I hope everyone had a very merry holiday celebration! It’s been an unseasonably warm December in Boston and the 24th was no exception. The city actually broke it’s temperature record for the day before Christmas reaching 66° Fahrenheit. Truthfully, I’ve been loving the mild weather because it’s made for great running conditions. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet on STSO, but I’m currently training to run the Boston Marathon for the second time and this entire Fall has provided for absolutely beautiful runs along the Charles River. On Wednesday morning I went for a 10-mile run wearing shorts and a tank top! A far cry from my cold, snowy and windy training runs in the Winter of 2013.
Long run completed, I headed home to prepare for Christmas Eve. Michael and I opted for an appetizer-style approach to dinner. I can’t recall the exact details, but at some point in 2014, through the wonders of social media, I fell down the rabbit hole of Instagram and stumbled on a photo from the Cheese & Crack Snack Shop in the other Portland. I was mesmerized. An entire operation based on a cheese plate. I had found my mecca. I’ve never visited the Pacific Northwest, but rest assured, when I eventually make it to Orgeon, I’ll be Ubering from the airport directly to Cheese & Crack. From what I’ve read, the establishment began as a food truck and later transitioned to a brick & mortar shop. They make their own crackers and they also make terrific looking soft serve ice cream sundaes along with crazy slushies concoctions. They serve beer and wine, but I am of course most fascinated by their cheese & cracker Smörgåsbords. In fact, one of my kitchen resolutions for 2015 was to create a totally inspired Smörgåsbord.
To build my own top quality Smörgåsbord I stopped by Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge for a selection of delicious cheeses, salami, pâté, mustard, bright green castelvetrano olives, cornishon and some burnt sugar & fennel shortbread cookies. I bought a loaf of my favorite olive bread from Seven Stars Bakery in Providence (available at Whole Foods in Cambridge). I also made my own knockoff version of raincoast crisps, which were excellent. I have probably spent a years salary on raincoast crisps throughout my cracker eating history so it’s nice to know they can easily be made at home.
For authenticity I ordered these measuring spoons, which are as far as I’m concerned, are not great for measuring, but ideal for serving condiments on your Smörgås plate. I also took the leap and fired-up the kitchen torch my Mom gave me approximately 12 years ago, which has sat in my pantry unopened because I am afraid of butane. I really wanted to brûlée the Brie, however, so I bravely ventured into Bed, Bath & Beyond, where a kind sales associate pointed me in the direction of the surprisingly non-intimidating hairspray-sized fuel canisters. Michael of course had to fill the torch for me, but once I read through the brochure and developed an alliance with the flame guard, there was no looking back.
The first tray included salami, brûléed Brie, shortbread cookies, olives, cornichon, bread, raincrisp crackers and mustard. The second tray included cheddar, chicken liver mousse, bread, raincrisp crackers, olives, cornichon, my friend Jennie’s homemade fig jam, mustard, and chocolate ganache with sea salt. And if you’re wondering if chicken liver mousse and chococlate ganache pair well together on a cracker, the answer is yes. It is decadent and delicious. We noshed and drank martinis, listed to The LeeVees and fell asleep watching White Christmas.
Try making a batch of raisin pecan crackers for your next cheese plate. I used thyme, but you could of course use rosemary. I might try lemon thyme or chives next time. I’d also like to try replacing the raisins with apricots or dates.
Raisin Pecan Crisps
Adapted from Dinner With Julie
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup pepitas, lightly toasted
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed, ground
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir a few strokes. Add the raisins, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and thyme and stir just until blended.
Prepare two 8” x 4” loaf pans with nonstick spray and transfer the batter evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.
The cooler the bread, the easier it is to slice really thin. I let the bread cool overnight before slicing. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice the loaves as thin as you can and place the slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, then flip crackers over and bake for another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.