Every Thanksgiving I wonder what I can serve my family to keep them happy before the big event while not spoiling their appetite. Here is a little nibble that (assuming someone doesn't inhale them all) will make a perfect little preview of the feast to come. And, the components can be made ahead, so all you need to worry about is a little last minute assembly.
For the Pecans:
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
1 teaspoon (more or less) fleur de sel sea salt
2 cups pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 325. In a small mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic salt, brown sugar, black pepper and cayenne plus 1 teaspoon of the minced rosemary. Add the pecans and toss to coat. Line a baking sheet with foil and spread the nuts evenly on the foil. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons rosemary and a little fleur de sel over the nuts and toss to coat evenly, making sure all the nuts are separate from each other. Set aside to cool, then store in an airtight container.
For the Biscotti:
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
grated peel of 1 orange
2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed
1/2 cup full bodied red wine
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup cocoa nibs (if you have trouble finding them, you can substitute chopped bitter chocolate, or simply leave them out)
1 egg for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 325 Fahrenheit. In a stand mixer, or by hand, cream the butter and sugar. Add the 2 eggs, one at a time. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture alternately with the wine. Add the cranberries and cocoa nibs and mix until evenly combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a 12' long log about 2" in diameter. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper if you have it, otherwise foil will do (or silpat). Make an egg wash by adding 1 tablespoon water to 1 egg and beat until frothy. With a pastry brush, brush the egg wash evenly over each log. Bake for one hour. The logs will have flattened out considerably. Remove from oven, let sit about 10 minutes, then cut each log in half down the center, then slice into 1/4 inch slices. Place slices flat onto a baking sheet and put back in the oven for 15 minutes to crisp them up (be aware, however, that they only become crisp upon cooling, so don't expect them to feel crunchy directly out of the oven). Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.
1 lb. Cambazola cheese (this is a triple-cream blue cheese that is widely available. Also, it is very mild, so those who do not like blue cheese typically like this one. If you really don't want to test it, you could use brie, or goat cheese, or even cream cheese if you want to take mild to an extreme.)
To serve, simply place the biscotti on a serving platter, add a piece of Cambazola that has been sliced to fit perfectly on the biscotti and top with a pecan. Done!
Have you seen the Yountville Greyhound bus station lately? Only the older Napa Valley visitors will remember that the building that houses Ad Hoc restaurant, and of course housed the well missed "The Diner" was once a bus station! Ad Hoc, which joined the Yountville dining scene in 2007 as a temporary restaurant is now a very well established permanent branch of the Thomas Keller empire. His third restaurant in Yountville and the most casual, presents a single fixed menu each evening that is served family style ($49). Let me state this concept again, you arrive, the menu is presented simply as a courtesy to tell you what you will be served tonight, they ask about potential allergies to alert the kitchen and a delicious three course dinner with cheese is served family style. What if I don't like what they are serving you say? Well, I'm glad you asked. They do post the menu each day on their web site ahead of service so you could conceivably abandon your reservation, but they tend to serve family favorites that don't require bravery on the part of the diner, plus they are more than willing to adjust a dish to suit you (within reason). In the six or so times that Tracy and I have eaten at Ad Hoc it has never been less than sensational. It is difficult to pick favorites, but their salad of soft boiled eggs, smoked salmon and beets was a standout (I even liked it, and I am not a salmon lover) as well as their sous-vide beef short ribs with crispy polenta. If you get ice cream sundaes with caramelized pecans for dessert - try not to fight over the pecans like we did. We have not had the pleasure yet, but we have heard that Fried Chicken night is the best thing ever. The long and the short of it is, take the risk, you will be happy you did. (P. S. How big a risk could a Thomas Keller dinner be anyway?)