From the L.A. Times
Let's agree to set aside the grim recessionary landscape for the moment: The time has come for bubbles. There is simply nothing like a glass of sparkling wine to set this season apart. Welcoming, smile-inducing, instantly festive, bubbles give every holiday occasion a lift.
Of course, not every occasion is the same: The wine for the office party, the New Year's party and the family toast aren't necessarily going to come from the same bottle. Nor should they.
But that's not a problem, we have a world of choices available. We're in a kind of a golden age of bubbles, and the range of flavors, moods and prices has never been broader. So here are a few strategies for finding the right bubbles for the right occasion.
My friend KBell makes socks for a living. But it’s what comes out of her kitchen that’ll really knock your socks off – the world’s most perfect brisket.
That’s a boast, I know, that is bound to generate some heat. But what you have to know about Kbell’s brisket is two things: She’s ridiculously generous about sharing her recipe, which actually hails from her mother Selma Bell of Gloucester, Mass. And, for all I know, from Selma Bell’s mother, too. The Bells from Gloucester are like that, a tight-knit (so to speak) family. But the second and probably more important aspect of KBell’s brisket is that it’s pretty much fool-proof.
For me there is no bite of chocolate more satisfying than a truffle. Named after their likeness to the rare underground mushrooms, truffles are simply made of chocolate ganache, chocolate melted into hot cream. The ganache is chilled, becoming malleable, and pieces are formed into balls that truly resemble black truffles. Then the truffles are rolled in cocoa, powdered sugar, coconut flakes, or crushed nuts. They're the perfect little chocolate dessert bites, making them ideal for a party, especially one to celebrate New Year's Eve. Enjoy one with a cocktail or a glass of bubbly, and it's the perfect ending to an evening looking toward a new year filled with hope and prosperity.
These chocolate truffles are very easy to make with no cooking or baking required. Hot cream is poured over chocolate to melt it, and then combined with sugar and pulverized chocolate wafers for a bit of texture. The mixture is then flavored with hazelnut and coffee liqueurs along with espresso powder. After chilling, the truffles are formed into balls and rolled in crushed hazelnuts.
This is a fantastic and easy recipe from my friend Pat Loud which was passed down from her mother. She serves it at nearly every party that I’ve attended and it’s always a big hit.
As with most good recipes, the amounts are somewhat flexible – in other words, feel free to use more or less of any of the ingredients. Key to success, however, depends upon quality sharp cheddar cheese. I used Cabot Private Stock Extra Sharp Cheddar.
Any favorite bleu cheese will work – Roquefort, Danish Bleu, or English Stilton. Make sure that the cheeses are not too cold, or the mixture will not blend in the food processor.
Homemade, doughnuts and fritters are the absolute best. They far surpass any "donut" shop doughnuts. When I'm in the mood for doughnuts but don't have the patience to wait for dough to rise, I like to make fritters. They fulfill my craving as fast as I can fry them. Their crispy fried exterior and fluffy interior are what make them a favorite sweet treat for many people. A batch of fritters is very easy to put together and they are great for any occasion. But they make a special treat for Hanukkah, which is celebrated with fried foods like latkes and fritters.
The interesting thing about fritters is that you can find versions of them in many cultures throughout Europe, Asia, and South America. Greeks have Loukoumades, which are balls of fried dough doused in honey syrup. The French have beignets. Italians have zeppole. In Spain and Latin America there are buñuelos. In India there are gulab jamun, balls soaked in spiced sugar syrup. In the United States you can find apple fritter rings, which look just like doughnuts. I'd like to think it possible that the original recipe for fritters made its way through all the different cultures, who then adapted it to their liking.