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Corporate Executive Chef Nick Musser
Two holiday winners

   

Holiday Wreath Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 lb smoked chicken
1/2 cup Craisins
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
4 oz Oregon bleu cheese
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 small red pepper, fine dice
1/2 head romaine lettuce
1/2 head red leaf lettuce
Rosemary sprigs
Cherry tomatoes

Dressing ingredients
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1 small shallot, peeled
1/2 egg
1-1/2 cups olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Dressing: Place shallot, egg, vinegar and pomegranate juice into a blender or food processor. Puree with two or three short bursts until mixed. While running, slowly drizzle in oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper as desired. This recipe makes a little extra dressing--feel free to use on your other favorite salads!

Salad: Cut each of the half heads of lettuce in half again, keeping the two halves connected at the core. Cut the lettuce in a fine chiffonade (thin strips or threads). Rinse with cold water, drain and dry. In large bowl, mix lettuce with chicken, apples, Craisins and desired amount of dressing. Toss thoroughly.

Take a large serving platter and place a small glass directly in the center. Carefully place the dressed salad around the glass, stacking it as high as possible. Try to keep the glass directly in the center. If you need to, use your hand to compact the salad into a more uniform shape. Sprinkle the top of the salad with the nuts, bleu cheese and diced peppers. Carefully remove the glass, trying to keep the center free of salad. Garnish in a festive fashion with cherry tomatoes and fresh rosemary.

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Candy Cane Cake

You will need to make each element of the cake before putting it all together.

White Chocolate Cake
2 oz white chocolate
2 egg whites
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Melt white chocolate in a small glass or metal bowl over a pan of slow boiling water. Set aside to cool. Whip butter with sugar until fluffy with an electric mixer. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly. Sift together flour, baking power and salt in another bowl. Mix egg and combine on slow speed. Add half the milk mixture and combine on slow speed. Scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add the remaining dry and wet ingredients separately. Do not over mix. Slowly add in the melted white chocolate while the mixture is running. Place the batter into one 9" buttered and floured cake pan. Bake in a 300° oven for 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack.

Red Velvet Cake
1 cup buttermilk
1-1/4 cup sifted cake flour
3 tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp white vinegar

Mix vinegar and baking soda and let settle. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl thoroughly. Add one egg at a time, allowing each addition to mix completely before adding the next. Add cocoa, salt and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Alternately beat in flour and buttermilk. Fold in vinegar mixture at the end. Pour batter into one 9" buttered and floured cake pan and bake at 300° for 40-45 minutes. Rotate cake as necessary, cooking until a cake tester can be removed clean.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
1 lb cream cheese
1/2 lb unsalted butter
2 lb powdered sugar

Beat butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl well. Begin adding the powered sugar on low speed, mixing thoroughly before the next addition. Finish by adding the peppermint extract and whipping for 10 minutes on high speed.

Peppermint Simple Syrup
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup peppermint schnapps

Pour boiling water over sugar and schnapps and mix until sugar is dissolved. Cool completely.

Putting it all together
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies
Mint leaves
Maraschino cherries

Cool both cake layers thoroughly and cut each horizontally into 3 equal sized plates, for a total of six layers. (If this seems daunting, try cutting each layer in half to make two equal-sized plates for a total of four. A finished four-layer cake will still look great.) Place a layer on a serving platter and lightly brush with the peppermint simple syrup. Frost, repeat for all layers and frost the outside of the cake. Garnish with mint leaf and stemmed maraschino cherries for a holly-like effect.

 

Click here to see Nick's tip

December 2008