Saturday, October 31, 2015

On the Homefront: Bewitching Halloween Table

Glinda the good Dalmatian witch wishes everyone a
Happy Halloween!

"The Halloween festival looms
As witches fly in on their brooms.
Tonight we will feast
And toast the deceased
When they rise up and exit their tombs!"

Halloween is upon us, and this year we find ourselves hosting a bewitching repast.  Witchcraft is the theme, and black and white is the color scheme, all based on the Halloween Witchcraft Dessert Plates I purchased from Lenox recently.  So park your broomsticks at the door, and welcome to my parlor... I mean dining room!

Black fabric placemat; white dinner plate (Tivoli by Studio Nova); Lenox Halloween Witchcraft Dessert Plate (one of four designs); stainless steel flatware; Williams-Sonoma Halloween Moon Napkin; Crate and Barrel Halloween Bat Napkin Ring; black-stemmed wine glass; clear water glass;
clear glass skull tea light holder.

The other three dessert plate designs:

Closer look at the napkin.

Closer look at the napkin ring.

The large cauldron bowl from Crate and Barrel will be used to serve
the pasta course.  On either side small plates hold dessert options.

The two dessert plates are part of the Halloween Moon Plates collection
(set of four) from Williams-Sonoma, unfortunately no longer available.
I think you will be seeing the entire collection next year!

The centerpiece is a homemade crystal ball (white glass light globe
atop a small cauldron bowl from Crate and Barrel, into which a
battery-operated tap light has been placed).

This sinister crow flew in from HomeGoods this year.  His eyes light
up with an intense red glow, unfortunately too intense for my little
camera to photograph!

I have had this terrifying tree decoration for decades (it came with
little ornaments but I prefer it without them).

The haunted village sparkles spookily in front of the spider web runner.

A menu fit for a ghoulish gathering will be served this Halloween night.  Witches are the guests of honor, but from the menu selections it almost seems as if we are pulling a reverse Hansel and Gretel for our frightening feast.  Mind your tresses and digits, ladies, and hold on to your hats!

Bewitching Halloween Menu:

Witches' Brew*
Witches' Hair Pasta with Jack o' Lantern Sauce**
Devilish Chicken
Shriveled Witches' Fingers†
Witches' Hat Cookies††
Pumpkin Mini-Cheesecakes

From Jankenpon

*Witches' Brew

You can serve just about any concoction and call it a witches' brew.  A few suggestions would be red or white wine, cider (hard or not), a favorite cocktail, or even punch (leaded or unleaded, as we like to say).  I just might try a cocktail I found called Agent Orange, since it is a lovely Halloween orange color:

1 1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. orange juice
orange twist or slice for garnish

Combine the liquids in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish, and serve. Serves 1.

**Witches' Hair Pasta with Jack o' Lantern Sauce

I just happened to have a type of pasta called Trecce Nere, or "black braids", a short twisted pasta shape colored with squid ink, which was perfect for a Halloween pasta dish.  If you don't have squid ink pasta, any short tubular pasta (such as penne) will work in this recipe.  The addition of ricotta cheese to the sauce gives it a rather grainy appearance, but it works for a scary Halloween meal!

To serve, stir about 2 T. shredded Parmesan into each serving of pasta, then top with the Deviled Chicken (I would slice it on the diagonal first, although I did not do so in the photo above).  Be sure to spoon some of the chicken pan juices over the pasta for more flavor.

1 large onion, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 C. canned pumpkin purée
2 C. chicken stock
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
1 T; adobo sauce
2-4 T. heavy or sour cream
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 C. ricotta cheese
16 oz. squid ink pasta, or any short tubular pasta
6 T. minced fresh parsley (optional)
freshly grated Parmesan

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened.  Stir in the next seven ingredients.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.  While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until it is al dente.  Drain the pasta but do not rinse and return to the pot.

Stir the ricotta cheese into the sauce.  Add the pasta and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring, until the pasta is well coated with sauce.  Stir in the parsley, if desired.  Top each serving with grated Parmesan.  Serves 6.

Note: The sauce will be very watery at first, but the longer the pasta sits the more liquid it will absorb, so let the pasta sit for a while rather than serving immediately.

This is a rather bland pasta dish, meant to serve as a bed for the more flavorful main dish.  If you wish to serve it on its own, you may want to add more flavor by stirring in strong cheese (Parmesan or sharp cheddar would be good) and/or increasing the chipotles and garlic.

Shriveled Witches' Fingers

16 oz. slender green beans
2-3 T. olive oil
1/2 C. whole pecans
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a roasting pan and toss to coat.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes, tossing once about half way through cooking time.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

††Witches' Hat Cookies

These cookies are based on a recipe for Warty Witches' Hat Halloween Cookies, only with bittersweet chocolate and no nuts.  I also halved the recipe.

1/4 C. butter
1 C. bittersweet chocolate chips*
1/3 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 C. flour
24 dark chocolate Hershey's kisses

Combine the butter and chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on HIGH at 30-second intervals until the butter and chips are almost melted.  Stir and microwave for an additional 10-15 seconds if the chips are not completely melted.  Set aside and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt to the chocolate mixture and stir until well mixed.  Add the flour and stir until completely blended.  Cover and refrigerate for four hours or overnight until firm.

Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1 1/4-inch balls.  Dust your hands with powdered sugar if necessary to prevent sticking, and trust me, this dough is very sticky!  Place two inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch.

Immediately top each cookie with a candy kiss.  Cool for one minute.  Remove to cooling racks.  Cool completely.  Makes 24 cookies.

Note:  I repeat, this cookie dough is extremely sticky!  I rolled 12 balls at a time and refrigerated the dough between batches to keep it cold for less stickiness, but your hands will be coated in chocolate even rolling small batches at a time.

*I used Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips.

Of course there must be plenty of candy on the table, and a scattered pile of chocolates sits in front of a Haunted Village from Crate and Barrel:

Hershey's Milk Chocolate Nuggets on an eerily etched plate --
indulge if you dare!

A creepy credenza!

Witchiepoo the Dalmatian is sure that this Halloween's theme
was selected just for her!

My favorite "All Is Vanity" tin makes an appearance every Halloween.

It just isn't Halloween without some black cats!

One-Eyed Jack surveys the frightful festivities while surrounded by
a claustrophobic wall of cookbooks.

The crystal ball in the center of the table, all lit up in the darkened room
and ready to predict the future for any guest brave enough to look.

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a good fright!

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