Come in for a drink and a bite

I’ll keep this short and sweet, as it’s a busy week of travel and family and food and gifts. And in that vein, two quick and easy treats–one for eating, one for drinking.

Mulled Wine

The first may be my new favorite party snack–spicy whole grain mustard sprinkled with herbs sandwiched between flaky pieces of buttery puff pastry. They’re about the easiest thing on earth to make; perfect to make ahead, freeze, and bake right before a party (or bake off a few to have with dinner); look festive and fancy; and, most importantly, they taste fantastic and are a great compliment to just about anything on your menu.

Batons

These are from my absolutely favorite new cookbook, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. I feel like I’m losing food blogger credibility admitting this, but it’s incredibly rare that I’ll sit down and read a cookbook cover-to-cover like a novel, but I’ve read through this at least twice (granted, once was when I was laid up with the world’s most miserable cold and I was just dreaming about being able to taste anything again). The recipes themselves are wonderful–simple, unfussy, delicious–and Dorie’s writing is equally comfortable, like a friend chatting about a great recipe she discovered.

Mustard Batons

On the libations side, this is less a recipe and more an ingenious idea for on-demand mulled wine (and really, if there’s any season that’s perfect for festive spirits on a whim, this would be it). The base of this mulled wine is actually a wine syrup infused with citrus and whole spices that is easy to customize (the spices below are just what I like, a few slices of ginger for instance would not be out of place).

And since the syrup can be made ahead (it’s actually better after infusing for a day), it’s just a matter of deciding how much mulled wine you want to make–enough for a party or a glass for a cozy treat by the fire.

Mustard Batons and Mulled Wine

Mustard Batons
From Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

1 box puff pastry, thawed slightly (let frozen puff pastry set at room temperature about 2 hours, or in the fridge overnight)
Mustard, any kind (I like a strong, grainy mustard, especially one I made myself)
Fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from the stem and chopped fine (optional)

If you plan to bake these immediately, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Unroll one sheet of puff pastry onto a pastry board, lightly dust both sides with flour. Roll pastry out into approximately a 12 x 14 inch rectangle, occasionally moving the pastry to make sure it’s not sticking to the board. Move the pastry so the short side is closest to you.

Spread a few large spoonfuls of mustard in a very thin layer over the bottom half of the pastry, coming just nearly to the edge. If using the rosemary, sprinkle 1/2 to 1 teaspoon over the mustard.

Flip top part of pastry down over the half with the mustard. Cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide with the folded edge at the top. Lay strips about 1/2 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate; repeat process with the second sheet of puff pastry. (To store for later, lay unbaked batons on a sheet pan, not touching, and freeze solid. Once frozen, store tightly wrapped in a plastic bag. No need to defrost, just add a minute or two to the baking time.)

Bake 16 minutes, rotating pans half way through, until batons are puffed and golden brown.

Mulled Wine
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s mulled wine, plus some modifications from this recipe.

1 orange
1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
5 cloves
5 green cardamom pods, cracked
5 whole allspice berries
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
A few gratings of nutmeg
2 bottles of fruity, unoaked red wine
Grand Marnier or brandy, to taste
Garnish with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, orange wedges

Peel the outermost part of the orange and lemon in strips with a vegetable peeler (try to get mostly the colored part, but don’t worry too much if it has some of the white pith) and add to a saucepan along with the sugar and spices. Add enough wine to cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes until you have a thick syrup. Syrup (along with the spices and cirtus peel) can be stored in the fridge until ready to serve.

For a large batch for a party, pour syrup, remaining wine, and a good glug of Grand Marnier or brandy into a large saucepan and warm just until steaming–do not boil. Serve with optional garnishes.

For a single serving, use 1-2 teaspoons of syrup, a few ounces of red wine, and a splash of brandy, and heat just until steaming.

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