Posted on | December 20, 2009 | 25 Comments |
Throwing a dinner party is stressful. How-much-ever one likes to cook, the day of the party will always be so chaotic that will make one wonder more than once, why the heck didn’t I just order some take-out! But at the end of the day it sure is more fun to serve something homemade than the best restaurant fare in town. A small word of praise from the dinner guests is all it takes to forget all that hard work and makes you want to do this all over again. The trick to get the best of both worlds – the satisfaction of serving a home made meal without all the hard work – is to incorporate a few shortcuts. You don’t have to make everything from scratch; Sandra Lee has made a career out of semi-homemade cooking. While she is a butt of joke for chefs like Anthony Bourdain who once said that “Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained”, I definitely don’t think it is a crime to go the semi-homemade route once in a while.
For example, a store-bought frozen puff pastry sheet is a great time-saver and it is so darn tasty it is really hard to screw up a dish made with these magical sheets oh so light and flaky. One of my favorite ways to use puff pastry is as a flatbread topped with savory ingredients. All you have to do is to thaw the pastry sheets, lay it out flat on a large baking sheet, preferably on a parchment paper, so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom, bake for 10-15 minutes till crispy, then add the toppings and send it back to the oven for another 10-12 minutes to finish it up. Once done, you can use a pizza slicer to cut this into desired shapes and sizes, a quick appetizer is ready! Make sure to poke a few holes along the pastry before baking so that it doesn’t puff up too much.
This picture was taken just after the first step, before it went back into the oven with all the toppings. I didn’t get time to take a picture of the finished product, it looked pretty much like this, a little browner.
The caramelized onion cream spread idea was from this website. This is a fantastic spread and will work even as a dip. The spread can be made a day ahead, just refrigerate till use.
Puff Pastry Flat Bread
- 2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- 4 tbsp caramelized onion cream spread (recipe below)
- Sauteed Mushroom-spinach-pine nut topping (recipe below)
Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Unfold the pastry sheets and lay flat on the tray. Pinch the edges together to combine the two sheets, roll this area lightly with a roller to smoothen. Take a fork and poke all over the sheets lightly so that there is some way for the steam to escape while the sheets are baking and it won’t puff up too much. Place the tray in the pre-heated oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Take it out of the oven and if it is all puffed up, let it cool down for a few minutes till it deflates. Now use a rubber spatula to spread the caramelized onion cream spread evenly. Now spread the veggie mixture all over the topping. Return to the oven and cook for another 12 minutes when the pastry is nicely crispy and the spread is browned a bit.
Slice into pieces of desired size using a pizza slicer and serve warm.
Caramelized Onion Cream Spread
- 2 medium sized red onions, chopped fine
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp crushed red chilies
- 1 cup chicken stock (I used vegetable stock this time)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
Heat olive oil in a large pan, add the onions, garlic, salt and sugar and cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally until the mixture is brown. Add the stock and cook till it is reduced to half stirring occasionally. Now add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Transfer to a blender and blend to form a smooth paste.
Mushroom – Spinach – Pine nut Topping
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced (I used oyster mushrooms this time, use your favorite kind)
- 1 6 oz bag baby spinach washed and dried thoroughly
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp crushed red chilies
- 3 tbsp pine nuts
Dry roast the pine nuts and keep aside.
In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally till the mushrooms are well browned. Add the crushed red chilies and saute for a few seconds. Add the baby spinach and stir fry till the spinach is wilted. Remove from the heat and stir in the roasted pine nuts.
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