Monday, November 1, 2010

2010.10.28 - A Halloween Feast - Tentacle Pot Pie, Decomposed Salad, "Boo-tiful" Cake

This week's menu was a celebration of Halloween. I wanted to go all out and make everything with a Halloween theme and flavor. It was fun researching all of the Halloween ideas out there on Real Simple, Martha Stewart,, and Food Network, and I have a ton of ideas for next year.  A full collection of pictures from the dinner can be found here.

Tentacle Pot Pie

It's difficult to find a main dish idea for Halloween that looks spooky but does not involve a specialty mold.  There are some great meatloaf rats, hands, and skulls out there, but I did not want to buy specialty equipment.  I narrowed it down to two choices: the tentacle pot pie and the mummy meatloaf.  The tentacle pot pie ultimately won out because I had made turkey burgers the previous week and though meatloaf would be too similar.  There is always next year :)

I love the NotMartha website because Megan covers a lot of creative and cute crafts, cooking projects, and holiday ideas, and she lives in Seattle so I can get some local ideas too!  Megan particularly goes nuts for Halloween and has come up with some great ideas over the years (I made her junk food spiders back in 2006).  This year, she devised the tentacle pot pie, a pot pie with a crust that looks like a creepy spider-like creature.

I adapted Megan's idea to produce one large dish instead of individual servings because I didn't have enough oven-proof dishware for making single serving creatures.  Since my base was a pie dish instead of a flat plate, this actually allowed for some extra curling of the tentacles, making mine look more like an octopus than a spider.  Since it was large scale, I thought that olives as eyes would get lost, so I ended up using parsley leaves.  It ended up not looking like a face unfortunately, but I was still happy with the final product.

I used Simply Recipes' chicken pot pie recipe as recommended in Megan's instructions, subbing white wine for sherry.  A delicious and basic pot pie (I didn't make my own stock and used boneless skinless chicken breasts that I had roasted in the oven).  I wanted to use crescent roll dough instead of puff pastry dough because I prefer the flavor of the former, but totally spaced on the fact that Megan called for seamless crescent roll dough.  I'll need to check if my local grocery even carries such a thing.  I got pre-perforated dough and ended up sticking it together and rolling it out a bit so I could cut it in the dimensions I needed.  It ended up working fairly well, so the day was saved!

Decomposed Salad

This salad is a bit of a stretch (using a gross name to make a typical fall salad more Halloween-y), but I liked it nonetheless!  Since I have an strange skin reaction when peeling butternut squash, I cheated and got it pre-cut.  What a time saver!  The sugary/spicy pepitas were delicious (although I could have used twice as many seeds with the amount of coating the recipe specified) and I always love the combination of roasted squash, crisp lettuce, and a tangy balsamic dressing.  This one is a nice alternative to the all-time greatest squash salad (Ina's recipe of course).

Mexican Pumpkin Punch

I don't often make beverages, but wanted to make things extra festive.  This punch was very good, although I have a couple of quibbles with the recipe.  First, it seems very wasteful to throw away all the pumpkin pulp that is left over.  I saved it and am still trying to figure out what to do with it (mixing with yogurts or oats?).  Second, the suggested garnishes are pineapple and pecans, but I'm not really sure how to drink something with chunks of pineapple and nuts in it.  I ended up using my fork to eat the pineapple from the glass.  Maybe a splash of pineapple juice would provide the same effect.

My cake was a Frankenstein-esque melding of two different cakes -- I used the outside frosting and decoration of Martha's "Boo-tiful Cake" with the inside layers of this orange and black cake.

I love making project cakes and really want to get better at making professional-looking cakes.  This one was far from professional-looking, but was fun to make!  I loved the look of the black and orange cake, but wanted an outer decoration that was a bit more simple.  Martha's ghost cake looked great, so I decided to combine the two.  I made ten 6" round layers (I have 3 pans, so this took a bit!) and stacked them with the chocolate filling (delicious).  I then did a crumb coat and full ice with the cream cheese frosting from the ghost cake and make the marshmallow ghosts for the top.  I added my own flair by putting pumpkin peeps around the bottom :)

I could not get my marshmallow ghosts to look anything like Martha's - it was a bit frustrating.  I don't think they turned out all that great.  I was not a huge fan of the orange flavor of the orange cake layers, but others seemed to like it.  It wasn't the greatest cake texture or flavor-wise -- I should learn to make these cakes with time-tested cake recipes!  Overall, it was a fun and impressive cake, though!

Blood and Bones

I loved these meringue bones, but wow what a pain to make.  I was elbow deep in meringue trying to get it into the piping bag.  The final product turned out well though :)  I was not a fan of the hot chocolate - I couldn't get it red enough with the simple liquid food dye I have and it was pretty grainy.  Lesson learned that I need to use better quality chocolate than Trader Joe's for melting.

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