Let Them Eat Cake!

Change up your holiday entertaining with a fun and festive dessert party
Sara Essex Bradley

Eat dessert first today. Your tastebuds will thank you.

Winter entertaining in New Orleans kicks into high gear starting in December and lasting until Fat Tuesday. Autumn is consumed with tailgate parties and Thanksgiving. Once December sets in holiday parties and dinners start with the traditions of Christmas and Hanukkah, segueing into Twelfth Night and Carnival celebrations.

 How fun would it be to shake up the usual tried-and-true formulas and family traditions, by thinking slightly outside the breadbox? The bare bones necessities are good drink and good food. Instead of the usual, a dessert party enhanced with some savory items and a signature cocktail is a fun way to go.

Desserts conjure up a lighthearted mood and childhood fantasies. What child in all of us hasn’t stood in front of a pastry case with unbridled anticipation? To go along with this ebullient feeling, fun colors and exuberant displays immediately come to mind.

Chef Tariq Hanna of Salon by Sucré was called upon to create the perfect menu for a playful and extravagant winter party. Salon is the culmination of Sucré’s beautiful approach to contemporary cuisine and passion for exceptional service and presentation. Located in the heart of the French Quarter in a casual, French midcentury modern dining room, Salon blends the time-honored formality of New Orleans service with the exquisite cuisine of award-winning Hanna. Salon offers menus of savory and sweet, an expertly curated wine list to pair with Hanna’s degustation and cocktail concoctions both quirky and whimsical.

LEFT, Pink and orange are fresh holiday colors; add a disco ball for holiday sparkle; RIGHT, Small boxes with a chocolate inside are used as party favors.

The location for the winter party is the studio of artist Ashley Longshore, a glittering fun-filled space showcasing her fantastic pop art. Taking the cues from the colorful space, Chef Hanna created a white chocolate artist palette with tubes of “paint” that are actually sweet sauces for vanilla profiteroles. The signature Sucré macarons were included in the selection of sweets, along with a delectable chocolate salted caramel cake (combining sweet and savory in one bite). Savory offerings include lamb sliders and beet salad. A colorful signature cocktail called Madame Bussier (after Chef Hanna’s wife) was made with passion fruit puree and Proseco and garnished with flowers.

Everything is served buffet style and is bite-sized. This modern take on a classic over-the-top style of a Viennese dessert table is now more playful and fresh. Combining the sweet and savory at the same time allows guests to partake in the order they like. How fun to taste dessert before the main course! If the palate runs more along the lines of a traditional progression, savory dishes can be sampled before the sweet. Cocktails are pre-poured and served on the buffet. This allows for the host or hostess to join the party rather than playing bartender.

Small white plates, forks, glassware for cocktails, and linen napkins add elegance. Party favors are so much fun to present to guests. In this case they are small gift boxes with Sucré chocolates inside.

Chef Hanna shares his recipes for winter entertaining. But in case you don’t want to cook, Salon by Sucré can do it for you. Under Hanna’s direction, Salon combines innovative cooking, generous service and attention to detail — a perfect celebratory spot for reunions, private dining, special events and birthdays. Salon is in the heart of the French Quarter and offers brunch, afternoon tea service, lunch, happy hour, dinner and (of course) dessert! The holiday menu is available for Restaurant Salon by Sucré from Dec. 1 to 24. Salon by Sucré, 622 Conti St., 504-267-7098.

Vanilla Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce

Puff shells (Pate a Choux)    
2 cups water
2 cups bread flour
2 cups whole eggs
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine water, butter and salt, bring to a boil. When boiling, add flour and cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes till smooth paste is formed. Remove from heat, place in mixer with paddle attachment, and add 1 egg at a time. Transfer to a piping bag with ½-inch nozzle. Pipe 1-inch diameter puffs. If not piping, scoop or spoon, but ensure puff is smooth and rounded. Using a small amount of water on you fingers, pat down any peaks and make smooth. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes then turn oven to 325 F for additional 15 minutes. Bake until there are no longer moisture beads visible on surface. Cool before filling.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
1 quart half-and-half
1/2 cup egg yolks
1 cup cornstarch
2 sticks unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
1 vanilla bean

Bring half and half to a boil. Place yolks in a stainless steel bowl. Sift sugar and cornstarch together over yolks. Mix until smooth. When cream is boiled, slowly pour over eggs and temper slowly. Return to pot and cook over medium heat until starch is fully thickened. Remove from heat, add scraped vanilla bean and place on mixer with paddle attachment. When custard stops steaming but still warm, add butter and mix until fully cooled. Transfer to container with plastic wrap directly on cream and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Chocolate Sauce
2 cups dark chocolate, 65 percent
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring cream to a boil, pour over chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and salt.

Profiteroles on a white chocolate artist palette are combined with sauces in “paint” tubes for delicious fun.

Salon Lamb Sliderette

Yield: 18 (1 ounce) patties
1 pound ground lamb
4 slices white bread
1 tablespoon ras al hanout
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Soak bread in just enough water to moisten. Combine all ingredients well without overworking. Form patties.

Cranberry Relish
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped mint    

Combine all ingredients except for mint in a pot and cook over medium heat until desired thickness is acheived. Allow cranberry relish to cool before adding mint.

Lamb sliderette are the perfect party size.

Madame Bussier Cocktail

1 ounce passion fruit puree
½ ounce St. Germain
3 ounces Proseco
Serve over ice with floral garnish.

The cocktail color is part of the decor.

Beet and Goat Cheese Mousse

Roasted Beets
2 medium sized beets
olive oil
salt and pepper

Scrub beets clean, coat in olive oil to just coat evenly, and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 350 F approximately 15 minutes until just barely cooked. Test by inserting a toothpick, there should be slight resistance. Remove from oven, place in a bowl and wrap airtight with plastic film. Allow to cool completely in the refrigerator. Once fully chilled, slice as desired.

Goat Cheese Mousse
2 cups soft goat cheese
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Soften goat cheese with cream and on electric mixer with whip attachment, whip to medium peak. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Champagne Vinaigrette
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix till emulsified or combine all ingredients in a bowl and emulsify with immersion blender. If neither are available, simply whisk together.

Walnut Granola
¼ cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoon honey
1 egg white
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom
1 cup oats
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly beat egg white until barely fluffed and combine with all ingredients. Mix thoroughly till evenly coated. Place on lined tray and bake at 325 F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir and bake additional 5 minutes to evenly brown. Allow to cool and keep airtight.

Beet and goat cheese mousse presented in individual tins.

Party Tips

Try an unusual color combination for party décor.

Use small plates to highlight the bite-sized morsels.

Make use of your linen napkins and prettiest glassware.

Use playful accessories to style the table.

Small boxes with one or two chocolates inside make great favors.

Top Left: Place sweets and savories on one large table. Top: Lamb sliderettes and vanilla profiteroles with chocolate sauce. Top Right: Use your nicest linen napkins, silverware and glasses.

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