Tag Archives: party

Stuffed Mussels with Serrano Ham, Spinach, & Garlic Aioli



It usually takes me a week or so after Thanksgiving passes (an intermission), before I am ready to start hearing Christmas music on the radio, and get into the spirit of the season. I need the time to transition from pumpkins to holly.

I can’t just jump right in. What I can do though, is start thinking about what I want to cook during the holiday season. Menu planning is something that comes naturally for me, and it’s the getting together with family and friends over food and wine part of the season that really gets me excited about celebrating, so today I will share a recipe that I recently served as part of one of my cooking class menus. The ingredients have some Spanish influence, making them a nice addition to a tapas menu, but they also have that special holiday feel to them so sharing some of these with friends would be a very good idea.

The mussels are steamed in a wine broth,  then pulled from their shells, chopped and added to the rest of the filling ingredients: sauteed serrano ham, spinach, and béchamel sauce. Some prep work on the front end, yes. But you are able to assemble the stuffed mussels and refrigerate up to one day ahead before they are topped with garlic aioli and popped under the broiler until golden brown and bubbly.

Even the people in cooking class who thought they didn’t like mussels fell in love with these.

So as you think about inviting friends over to share a glass of wine during the weeks ahead,  I hope you will consider making these go along with your holiday cheer.

Stuffed Mussels with Serrano Ham, Spinach, & Garlic Aioli
Serves: 6
  • Aioli:
  • 10 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Mussels:
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 6 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 36 mussels (3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons minced ham (serrano, prosciutto, or black forest)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  1. For Aioli: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place garlic cloves in a very small baking dish. Cover garlic with oil (add enough to completely cover garlic), cover dish with foil, and bake until garlic is soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove garlic cloves with a slotted spoon and transfer to a dish to cool. Place cooled garlic, mayonnaise, and vinegar in the base of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Reserve.
  2. For mussels: Bring the white wine, half of the onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and mussels to a boil in a large covered saucepan over high heat. Once mussels have been cooking 3 minutes, check to see if they have begun to open. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon as they open and transfer to a platter. Cool the mussels. Reduce the cooking liquid down to 2 tablespoons. Strain and reserve the liquid. Remove the mussels from their shells and save ⅔ of their shells. Separate each of the reserved shells into 2 halves. Chop the mussels coarsely and place in a large bowl.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook the remaining onion until soft, 7 minutes. Add the spinach and ham to pan with onions, stirring until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove mixture from pan and add to bowl with chopped mussels.
  4. Preheat the broiler. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and cook; stirring 2 minutes. Add the milk and reserved cooking liquid and cook until smooth and very thick. Add to the mussels and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stuff the shells with the mussel mixture. Spread the aioli on top of the mussels and place on a baking sheet. Broil until golden, 10-20 seconds. Serve immediately.
  6. servings


Turkey Roulade with Fennel, Sausage, Dried Cherries & Chanterelle Marsala Sauce Recipe

Did you notice that the very next day after Halloween the advertising world took a giant leap into Christmas? Door busters,  one- day sales, special can’t miss offers….really? Already? Do we really need to hurry up and buy those perfect gifts for everyone on our shopping list?

I love the Christmas season, don’t get me wrong, and there may only be 50 days until Christmas, but guess how many until Thanksgiving? 20!

Christmas, you will have to wait a little while for me to get into the spirit, right now I am still enjoying everything I love about fall.

The turning of the leaves, the cozy feeling of my Uggs on my feet on a crisp chilly night, and the approach of the season when we welcome friends and family into our homes to celebrate all we are thankful for.

Sorry advertisers, I’m not ready to hear Christmas music, I’d rather think about turkey.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving at your house? Do you take the traditional route? Or do you try mixing in new recipes each year?

I kind of do a little bit of both. This year, I think we will cook one turkey on our Big Green Egg (for the traditional carving of the whole turkey pic) and I am thinking of making this too: Turkey Roulade (stuffed with sauteed fennel, shallots, dried cranberries, and sausage) & Chanterelle Marsala Sauce. I made this for dinner the other night and my family agreed this one goes into the make again and again category.

You can prepare the filling and stuff the turkey breast one day ahead and keep in the fridge until you are ready to pop in the oven, which is exactly what I did after a busy day. Great as a weeknight dinner, elegant enough for dinner party fare, and would make a nice alternative to cooking a whole turkey on Thanksgiving.

Hungry yet? Here’s the recipe:

Turkey Roulade with Fennel, Sausage, Dried Cherries, and Chanterelle Marsala Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (should have 1 cup)

3/4 pound mild Italian sausage (removed from casing, crumbled)

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup toasted bread crumbs (from a few slices of French bread)

One 3-pound boneless, skinless turkey breast

Olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup chicken broth

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add shallots, fennel, and sausage and cook; stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened, and sausage has browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add dried cherries, chicken broth, salt, and pepper; simmer 2 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl; add toasted bread crumbs and toss well to combine and absorb liquid.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butterfly the breast and lay flat open, pounding with a meat mallet to create even thickness throughout. You should have somewhat of a rectangular shape. Spread the filling over the butterflied turkey breast, leaving a 1/2 -inch border on all sides. Roll up tightly and secure with butcher’s twine in 1 1/2-inch intervals.

Combine thyme leaves, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle turkey roulade with olive oil and sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over all sides of roast.

Place in a small roasting pan and roast, basting with chicken broth every 15 minutes or so, and until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1-inch slices. Serve with Chanterelle Marsala Sauce (recipe follows)

6 servings

Chanterelle Marsala Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms, brushed clean, end trimmed

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup marsala

1/3 cup chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

Heat a large skillet over high heat until hot. Add the olive oil, mushrooms, and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are golden brown (about 7 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium high and add the shallots, garlic, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute more. Add the marsala and simmer until mixture is reduced by half. Add the stock and cream and simmer until thickened, 3-4 minutes more.  Adjust seasoning.


Wonton Cups with Bacon Jam, Shrimp, and Guacamole

“Are you ready for some football?!”

I guess that guy doesn’t get to sing that song on Monday nights before the game anymore; but I wouldn’t know, because I am not a football fan at all. Not even a little bit.

If a football game is on TV, I can actually APPEAR to be looking at the screen, but can be THINKING about something totally different in my head; completely detached from what is happening in the game. Some  refer to this as the “football glaze over effect”, but I like to think of it as a gift; “productive thought management”, a little like meditation, where I get to plan and organize my thoughts. I use this time for things like figuring out what my menus for upcoming cooking classes will be, where I want to go on vacation next, and contemplating whether I should join a CSA or just continue to shop the farmer’s market and pick out what I like.

But just because I don’t enjoy football (live or on TV), doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the party and food that go along with the whole experience. Who doesn’t love getting together with your friends with favorite like chips and guacamole, shrimp, and bacon jam. Yes, bacon jam. You know you love it too.

So when I found out this month’s challenge for the 5-Star Makeover was football pre-game food, I knew I would be combining some of the favorites I just mentioned into something new..

Thanks very much to our talented hosts for keeping our group going. I hope you will follow along with us and check put all of the recipes posted in a round up on their blogs. I know I will be doing that instead of watching football.
After discovering bacon jam last year, I have played around with it with pizza, on burgers, and now with these little hors d’oeuvres. You begin with a bit of bacon jam in the bottom of a baked wonton cup.
Followed by a  few pieces of shrimp
…and finally the dollop of guacamole
The bacon jam hits you with the first bite, but then has a way of finding it’s way back to your tastebuds, lingering a bit as you finish your last bite. I would like to call these one-bite hors d’oeuvres, but they are really two messy bites. But it’s football, right? Messy is okay.
Wonton Cups with Bacon Jam, Shrimp, and Guacamole

Cooking spray

18 wonton wrappers


9 large shrimp, peeled, deveined


1 recipe bacon jam

1 recipe guacamole

Cilantro (for garnish)


Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes, or until shrimp is beginning to curl and pink in color. Transfer to a colander; rinse under cold water, and drain. Transfer shrimp to a cutting board and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over shrimp. Toss to coat. Roughly chop shrimp (may be prepared 1 day ahead; refrigerated).



For wonton cups:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray 2 mini-muffin tins with cooking spray.

Place each wrapper into a section of a mini-muffin tin. Gently press each wrapper into the tin and arrange so that it forms a cup shape. The wrapper will overlap itself and stick up out of the cup. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned and crisp. Remove from the tin and allow wrappers to cool (may be made 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container, or frozen up to 1 month ahead).

Assembly: Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of bacon jam (recipe follows) in the bottom of wonton cup, followed by a few pieces of shrimp, and a dollop of guacamole (recipe follows). Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Makes 18 cups

Bacon Jam

1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

2 medium yellow onions, diced small

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

3/4 cup brewed coffee


In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.



2 ripe Haas avocados, peeled, pitted, chopped

Juice of 1 large lime

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 small tomato, diced


Combine avocados, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, mash mixture together until fairly smooth.


Fold in cilantro and tomatoes. Serve with tortilla chips.


Makes 1 1/2 cups