Wednesday, October 29, 2008


“Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night,
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright!”

Universal Pictures, 1941

Halloween 2008

“Part of our collective consciousness”
Estimates vary, but Americans celebrating this holiday add up to big business and it seems each year to be increasingly more popular. The way we celebrate Halloween has evolved over the years as well. It is not even a very old a tradition in the US, although it may seem like it has always been part of our collective consciousness.

“It’s just a good party”
Much of the impetus came with Irish immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century. Along with many other customs, they brought their celebration of All Hallows Eve, which in turn was an evolution of the Celtic Festival of the Dying Year also known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in). Not that modern Trick or Treaters care that much about the history because for most of us, it’s just a good party.

“We love to be scared”
We love to be scared or at least to pretend to be. Bram Stoker published his masterpiece Dracula, in 1897, and it has never been out of print. It was the classic Gothic horror films from Universal Pictures that instilled the images that many of us still associate with Halloween, or at least those of us of a certain age.

“Approach the feast with the proper dread”
Halloween candy sales are second only to Christmas and although trick or treating for candy remains a privilege for the young, there is no reason we all can’t enjoy a dinner party with a spooky theme. Surely, no one has excelled more than Martha Stewart at making Halloween into a modern celebration, a fact that a quick trip to her website will confirm. However, there are so many possible inspirations, planning a grown-up Halloween party is an activity that anyone can enjoy. Decorating is a blast and creepy music is a must. Here is an Avanti Savoia take on the theme. Go to the trouble of writing out your menu in a creative way so that your guests can approach the feast with the proper dread!

(Vodka Martinis garnished with half a stuffed olive
frozen in circular shaped ice tray “cubes”)
(Indian crisp bread with cilantro/mint sauce)
(Finger shaped pretzels with blue cheese dip)
(Crab bisque)
(Grilled Cornish game hens or quail with backbones removed)
(Baked mushrooms with an orange Hollandaise sauce)
(Pumpkin pie topped with a cut out pastry face- see following recipe)

Preparing a Fresh Pumpkin
Canned pumpkin can be successfully used to make this pie. However, during the holidays when pumpkins are easily obtainable, it is a snap to prepare puree from a fresh pumpkin using the method described here. Select a fresh, firm pumpkin free from blemishes. One small pumpkin will do nicely for two or three recipes. Wash pumpkin with warm water and dry thoroughly. Lightly oil pumpkin and place it on a baking tray. Bake in 350 degree oven for one hour. Pumpkin is ready when it is soft to the touch. Remove tray from oven and allow to cool. When cooling, the pumpkin will begin to collapse. When it’s cool enough to handle carefully remove the stem and peel away the browned skin, which should come off quite easily. Split open the pumpkin and scoop out seeds and stringy fibers. Seeds may be saved for roasting. Cut the remaining flesh into chunks and finely puree in food processor. Can be prepared 2 or 3 days in advance.

Pie Crust Pastry
Pastry for one 9 inch pie

2 cups sifted all purpose flour
¼ cup butter
¼ cup shortening
4-5 Tblsp. ice water
1 egg, beaten

1. Measure sifted flour and combine with butter in food processor fitted with steel blade. Blend for a short time until mixture resembles cornmeal.
2. Add shortening and blend again until mixture looks like small peas.
3. With the food processor running, add ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball. Remove dough from food processor, wrap in plastic wrap and let dough rest in the refrigerator at least for an hour, although it can be prepared to this point and kept for several days ahead.
4. When ready to bake pie, roll out about 2/3 of the prepared dough with rolling pin and fit into 9 inch pie pan. Crimp edges, brush lightly with beaten egg and allow pastry to rest in refrigerator for 15 or 20 minutes before baking. Save enough dough to roll out and cut triangles for eyes and nose, also cut out a wide smile, all of which is placed on top of the pie before baking to make the “Jack O’lantern” face.

Ingredients for Pumpkin Filling
1 ½ cups fresh pumpkin puree or one 14&1/2 oz. canned pumpkin
1 Tblsp. flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsps. Ground Ginger #32065*
½ tsp. freshly grated Nutmeg #32080*
½ tsp. ground Allspice #32071*
2 tsps. Ground Cinnamon #32031
½ tsp Sel de Mer ( fine ) #35021*
1 1/3 cup half and half
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees

1. Combine all ingredients except eggs and refrigerate for a couple of hours. When ready to bake the pie, fold eggs into filling and pour into the pastry lined pie pan. Top with pastry face, gently place on metal cookie tray and bake in lower third of oven.

2. Bake pie for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 35 to 40 minutes until done. Serve hot or room temperature with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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