Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the term cocktail prolonge` (just as I was up until about a year ago) - let me explain, this style of party was at the height of its popularity in the mid-19th century in Europe. It's a cocktail buffet. A "prolonged" cocktail party. Guests can stand or sit, go to a table filled with bite-sized food as many times as they wish, and drink cocktails, and glasses of wine. Somewhere around 9 - 9:30 a small plate of hot food- which I call a light supper is served. I usually choose a simple pasta dish - or for this particular party, risotto. I choose starchy dishes because they always satisfy any remaining hunger and sop up too many cocktails or glasses of wine. Another reason I chose risotto was because it let me showcase some of those freshly shucked Nantucket bay scallops that I spoke about in a previous posting. The addition of pomegranate seeds with their sugary, tart flavor and crunchy texture marry, in stunning way, with the sweet, velvety smooth bay scallops. The dish was inspired by a pomegranate-seed studded risotto made with Prosecco that I ate a few years ago while visiting a friend in the Veneto region of Italy. Two years ago I made that pomegranate risotto and topped it with bay scallops, cooked Venetian-style. It has become a signature dish.
But wait - here's what I served to graze upon - along with cocktail shaker-fulls of Pisco Sours (see "And then I went to Patagonia" post for recipe), glasses of icy Prosecco, red wine and anything else people wanted to drink.
Sweet and Salty Roasted Almonds - Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spread about a pound or a pound and a half raw almonds onto a parchment paper-covered baking sheet with sides or a jelly roll pan. Add 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive and 1 heaping teaspoon of flaky sea salt to the pan. Use a rubber spatula to evenly coat the almonds with the the other ingredients. Make sure are evenly spread out. Bake until the almonds are darker brown and the liquid ingredients are bubbling, about an hour. Let cool on a baking rack. Some of the almonds will clump together as they cool. Separate before serving. The almonds should be stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid. They will stay fresh for weeks.
Raw vegetables; celery sticks, English cucumber slices, endive leaves and jicama slices (there was a color scheme!) with spicy peanut sauce. 1/3 cup freshly ground organic peanut butter, 1/4 cup water, zest of 1 lime and juice of 2, 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Nantucket honey (more about it in posts to come). Add the ingredients to a sauce pan and cook until smooth - you may want to thin with a bit more water. Finish the sauce with a handful of chopped, roasted peanuts.
Selection of cheese; Piave ( a hard Italian cheese from the northwestern part of the country), a log of soft goat's milk cheese, Kunik - an over-the-top, dangerous (because you will become addicted), New York State (Nettle Meadow) soft cheese made with goat's milk and Jersey cow's milk cream - it will make you deliriously happy served with roasted pears (see Apples and Pears post), medjool dates, semi-dried figs and little toasts made with raisin-pecan bread.
Large, poached shrimp with cocktail sauce. Heinz' Chili Sauce, ketchup, and very sharp horseradish.
Bacala Mantecato (see Christmas and Codfish post) served with whole wheat baguette toasts and Kalamata olives
POMEGRANATE RISOTTO WITH NANTUCKET BAY SCALLOPS ALLA VENEZIANA
Serves 8 - 12
for the risotto:
1/3 cup grape seed oil (neutral flavor will not compete with other delicate ingredients)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups baldo or carnaroli (or any short, fat rice)
1 1/4 cups Prosecco or dry white wine
10 - 12 cups water
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
seeds from one pomegranate (see Easy, Rosy Last Minute Cocktail Party post for pomegranate seed removal method)
for the scallops:
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh red hot pepper such as Thai, cayenne or jalapeno
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup dry white vermouth
2 pounds bay scallops
1/2 cup firmly packed, finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1. Add the grapeseed oil and the onions to a large skillet or a brazier over medium heat. Saute the onions until they become translucent but not brown, about 6 - 8 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add two cupfuls of water and stir continuously until all the liquid is absorbed. Keep adding the water 2 cupsful at a time until the rice is tender and a bit of liquid remains in the skillet- about 18 minutes. During the addition of the last 2 cups of water add the grated cheese.
2. Turn down the heat to a faint simmer, add the butter and pomegranate seeds. Stir to combine.
3. In a skillet over medium heat, saute the garlic and hot pepper in the olive oil. Just as the garlic starts to turn gold, add the lemon juce and vermouth. Lower the heat a notch and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Add the scallops and cook until opaque, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, or the scallops will become rubbery in an instant. Stir in the parsley.
4. Add the risotto to a large, warm serving platter. Cover with the scallops. Serve immediately.
SUSANSIMONSAYS: If your guests ask you what they can bring to the party - the answer is easy. "something sweet". I asked my friend, Roy to bring some gingerbread. He obliged with a lovely, rotund cake glazed with tangy lemon icing. Amy brought organic, hand-dipped elderflower and raspberry flavored (among others) chocolates from new Nantucket confectioner, Ambrosia - read Amy's article about them in Poetry of Food -, John brought dark chocolate "meltaways" from Stowaway Sweets , and Mark brought colorful cupcakes in flavors like French toast, and cinnamon toast from The Little Cupcake Shop in downtown New York City. A perfect end to a perfect evening.