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In Good Spirits

What’s better than a well-mixed cocktail? A mouthwatering bite that’s perfectly matched

The rich jewel tone of a Campari-Lillet cocktail sets the scene for sybaritic appetizers to follow. Additional props courtesy of John Derian. 
The rich jewel tone of a Campari-Lillet cocktail sets the scene for sybaritic appetizers to follow. Additional props courtesy of John Derian

When it comes to exquisite entertaining, Diana Yen is the name currently on everyone’s lips. You might know her from her food styling, which has been featured in Food & Wine, Kinfolk, and Epicurious. You might recognize her from her Instagram account, @jewelsofNY, chronicling her recipe tests and the adventures of her English Angora rabbit, Cleo. Or you might remember her as the inspired author of Lonny’s entertaining posts, teaching us to make everything from a radicchio-stuffed grilled cheese and a white chocolate–cardamom fondue to the perfect cherry mojito. The founder of the creative studio Jewels of New York and author of A Simple Feast: A Year of Stories and Recipes to Savor and Share, Yen combines her passion for cooking with her skilled photographer’s eye and knack for composition. We asked her to develop three cocktail-and-appetizer pairings to serve for a fall feast. And the results are festive, lush—and (almost!) too pretty to eat.

In Good Spirits

Party of Two

Campari Cocktail + Oysters and Cauliflower Fritters

A lipstick-red Campari-Lillet concoction is elegant without being overly girly. Layered with herb and citrus notes, the gin-based drink is finished with a squeeze of fresh grapefruit juice. To complement the rich colors and bright flavors, serve alongside oysters garnished with deep-ruby pomegranate salsa—and cauliflower fritters topped with caviar, which elevates the humble hors d’oeuvre to decadent new heights.

CAMPARI, LILLET, AND GRAPEFRUIT COCKTAIL

Makes 1 drink

1 ounce gin

1 ounce Campari

1 ounce Lillet Blanc

1 wedge pink grapefruit

Twist of grapefruit peel, for garnish

 

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add gin, Campari, Lillet and squeeze of grapefruit juice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel.

CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS WITH CREME FRAICHE AND CAVIAR

Serves 6–8

1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into short ½-inch-wide florets

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch of black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Canola oil, for frying

Crème fraîche, for garnish

Caviar, for garnish

 

Cook cauliflower in a large pot of simmering salted water over medium heat until tender, 9 to 11 minutes. Drain well in a colander and pat dry. Mash cauliflower in a bowl with a fork. In another bowl, whisk eggs, flour, parsley, chives, salt, pepper, and nutmeg until combined, then stir in cauliflower. Heat 1 ½ inches of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, drop rounded teaspoons of cauliflower mixture into saucepan, patting each lightly with back of spoon to flatten into a 2-inch round. Fry, turning over once, until golden and cooked through, about 2 minutes per batch. Top each fritter with a dollop of crème fraîche and small spoonful of caviar.

OYSTERS WITH POMEGRANATE SALSA

Serves 6–8

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¾ cup pomegranate seeds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

24 fresh oysters, scrubbed and cleaned

 

Crushed ice (optional)

Seaweed for garnish (optional)

Special equipment: oyster knife

 

In a small bowl, mix onion, herbs, jalapeño, lemon juice, and olive oil. Gently toss in pomegranate seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving to let flavors combine. To shuck the oysters, begin by readying a small towel to hold them steady and to protect your hands. Place an oyster on a flat surface with the hinge side towards you. Keeping your hand secure on the oyster, insert the oyster knife through the hinge. When you feel the knife slide between the shells, twist until the hinge pops open. Loosen any muscle attached to the meat with the knife and detach the oyster from the top shell. Remove any shell bits. Place the oyster in its half shell along with its natural juices over a bed of crushed ice and seaweed. Repeat with the remaining oysters. Serve immediately with the pomegranate salsa.

Party of Two

Sazerac + Crab-Stuffed Artichoke Petals

Redolent of leather and smoke, whiskey is the quintessential gentleman’s spirit. “The Sazerac is one of my favorite whiskey-based cocktails—and its New Orleans origin inspired this pairing,” says Yen. A swirl of aromatic absinthe and a hit of spiced syrup give it dimension and an autumnal feel, with a hearty crab-and-artichoke recipe as a further nod to the Southern provenance.

AUTUMN SAZERAC

Makes 1 drink

½ ounce absinthe

2 ounces rye whiskey

¼ ounce spiced simple syrup (recipe follows)

Peychaud’s bitters

Angostura bitters

Lemon peel, for garnish

 

Pour absinthe into an old-fashioned glass, swirl to coat, and discard liqueur; fill glass with ice. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add rye, spiced simple syrup, 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters, and 1 dash Angostura bitters. Discard ice in glass; strain cocktail into glass. Rub the rim with lemon peel and drop into cocktail as garnish.

 

SPICED SIMPLE SYRUP

Makes 1 cup 

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup water

4 whole black peppercorns

2 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

2-inch strip orange zest

 

Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Let syrup cool to room temperature, then strain. Syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in a container for up to a week.

DUNGENESS CRAB–STUFFED ARTICHOKE LEAVES WITH LEMON GREMOLATA

Serves 6–8

2 medium artichokes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

½ red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 cup cooked Dungeness crab meat

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon Gremolata (recipe follows)

 

Trim and clean the artichokes by removing g the lower 3 to 4 rows of outer leaves, leaving ½ inch of stem. Fill a large pot with a couple of inches of water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover pot and steam artichokes for 30–40 minutes, or until knife easily enters the base of the leaves. Remove from pan and let cool. To prepare the stuffing, mix garlic, shallots, red bell pepper, and celery in a bowl. Thinly coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat. Add garlic-and-vegetable mixture and sauté for 4–5 minutes, until softened. Add the crabmeat and bread crumbs, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove leaves from cooled artichokes; trim if needed. Generously fill artichoke leaves with crabmeat mixture, about 1 tablespoon per artichoke. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake stuffed artichokes for 8–10 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Top with lemon gremolata.

 

LEMON GREMOLATA

Zest of 1 lemon

¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

 

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Party of Two

Apple-Pear Cider + Goat Cheese Tarts

Nothing fights the seasonal chill better than hot cider—and if it’s spiked, all the better. The perfect fireside companion, this mulled version benefits from the addition of pear juice, ginger, star anise, and brandy, and partners flawlessly with the savory-sweet crunch of apple-and–goat cheese tarts drizzled with thyme-infused honey.

GINGER APPLE-PEAR CIDER

Serves 6–8 

4 cups apple cider

4 cups pear juice or nectar

Zest of 1 medium orange, removed in large strips

1 (3-inch) piece ginger, sliced

2 pears, sliced

2 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish

4 whole cloves

3 star anise, plus more for garnish

2 cups brandy

 

Place the cider, pear juice, orange zest, ginger, pears, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise in a large pot. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Stir in the brandy and pour into heatproof mugs. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and star anise.

APPLE TARTS WITH GOAT CHEESE AND THYME HONEY

Serves 6–8 

5 sprigs fresh thyme

½ cup honey

2 Granny Smith apples

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 large egg

Flour, for dusting

1 (17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, defrosted

1 small (4-ounce) log goat cheese, crumbled

Special equipment: 2½-inch round cutter

 

In a small saucepan, warm thyme and honey over medium-low heat until honey just begins to bubble, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Discard thyme and let honey cool to room temperature. Preheat oven to 400°F. Core and thinly slice apples. In a small bowl, toss apples in lemon juice, cardamom, and a splash of water to keep from browning. Set aside. Crack egg into a small bowl and whisk with 2 tablespoons of water. On a flour-dusted board, roll out puff pastry to about ¼-inch thick. Use round cutter to cut out 2½-inch circles and remove excess dough. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Score each round with ½-inch border and brush inside with honey. Scatter goat cheese on each pastry round. Top with apple slices and drizzle with honey. Brush edges of pastry with egg wash. Bake tarts for 25–30 minutes, until golden brown. Yields 16 tarts.

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