THE MENU Celery Root Remoulade with Shrimp Baked Ham and Belgian Endives Apple Turnovers with Buttered Apples and Ice Cream
A WOMAN very dear to us has been unable to come to our house for A dinner because she has a back problem that prevents her from sitting in a car. My husband came up with the bright idea of our giving a dinner in her honor, but at her house. There would be eight diners, with a guest list mutually decided upon. It was up to me to provide the portable feast. The result was so delicious and worked out so effortlessly that others might want to consider giving it as a present at Christmas or any other time.
The plan was for our friend to do absolutely nothing except sit at her own table. The meal had to be simple. We didn't want to descend upon her house with a moving van full of packing cases, nor did we want our friend to be subjected to the anxiety attacks that occur when others cook in one's own kitchen. Further, we didn't want to be faced with a massive cleanup. The aim was: no pots or pans to scrub and only a single dishwasher load for the entire evening.
We arrived with a smallish liquor carton full of food and a gratin dish of ham-wrapped belgian endives masked with a nutty gruye re sauce -- its protective covering of foil would be removed once the dish went into the oven to be heated. The plastic container of celery root remoulade, the plastic bag of cooked shrimp and the jars with extra remoulade sauce and minced parsley were put into the refrigerator. The ice cream went into the freezer. The bread was placed on one cookie sheet and the apple turnovers on another. The jar of buttered, cinnamony apples and the gratin dish remained out, at room temperature, while the oven was turned on to preheat.
Five minutes before we sat down, the bread went into the oven and the celery root, shrimps and extra sauce were divided among individual small plates, sprinkled with parsley and placed on the table. Then the bread was sliced and the gratin dish put into the oven to bake while we had our first course. Because the ham and endives don't mind cooking longer than their alloted time, it didn't matter if guests dawdled over the first course. This main dish was served without accompaniment or embellishment; since it has everything -- meat, vegetable and sauce -- it needs nothing. Each person started with one ham-wrapped endive, lots of sauce and bread. The few who had seconds of either a half or a whole endive were inspired not by hunger but by gourmandise. It is a substantial dish.
When the main-course plates were being cleared, the apple turnovers were put into the oven to heat. Turnovers never have a sufficiency of fruit, so we served them, on individual dessert plates, with a dollop of cooked buttered apples placed along the pastry's flat side. Scoops of vanilla ice cream topped the apples. I used a charming oval scoop to make the ice cream echo the shape of the turnovers.
The celery root remoulade had been made the day before because when this wonderful winter vegetable is served raw it improves, like stew, with a little time. Celery root, also called celeriac, is now in full season, and supermarkets occasionally carry it. However, it is sold more consistently by such places as Straight From the Crate, Bethesda Avenue Co-op, Hudson Brothers, Sutton Place Gourmet and the French Market. The price varies in accordance with the fanciness or pretensions of the purveyor, and it is a good idea to check around. I choose medium-sized celery roots that weigh about three-quarters of a pound apiece because these are more apt to be solid inside and not mealy. I do not approve of stores that sell celery root with the stalks attached, since when you buy by the pound, you pay for an unusable stalk, or, in other words, garbage.
Celery roots should be peeled with either a potato peeler or a paring knife, but quickly because exposure to air blackens the vegetable. Alternatively, a cut lemon rubbed over the white flesh as it is peeled helps. The peeled roots can then be cut with a julienne blade in a food processor or with the julienne blades of a mandoline. Both result in square-cut strips. The coarse grating blade of a processor, while not traditional, will certainly do. I myself would not julienne celery root with a knife, since the vegetable is very hard and the task unrewarding. Some recipes recommend blanching the julienned celery root in boiling water before dressing it, but to me this is a transgression. A bit of lemon juice and salt mixed through the cut root will soften it without diluting its flavor, and the addition of the sauce finishes the job of "cooking" it. I have made the celery root remoulade with a traditional mustard-oil sauce, but I worked out the recipe here because it is more delicate and kinder to the shrimp. The sauce can be made with homemade mayonnaise, but I found it is very good with a decent store-bought variety. Another blessing.
The belgian endives are cooked the day before, but sauced a few hours or just before the final cooking of the dish. Although endives carry a hefty price tag, they turn out to be not so extravagant. The entire vegetable is edible. And then to make all the endives the same size, and thus cook uniformly, extra leaves from the fatter heads are peeled off and saved for an elegant salad, either simply dipped into a fruity green olive oil or dressed with hazelnut oil and sherry vinegar. In any case, since the endives are integral to this meal, they carry their weight when compared, say, to a roast. Considering the price of the ingredients -- supermarket endives and freshly sliced imported boiled ham from a specialty market or the delicatessen counter of a supermarket -- the dish is not unreasonable. And it is good.
The dough for the turnovers can be made a day or two in advance, although the turnovers themselves should be baked the same day they are to be eaten, to keep the fresh taste of the fruit and the crispness of the pastry. The addition of a bit of ordinary lard along with the butter makes these turnovers wonderfully flaky. Turnovers also have the advantage of transporting well. I packed them in a mushroom basket between layers of crumpled waxed paper. Apricots only help apples, and the glaze that is brushed onto the pastry is so good that I make it up in large batches. It keeps for months in the refrigerator. I use it also for glazing open-faced fruit tarts and for tortes, preferably as a layer between the cake and a chocolate icing.
CELERY ROOT REMOULADE WITH SHRIMP (8 servings) 1 1/2 pounds celery root 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon salt
For the sauce: 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise 1 tablespoon dijon mustard 4 tablespoons minced parsley plus 2 tablespoons for garnish 2 tablespoons minced celery 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed under cold water and patted dry with a paper towel 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh tarragon or tarragon leaves preserved in vinegar, drained and minced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
For the shrimp: 1 pound medium shrimp 8 whole dried allspice berries 1 medium clove garlic, peeled and crushed 6 peppercorns, crushed
Peel the celery root, and put it through a food processor with the julienne blade or the coarse grating blade, or cut it with the julienne blade of a mandoline. Turn it into a bowl and mix the lemon juice and salt through it. Set aside. Make the sauce by mixing together the mayonnaise, mustard, 4 tablespoons of parsley, the minced celery, capers and tarragon. Thin to the consistency of thick sour cream with the heavy cream. Stir 1 1/4 cups of the sauce into the celery root and reserve the remaining sauce. Refrigerate. This can be made a day in advance.
Wash the shrimp under cold water, put them into a saucepan and add water to cover, then add the allspice, garlic and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. Let stand for 3 minutes and drain in a colander. When the shrimp have cooled sufficiently, peel and devein. Refrigerate.
To serve, divide the celery root into 8 portions and mound on individual salad plates. Divide the shrimp into eight portions and arrange around the celery root. Dribble a little of the extra reserved sauce on the shrimp and garnish each serving with some minced parsley. Serve with French bread.
BAKED HAM AND ENDIVE (8 servings) 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup lemon juice 4 tablespoons hot water 12 heads belgian endive trimmed to equal size 1/2 teaspoon salt 12 slices boiled ham
For the sauce: 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup flour Cayenne and freshly ground nutmeg to taste 4 cups milk 1 1/4 cups grated gruyere cheese (1 cup for the sauce and 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top)
Melt the butter in a frying pan large enough to hold the endives in one layer or divide in half and use two frying pans. Add the lemon juice and hot water. Arrange the endives in the frying pan, sprinkle with the salt and simmer, covered, over very low heat for 30 minutes. Shake the pan periodically to make sure the endives don't stick or burn. Remove the endives -- they will be almost soft but still hold their shape -- and let cool in the frying pan. When you can handle them, wrap each head in a slice of ham and place, seam side down, in a 15-inch or 17-inch long gratin pan. Pour the cooling juices over the endives and set aside. The dish can be prepared to this point the day before.
For the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the flour and stir over low heat for at least 2 minutes. Do not let this roux brown. Add the cayenne and nutmeg and stir over heat for another 30 seconds. Take off heat, then beat the milk into the roux with a wire whisk. Return to heat and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir over low heat until the cheese is melted and the sauce thickened.
Pour the sauce over the ham-wrapped endives and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. The dish can be prepared to this point several hours before the final reheating. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has browned.
APPLE TURNOVERS WITH BUTTERED APPLES AND ICE CREAM
Dough: 2 cups unbleached flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 stick cold butter, cut into 6 pieces 1/4 cup cold lard 1/3 cup ice water 2 to 3 tablespoons flour for the pastry board 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, to glaze the pastry
Filling and buttered apples: 3 1/2 pounds greening or granny smith apples Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 1/4 cup apricot glaze (see recipe below) 3 tablespoons butter 1 pint good vanilla ice cream
Fit a food processor bowl with the steel blade and add to it the flour, salt, butter and lard. Process for 5 seconds, or until the mixture becomes a coarse meal. Run the motor and add the ice water. Process only until the suggestion of a ball is formed. Turn the mass (it will be somewhat shaggy) onto a board and knead about four times with the heel of your hand. Flatten the dough and place it in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for a least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Peel and core the apples, slice thin and cut the slices into thirds. Place them in a bowl, add the lemon juice and grated rind, the cinnamon and the sugar. Mix thoroughly and set aside, covered, about 1 1/2 hours.
Divide the pastry into 9 equal pieces. Keep the dough you are not working with in the refrigerator. Flour the board lightly and roll out each piece of dough into a circle approximately 7 inches in diameter. The dough should be 1/8 inch thick. Place a 6-inch plate or lid on the dough and, using a sharp knife, cut a circle. Place the circle on a plate and the scraps in a plastic bag and refrigerate both. Continue until 9 circles of dough are cut. Refrigerate each circle as it is made. Then gather all the scraps and make a 10th circle.
To fill the turnovers, turn the apple mixture into a colander or sieve over a bowl and reserve the juices. Use a pastry brush and paint each circle with the apricot glaze, but leave a 1/4-inch margin of plain dough.
Place about 2 tablespoons of the chopped apples on 1/2 of each circle. Use another brush or your fingertip and moisten the margin of the pastry. Fold the circle over and crimp the edges with a fork. Flip the pastries and crimp the other side. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or brown paper (a cut-up grocery bag will do very nicely). Repeat until all the turnovers are made. Brush the tops with the egg-milk glaze and bake in a 425-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the turnovers are a rich golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.
To serve, place one turnover on a plate, put a dollop of apples beside its straight side and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the buttered apples. The turnovers can be reheated for about 10 minutes if they are cold.
APRICOT GLAZE 1/4 cup apricot jam 1 tablespoon vanilla cognac or 1 tablespoon cognac and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over low heat, stirring, and push through a sieve.
This glaze keeps for months under refrigeration.