sheet at a time, cutting into 3x3 inch squares. Spoon 1 tsp. duxelles (mushroom mix) into the center of each square. Top with 1 cube beef. Pull corners of square up and around filling, pinching dough to seal. Place finished pieces seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 1 ½ inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough.  Brush tops with the beaten egg and milk. Bake wellingtons for 10-14 minutes, until dough is golden and puffed, and juices run out the bottom.  Arrange on serving platter, and drizzle the pomegranate glaze over top.

Brie Gougeres with Pomegranate Scallion Salsa andCandied Bacon
1 c. flour
1 c. milk
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
¾ tsp. kosher salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
4 oz. Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into ½ inch cubes
6 slices pepper bacon
½ c. pomegranate arils
¼ c. chopped scallion
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
In a small saucepan, bring milk, butter, and salt to a rolling boil. Stir in the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. When the dough comes together, continue to stir until a film forms on the pan bottom. Remove from heat and place in a bowl to rest 5 minutes.
Stir in the eggs 1 at a time, making sure the egg is completely absorbed into the dough before adding the next (this will take some time).  Place the finished dough in a large zip top bag, and refrigerate until ready.
Cook chopped bacon over medium high until crisp and rendered. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Meanwhile, combine pomegranate arils, scallion, and cilantro in a small bowl; refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut a corner off the zip top bag, and pipe 1 inch round lumps of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Take 1 cube of Brie and press into the center of each puff. Bake for 10 minutes, until  golden brown and puffy. Pace on a serving platter, and sprinkle pomegranate salsa and bacon evenly over the puffs. Serve hot.

Mini Chive Quiches with Pomegranate Arils



2 c. milk
2 c. heavy cream
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. white pepper
2 tbsp. chopped chives
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ c. pomegranate arils
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat milk and cream in a small saucepan until just warm.  Pour into a blender, add eggs and remaining ingredients, and blend until becoming frothy and tinted green, about 30 seconds. Pour into a 12 cup nonstick muffin pan (preferably silicone) to top. Place in oven and cook 20 minutes. Open oven and use remaining filling to top off the cups (they will have shrunk down). Bake an additional 15 minutes, until deep golden brown on top. Remove and let cool on a rack. Remove quiches and place on serving platter. Sprinkle with pomegranate arils and serve at room temperature, passing grainy mustard along side.
Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs braised in Pomegranate

2 pounds ground turkey
½ c. cilantro leaves
4 slices pepper bacon
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. white pepper
1 large egg
1/4 c. Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1 jar (8 oz.) medium or hot taco sauce
1 can (15 oz.) whole plum tomatoes
1 jar (18 oz.) apricot preserves
1 c. pomegranate arils
½ c. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
In a food processor, combine turkey, bacon, cilantro, egg, breadcrumbs,salt and pepper; process until turkey is a thick paste and bacon is finely minced. Form mixture into 1 inch meatballs with wet hands; place on a large plate in 1 layer, and refrigerate 30 minutes to firm.
Pour taco sauce, tomatoes, apricot preserves, and pomegranate arils and juice into the bowl of a crock pot, and turn it to High. Add meatballs into sauce, stirring gently to coat them all, then cover and cook on High for 3 hours. Check a meatball to make sure they’re cooked through. Spoon meatballs and sauce into a serving bowl, garnish with fresh arils and cilantro leaves and pass toothpicks for guests.
Pomegranate Parfaits with Cardamom Cream and Lavender Honey

1 c. heavy whipping cream
¼ c. sugar
½ tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. pomegranate arils
Lavender honey
Dried lavender blossoms, for garnish
In a large, cold bowl, beat the cream with sugar, cardamom and vanilla until soft peaks form. Have several parfait dishes ready. Spoon about 2 tbsp. arils into the bottom of each dish. Top with ¼ c. cream. Add a layer of pomegranate, and then repeat cream. Top with pomegranate and dried lavender for garnish, and drizzle each with 1 tbsp. honey. Serve cold.



POM Wonderful Granita
16 oz. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
¼ c. sugar
Pinch salt
Bring juice, sugar and salt to a simmer, dissolving sugar. Pour into a 2 qt. glass baking dish, and place in freezer for 2 hours. Using the tines of a fork, scrape the forming ice crystals on top and stir into any liquid juice. Repeat the freezing and scraping in 1 hour intervals until completely icy, like a snow cone. Spoon into small dessert dishes, garnish with arils and serve.
POM-Tinis

2 oz. vodka
1 oz. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice

POM-Tinis

½ oz. sweet vermouth
1 twist orange peel
In a shaker, combine vodka, pomegranate juice and vermouth. Shake with ice, and strain into a glass. Garnish with the orange twist.
The Pom Collins
1 ½ oz. vodka
3/4 oz. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
½ oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
Club soda
Shake vodka, pomegranate juice, lime juice and simple syrup with ice. Strain into a highball glass, and top with club soda.

Limoncello Pomegranate Soda
1 liter lemon-lime flavored seltzer
16 oz. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
2 oz. agave syrup
8 oz. limoncello
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Serve over ice. (You can also omit the limoncello for a nonalcoholic pomegranate soda).





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