Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Cook Book Book Club Christmas Tea, Meeting #6

As anyone who might be following this intermittent blog will quickly realize, I love going to take tea. I look for possibilities when I am traveling, and we have several places we frequent (not quite the right word) here in Los Angles. If I wouldn't be as big as a house and if I could afford it, I'd probably do tea at least once a month, but several times a year is the more likely occurrence. I always try to take tea when I am in San Diego for Comic-con, and we usually plan to go for tea when Susan Ellison's birthday rolls around in June. If we fit some shopping in after Christmas, a trip to Beverly Hills and tea is in order. If I'm lucky, I go out for tea at least one other time during the year. If there's the possibility of a Triple Crown winner, I throw the Belmont Tea on the first Saturday in June. (You'll find a post about the most recent Belmont Tea somewhere below in 2015.)
A Table for 16, with Teapots
Breaking the rules for a Christmas Tea for the Cook Book Book Club seemed like a no-brainer. We did not stick to one book. Instead, people were encouraged to produce a recipe they liked, no matter what the source, and bring a copy of the recipe to share. We had some over-achievers who decided to bring more than one dish and I really did feel like I couldn't even sample everything that my friends  brought. It was a LOT of food.

My Overfilled Plate
The menu:

Chopped Chicken Liver--Kim Gottlieb-Walker
Salmon Salad--Kim Gottlieb-Walker
Cucumber Sandwiches-- Michelle Heinig Resnick
Chicken Finger Sandwiches--Laurie Perry
Egg Salad Finger Sandwiches--Melinda Snodgrass
Luxe Truffle Deviled Eggs--Sharon D. Baker
Lobster Cheese Cakes-- Christine Valada
Tomato-Cheddar Tartlets-- Mary De Longis
Anchovy Roulades-- Gillian Horvath
Fig & Ricotta Crisp Breads--Liz Mortensen
Pears Poached in Red Wine--T Valada Viars

Lemon Curd--Laurie Perry
Black Forest Jam--Kerry Glover
Clotted Cream-Julia Roberts
Ginger Scones--Lisa Klink
Scones--Laura Brennan

Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies--Nan Cohen
Mom's Lemon Shortbread Squares--Gillian Horvath
Cherry Pielettes--Kerry Glover
Grandma's Strawberry Jam Strudel--Kim Rebecca Gottlieb-Walker

Earl Grey

The table was set using Lenox Holiday china, with several variations in the cups. Lenox has produced Holiday for years. Some of the varieties include Presidential, Holly Berry, and Holiday Hostess (all off-white with a gold trim), with a number of different shapes, but they all work quite well together. I used the Holiday dinner plates for the first course, and the luncheon-sized Holiday Hostess plates for the scones and sweets. Flatware was the Lenox stainless Holiday pattern with the inset of a china oval bearing the holly leaf and berries. There were a variety of serving implements that have been acquired over the years to go with the pattern, from stainless with the holly and berries in relief to acrylic handled servers in red or red and green. Stemware, not shown in the early stages of setting the table, above, was Longchamps. I used both the waters (technically, the iced teas) and the champagnes.

Because we decided to meet at 4:00 P.M., traditional tea time, the light wasn't as good as it might be and I actually missed out on photographing many of the dishes. We moved my dining room table to the living room to have enough room for the eighteen people I originally expected, but we were down to sixteen before we sat down. Holidays do get in the way, sometimes. I wasn't really happy with how the pictures came out, but I will post what I did manage. (If anyone who attended wants to add more, please send them to me to put up.)

Food, Glorious Food
Hats were optional, but lots of us went with hats. I think I bought one the weekend before at a flea market. From left, above, going around the table, it looks like Kim Gottlieb-Walker, Julia Roberts, Michelle Resnick, Lisa Klink, Melinda Snodgrass, T Valada-Viars, Laurie Perry, Nan Cohen, Laura Brennan, and Kerry Glover standing.
The rest of the table, thanks to Kerry Glover.
In the second photograph of the table, you can see me in a red hat, Sharon Baker and Liz Mortensen on my left, and Mary DeLongis and Gillian Horvath to my right.

I had the sinking realization that I had an inadequate number of sugar and creamers for a group this large that matched the dinnerware. I am working on fixing that for next time.
Gillian Horvath and her Rose Marie Apron

Gillian's Anchovy Roulades
Several people finished dishes in the kitchen, which was quite crowded just before seating. Gillian Horvath was slicing her roulades for baking, from the wonderful book Afternoon Tea at Home by Will Torrent. Torrent has worked at several notable tea rooms in London and the book is stunning. Every dish has a photograph, and the photographs are gorgeous.

A Recommended Reference
I purchased the book last summer and recommended it to several people. Liz Mortensen  and T Valada-Viars made their contributions from the same book.
Luxe Truffle Deviled Eggs and Cucumber Sandwiches
Sharon Baker's Luxe Truffle Deviled Eggs along with Michelle Resnick's Cucumber Sandwiches.

Chicken Tea Sandwiches
Laurie Perry brought along chicken finger sandwiches.Since Laurie has pitched in when I've been behind schedule at many a party at my house--including the time I decided profiteroles were the way to serve coronation chicken salad--I was glad they arrived finished so she could enjoy herself.

Egg Salad Sandwiches
Melinda Snodgrass, who has not made it to any other meeting, gave us egg salad sandwiches, so I think we hit all of the major tea groups, sandwich wise.

Poached Pears in Red Wine
The Poached Pears in Wine which my sister made from the Will Torrent book were served on endive, with blue cheese and walnuts, and finished on a slice of dark bread. it was the kind of combination which really lifts the level of a tea to the heavens. Equally good were Liz's Fig and Ricotta Crisp Breads from the same book (one may be at about 4 o'clock in the picture of the over-filled plate, above.)

Tomato-Cheddar Cheese Tartlets
Mary DeLongis brought a huge platter of Tomato-Cheddar Tartlets down from the ranch. Because of the sliced tomato on each one, it occurred to me that it may be a recipe to repeat during peak tomato season later this year.
Salmon Salad
Kim Gottlieb-Walker made salmon salad and chopped chicken liver to eat on crackers. I think the chopped chicken liver is at the 8 o'clock position on my plate near the top of this page, and the salmon looks like it's at 2 o'clock.
Savories (Photography by Gillian Horvath)
I made Lobster Cheese Cakes. That's the cute little savory at the 9 o'clock position in the photograph above. I needed to buy cupcake trays with removable bottoms, which were actually easy to find on Amazon. The cheese cakes had a breadcrumb crust and the filling was made with lobster tale meat. What's not too like? The recipe made enough so that each of the expected number of guests could have one, and since a few people didn't make it, I got to eat the extras. My sister, who truly loves lobster, developed an allergy to crustaceans and is heartbroken when lobster, shrimp, or crayfish is on the menu. I ate hers. The recipe came from Teatime Holidays from 2015. The softcover collection from Tea Time Magazine has many wonderful recipes.
Available on
Sadly, I appear to have no pictures of the scones or sweets courses, although I think that may be Laurie's lemon curd in the upper left of Gillian's photo. This is a particular shame because Julia Roberts went to the trouble to actually make clotted cream for us. Julia said the most difficult thing about clotted cream is making sure some other member of the household doesn't try to turn off the oven during the twenty-four-hour cooking process! We had two kinds of scones, along with lemon curd and Black Forest jam to sample. Plus Gillian found a recipe for vegan clotted cream which she made and brought along for the lactose intolerant in the group.

Update: Kerry Glover did have a photograph of the cherry pie she made, although she did not have the cherry pie-lets that she made so everyone could get one.
Kerry Glover's Cherry Pie.
I am very glad that the Lenox dishes and flatware (except for the acrylic-handled serving pieces) and the glassware are all dishwasher safe. We were able to get the kitchen put away in good order without too much trouble.

Here are some other titles to consider when looking for tea recipes:

One of my favorite tea cook books is a self-published one from a tea shop that used to be in Carlsbad, California. Ticky-Boo Tea Room disappeared literally overnight. Fortunately, my friends had bought me the cook book when we first ate there. They served the best scones I had ever eaten until I went to Australia. I've posted the recipe before. Here it is again:

 Ticky-Boo Scones

2 C. All-purpose Flour
1 T. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/3 C. Sweet Butter
1/4 C. Vegetable Shortening
1/3 C. Heavy Cream
Splash of Water

Place baking sheet in oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
Sift the measured dry ingredients together, twice.
Dice fats into the dry ingredients, then lightly rub with cool fingertips or pastry blender. Make a well in center and stir in cream. Lightly mix with a fork until a soft dough forms. If dough is dry, add water, sprinkling a little at a time until the dough is perfect for kneading.
Turn out on a well-floured board and knead very lightly for about 1/2 minute for a loose smooth dough. Roll out with a rolling pin or pat with hands to approximately 3/4" thick.
Stamp out with a cutter or cut into triangles with a sharp knife. Knead together any trimmings and stamp out again, continuing until all the dough is used.
Lift with a spatula onto the preheated baking sheet, placing them 1" apart. Brush tops only with beaten egg or milk (optional--I don't.)
Bake toward the top of the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Remove and turn out onto a wire rack for cooling. Best served warm with clotted or Devon Cream and jam or curd.
This basic recipe may be adjusted to add currants, raisins, cheese with sage and walnuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, or any other spice or variety you choose.

And here is the recipe from Helen Whitty's Fancy Pantry cook book for Lemon Curd that Laurie Perry made:

Enough ripe, fragrant, bright-skinned limes or lemons (about 3) to yield 1 T. of grated zest and 1/2 cup of strained juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 T. unsalted butter, cut up
Pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 1/4 C. sugar

1.  Run 2 inches of water into the base ban of a double boiler and set it over medium heat to come to a brisk simmer.
2.  Grate or shred enough zest from washed and dried limes or lemons to make 1 T. packed of the lime zest or 1-1/2 T packed lemon zest.
3.  Place the zest in the top pan of the double boiler. Add the strained juice to the pan. Drop the cut-up butter and the pinch of salt into the pan. Set aside.
4.  Beat the egg yolks and whole egg together at high speed in the large bowl of an electric mixer until they are foamy; gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat the mixture until it is pale, fluffy, and very thick, about 5 minutes.
5.  Scrape the egg mixture into the double-boiler top and set the top into the base containing simmering water. At once begin whisking the mixture; cook it, whisking it constantly until it has thickened smoothly and is steaming hot, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the curd; it is done when it will coat a metal or wooden spoon heavily (170 degrees on an instant read thermometer.)
6.  Pour the curd into a fine-meshed sieve set over a bowl and press it through with a rubber spatula, leaving the shreds of zest to be discarded. Scrape the curd into sterilized, dryjars, let cool uncovered, then cap the jars with sterilized lids. Refrigerate the curd.