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Easy holiday entertaining 

  I love entertaining during the holidays, although it becomes stressful when I try to take on too much. That’s why I look for dishes that are simple to prepare yet impressive enough to serve guests. Whether you entertain a little or a lot during the holiday season, these recipes will feed a hungry mob and get you out of the kitchen quickly so you can enjoy the party. And who would be better sources of delicious ideas than our talented local chefs? Of course, if you still can’t fathom cooking for a party of guests, drop in at any of these restaurants for a great meal and let them clean the dishes. 


The Cass House

“This is my favorite chicken recipe for several reasons. I love chicken, I love autumn, and most importantly, it’s a recipe once served by my culinary hero Fernand Point at his Restaurant de la Pyramide in Vienne, France,” Chef Jensen Lorenzen explained. “At the Cass House we use black truffles from Oregon and serve the dish with locally foraged chanterelles.” He recommends serving this dish with an Oregon Pinot Noir. I would recommend just about any Central Coast Pinot Noir with this dish, as the mushrooms are a bridge that complements the flavor profile of Pinot Noir. 

Chicken with autumn mushrooms 

1 - 3 or 4 lb. good quality chicken

1 ½ lbs. mixed wild mushrooms cleaned and roughly chopped (he recommends Oak Hill Mushrooms)

1 bunch each fresh rosemary, thyme, and Italian parsley, chopped

1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature

olive oil (as much as needed)

2 bulbs garlic

2 fresh shallots, minced

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring chicken to room temperature while you work on the recipe. In a mixing bowl, combine half of the chopped mushrooms, half of the butter, half of the chopped herbs, and minced shallots. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture to adjust seasoning. Make a small slice in the skin of each breast and thigh. Stuff as much of the mushroom/butter compound under the chicken’s skin as possible without ripping the skin; save any remaining butter. Smash the whole heads of garlic to release their oils and place into the body cavity. Rub the chicken with olive oil, season liberally with salt, pepper, and remaining herbs then truss with kitchen twine. Place chicken in shallow roasting pan. Place remaining ¼ to ½ lb. butter mixture directly on top of the crest in the chicken’s breast so the butter will slowly drip down the skin. Place chicken in the oven for 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 degrees F, remove the chicken and baste with drippings. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes longer, or until an instant thermometer reads 160-165 degrees F at the thickest point of the breast and thigh. Baste the chicken with drippings every 15 minutes during roasting. After the internal temperature of the chicken reads appropriately, remove from the oven and let rest on a platter for a minimum of 10 minutes so the meat can reabsorb juices. While it rests, pour off drippings into a bowl. Sauté the remaining mushrooms in a splash of the chicken’s drippings until the mushrooms are just caramelized. Deglaze the roasting pan with a splash of white wine and scrape up any browned bits of chicken. Whisk in remaining butter/mushroom compound, season with salt and pepper to taste. Carve chicken and serve with sautéed mushrooms and pan sauce. Serves 4. 


The Club Car

  At SLO’s newest restaurant, the Club Car, chef Ruben Sandoval has created a menu of tasty dishes that made my mouth water just reading it. For those of us who haven’t discovered this interesting restaurant yet, he offers this recipe. Chef Ruben said: “I use my house-cured Kurobuta pork belly but any bacon will do.” Like most of his menu, nearly everything is made in-house by the chef and his team. I recommend the Niman Ranch bacon sold at Trader Joe’s. This recipe requires three steps but each part is easily prepared. The beauty of it is that you can make this for two people or prepare 30 to 40 scallops for a party—the lemon preserves will last a month. For each large scallop you’ll need one slice of bacon, both cut in half crosswise.

Bacon-wrapped scallops

1 scallop, halved crosswise

1 slice bacon, halved crosswise

Tabasco coulis *

preserved lemon, prepared four days in advance *

click to enlarge CLUB CAR:  Chef Ruben Sandoval contributed the recipe for a delectable scallop treat - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER 
  • CLUB CAR: Chef Ruben Sandoval contributed the recipe for a delectable scallop treat

Wrap each scallop half with a half-slice of bacon and secure with toothpick. Over medium-high heat fry the bacon-wrapped scallop in small sauté pan, continually moving it around with tongs for 3 minutes or until you’ve reached desired color. On a small plate place three dollops Tabasco coulis, using a teaspoon to drag coulis in a swoosh or zigzag across plate. Lay scallops (with toothpicks) on sauced plate and top scallop with some of the lemon preserves.

*Tabasco coulis 

1 cup ketchup

2-oz. bottle Tabasco sauce

4 dashes Worcestershire

¼ cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan and reduce by half over low heat watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. Strain sauce into a bowl, whisk to combine, then chill.

*Preserved lemon recipe

Lay whole lemon on its side and carefully slice really thin slices but only ¾ of the way through the lemon.  You should be able to get around 8-10 slices per lemon. Apply a salt and sugar mixture in between each slice and re-form lemon and put in an airtight container (Mason jars are perfect) and store at room temperature in a dark room for 24 hours.  Open the jar and fill with good-quality olive oil and herbs of your choice.  Let them refrigerate for three days before using. The preserves will last for 21 days, refrigerated.

Chef Ruben noted: “The lemons require the most labor but are well worth it.”


Koberl at Blue

To present this salmon strudel recipe Chef Erich Koberl recommends: “Steamed asparagus and a glass of dry white wine are a great accompaniment with this dish.” You could just as easily serve it as an appetizer or a first course. To complement the rich and buttery strudel and sauce, I’d choose a classic Chardonnay and/or a Pinot Noir from Claiborne & Churchill, Domaine Alfred, Talley, or Tolosa. For solid value-priced wines, try Edna Valley Vineyards or Meridian. 

Pacific salmon, tomato, and pesto strudel with beurre blanc 

20-oz. salmon filet, skinless

2 oz. pesto*

10 phyllo dough sheets, 8 x 8 inches square

2 oz. butter, melted

2 medium tomatoes, peeled and quartered, seeds and meat removed to create petals

8 oz. beurre blanc *

4 sprigs fresh basil  

  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the salmon filet lengthwise into two, 2 ½-inch strips about 6 inches long, season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread pesto on the salmon and place 4 tomato petals on each salmon strip and set aside. On a flat, dry surface lay out one sheet of phyllo dough and carefully brush with the melted butter, place second phyllo sheet on top brush with butter and repeat until you have 5 layers of phyllo sheets. Carefully place the salmon strip with the pesto and tomatoes on the lower part of the phyllo layers and roll tightly. Tuck in the ends and brush with melted butter. Repeat the instructions for the second strudel. Set both on a parchment-paper-covered sheet pan and bake about 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Let the strudel rest at room temperature for 3 minutes then cut in half. Serve with beurre blanc and basil sprigs. Serves 4


2 small cloves garlic ¼-cup pine nuts, toasted 1 cup fresh basil ¼-cup Parmesan Reggiano, grated   1 / 3-cup extra-virgin olive oil 

pepper to taste

In a food processer, finely chop garlic, pine nuts, and basil. With motor running, slowly add olive oil, processing until incorporated. Transfer to a small bowl, add Parmesan and pepper, mix well, cover and chill until ready to serve.

*Beurre blanc 

1 tsp. butter

2 T. finely chopped shallots

½ cup mushrooms, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh tarragon

1 ½ cups dry white wine

1 ½ cups fish stock (or chicken stock)

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled

salt and white pepper 

  In saucepan melt 1 teaspoon of butter over low heat. Add shallots and mushrooms, sauté over low heat for one minute. Add the bay leaf, tarragon, dry white wine and fish stock and reduce by half over medium heat. Add the heavy cream and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from heat and strain the mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Return the sauce to the pan and return to a boil, then whisk in the chilled butter until emulsified. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.  


Mama’s Meatball

  Chef Nicola Allegretta offered this traditional Italian soup he said is always made on New Year’s Day to bring family prosperity and good health in the new year. “In Italy we add to this soup a piece of meat, this will give it more flavor and it will be considered as the main course,” the chef noted. He suggested adding cotechino or zampone (Italian pork sausages), available in local Italian delis. If not available he recommends adding a large piece of bacon or links from local sausage producers. I would use Cattaneo Brothers, the Paso Robles Meat & Sausage Co., or Ray’s Own Brand. Serve the lentil soup with your favorite Chianti Classico or try an excellent Central Coast Sangiovese from Ortman Family in Paso Robles, or Rusack in Santa Ynez Valley. 

Lentil soup 

1 lb. lentils

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

5 cherry tomatoes or 1 Roma tomato, chopped

1 tsp. parsley, chopped

1 tsp. salt and a pinch of black pepper

  Rinse the lentils then combine them with the remaining ingredients in a medium-sized pot. Cover with water at least 1-inch above the lentils, cook the soup over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serves 5. 


Kathy’s favorite chicken wings

  Last, for my readers, I give you my favorite appetizer for holiday parties in any time of year, originally from Williams-Sonoma cookbook Essentials of Roasting. I’ve altered the cooking time so they come out tender and juicy. I recommend pairing them with a slightly sweet Riesling with bright acidity from Alsace, Germany or go local with Talley Vineyard’s excellent 2007 Riesling. 

Sesame chicken wings

6 to 8 chicken wings

2 T. Asian sesame oil

2 T. soy sauce

2 T. rice wine vinegar (not seasoned)

1 T. garlic, finely chopped

1 T. fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 T. sesame seeds

  Cut the tips off the wings and discard. Cut wing through the joint into two pieces. In a nonreactive bowl (glass), combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and ginger, then add wings and toss to coat well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove wings from the marinade, sprinkle them with sesame seeds, and place them on a rimmed baking sheet (cover with foil to make clean-up easy). Roast the chicken wings for 30 – 40 minutes, turning once half-way through. Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 8.


The Cass House

222 N. Ocean Ave., Cayucos, 995-3669

The Club Car

1815 Osos St., SLO, 549-8133

Koberl at Blue 

998 Monterey St., SLO, 783-1135

Mama’s Meatball

570 Higuera St., SLO, 544-0861

250 Avila Beach Dr., Avila Beach, 627-0288

325 Pier Ave., Oceano, 473-2383

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at


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