Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tailgate Polo Party, Hazelnut Biscuits with Deviled Ham and The 21 Club’s Pomegranate Cider

You know, try as I might to get myself psyched about tailgate parties, the minute I started thinking about football I froze up.  I am not a big football fan.  I did one Super Bowl post early in my blogging career with one of my favorite evil snacks –– deep-fried meatballs and a spicy dipping sauce… delicious but not good for a tailgate party (is there anything worse than soggy deep-fried food?).

Persian Miniature, 1546

Not to be deterred, I looked into the history of tailgating and that widened my scope to include other sporting events because bringing food in the back of a car or a wagon to nourish sporting participants and spectators is as old as the hills.  The Indians did it at polo matches thousands of years ago.  Thinking about polo also made me think of famous English hunt lunches brought out to the fields to fortify the participants in the grueling event.  These were elegant and delicious affairs (and horses are the only athletes I enjoy watching!).

New Tiffany Table Settings photo

Fine china, crystal and linen were often packed into truly drool-worthy leather cases with elegantly tailored fittings to hold the dinnerware securely for travel.  Great huge baskets were stuffed with provisions and hot and cold food were placed the appropriate containers with wonderful drinks (champagne? –– oh yeah).  Spirit burners could heat up what needed heating and it all went off seamlessly with the precision of military maneuvers performed by a small army of servants with generations of experience via many tailgates or wagons or carriages.

Conde Nast Photo, Polo Tailgate

Another elegant and usually servant-less tailgating party possibility is one done for today's polo matches.  The photo with the adorable tent on the vintage station wagon captured my heart as well.

Although heart-stoppingly exciting to watch, Polo is a terrifying sport, if you ask me.  I have no end of admiration for anyone who can play it at all, let alone well.  The first time a mallet flew by my head going full speed down a field –– I retired from the fray, shaken and grateful I was not in the hospital or on my way to the undertaker.

It is a wonder to watch from the comfort of the sidelines.  Called the sport of kings and king of sports, both horse and rider operate as one and they fly and twirl like spirits possessed.  Tiny movements cause the horses to change course.  I discovered this the hard way riding my neighbor’s new and supposedly untrained polo pony in my field… almost ended up flying over his gorgeous black head when I unknowingly made a knee command and he nearly did a 360º turn—he must have thought I was such a clod, I swear he rolled his eyes at me when I got off!

As you doubtless know, Prince Charles and Prince Harry are both quite good at it –– they can afford to be.  It is not a sport for a light pocketbook –– the rigors of the game demand many changes of mount during the course of the match, necessitating the proverbial “string” of polo ponies for each rider that need to be cared for and moved to matches, often by jet.

I don’t have one of those fabulous picnic hampers and my car’s trunk is not suitable for display (between the dog hair and tools… it would put you off your feed to be sure) so you’ll have to use your imagination for the setting.  Just think of the tented tailgate above!

What to make? 

Finding NYT article  from 1987 about preparing a polo picnic inspired me.  In it, the author recommended elegant fare and well thought out menus that transport well. Caterer Jennifer Krascella made hazelnut biscuits with a rhubarb soup for the spread (along with cold veal stuffed with tuna, summer vegetables in vodka, cheese, fruit, berry-filled cones with marscarpone and of course –– an 80's menu for sure).  The recipe had no milk or baking powder so I added that (I just couldn't figure out how a biscuit without them would work... go to the original if you are braver than I am... I also cut down the sugar since I was using them with a savory filling).

It being fall, I decided to stick with the biscuits and add ham to make a bite-size slider, but then decided I’d share another old favorite of mine –– deviled ham.  When I was a kid I loved the stuff.  When I got older and looked at the ingredients as well as learning about factory-farmed pork –– I stopped eating it.  Then I found this recipe, use organic ham, and, well, I was in love all over again.  Sorry I can’t tell you where the recipe comes from since I copied it into my little black recipe book long ago but it’s delicious. 

Instead of the classic polo drink, Pimms Cup, I thought I’d share a wonderful drink I’ve made many times since I found the recipe, a pomegranate cider from long ago at the 21 Club (I shared this with you before but it seemed a perfect accompaniment for a tailgate picnic–– it’s so simple and delicious).  Add a little alcohol and you are good to go on a cool fall afternoon!

Hazelnut Biscuits inspired by Jennifer Krascella

 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, ground fine
1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
2 T to 1/4 cup granulated sugar (add the sugar to taste)
1 T baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
½  c milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 T edible rose geranium leaves, rinsed and finely chopped (optional)

Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and process for 20 seconds.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl and combine well.
Add the flour, salt, baking soda and hazelnuts and add, a half cup at a time, to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix until the flour is just incorporated. Add milk.
Add the vanilla and chopped rose geranium. 
Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly butter two cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it into 1 1/2-inch balls.
Place the balls a half-inch apart on the cookie sheets, smush them down a little. I used the extra ground hazelnuts to sprinkle on the top.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden (mine took 20).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on cookie sheets for five minutes.
Transfer the biscuits to a cake rack and cool for 10 minutes. Store in a tightly covered container.

Yield: 2 dozen biscuits.

Deviled Ham

1/3 c minced onion
¼ c butter
1 T dry mustard
1 T flour
hefty pinch cayenne
1 c scalded cream (you may want to add more after you chill it if it isn’t creamy enough)
2 c ground ham
2 T Dijon mustard
1T freshly grated horseradish (or bottled) or to taste ( I added 2 T because I love horseradish)
2 t white wine vinegar if you are using freshly grated horseradish
s & p to taste

Pickle relish, sweet pickle or sour cornichons to serve (optional)
watercress (optional)

Saute onion in butter till soft.  Add the mustard and flour and make a roux.  Add the cream and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, add the ham and chill.  Add the horseradish and Salt and pepper to taste (ham is usually salty… so see what you think). You may want to add more cream after it chills if it is too stiff.  Also, it is better the next day.

The biscuits are slightly crisp on the outside.  I would recommend putting them together without the pickle so they don't sog up unless you are serving them immediately.

Pomegranate Cider from the 21 Club

4 cups pomegranate juice
4 cups apple cider
Zest of 1 orange
6 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 cloves
(add a shot of rum, brandy or calvados to taste if you would like –– and I like it with calvados!)

Combine ingredients in pot. Warm over medium heat to bring to a boil, reduce heat and keep warm for 30 minutes. Strain and serve; garnish cups with a cinnamon stick.

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!

PS~  As some of you know, I have been on a sabbatical from my day job in the film business as a production designer.  I am doing a little project for a great director that he has written.  Not much money, great cast and a big dinner scene.  I was wondering if any NYC area bloggers would like to  contribute a beautiful dish to the effort for screen credit?   Email me if this interests any of you.  This would happen somewhere between the 8th and the 19th of November.  Details to follow.

PPS ~~ as a result, I will not be able to visit as much as I would like for the next few weeks and may miss a blog or 2... I'll be back before Thanksgiving!!


Tasty Trix said...

We really were separated at birth!!! Now THIS is my kind of tailgate party! Love that deviled ham and the biscuits are adorable. And of course I will be adding alcohol to your lovely drink.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Deana:
We love eating food outside and always, and somewhat perversely, think that to do this in chilly weather if not the winter is somehow more spirited than in the lay days of summer when just a chilled drink will do.

We have a 1930s picnic set for the purpose but sadly no Bentley or Polo ponies. Nevertheless, we do believe that with your inspirational biscuits and their filling we shall cut a dash at our next al fresco foray!

Faith said...

The idea of a polo picnic is so much fun! This is tailgating food that I could really get on board with. The sliders are lovely, I really like the idea of adding hazelnut!

Barbara said...

This is such a coincidence! I was having a discussion with my sister yesterday and she told me how popular tailgate parties are.....again. Although now they bring flat screen TV's and fancy grills to the parking lots. Was I hearing this correctly? I was astounded. Have you heard about this?

We used to tailgate back in the 60's and 70's....U of M football games in the fall and polo matches in the summer. (My ex was a weekend polo player and we traveled frequently, as he played better than he was ranked, something always in demand.) And WE really did use our stationwagon tailgate. But we had friends who brought their own sawhorses, table top, linens and the most gorgeous stemware, china and silver that you ever saw. We loved it when we tailgated with them. :)
Loved this post. Wouldn't we be good friends if we lived nearer? Our age difference wouldn't matter!

DocChuck said...

As a faithful follower, I guess I am a wee bit disappointed in this post.

Of course, I am not a fan of the sport of Polo (I could not afford to be, unfortunately, even if I had a modicum of interest), and I am not a "tailgater", as I prefer to eat food prepared in my own sanitary kitchen at home.

And my wife, Doctor E. (R.N., Ph.D.), and I prefer to dine on a table, properly set with utensils and other accouterments which would be conducive to a more comfortable dining experience.

Having said that, I would trust that you will soon return to your historical tomes accompanied by appropriate period culinary examples.

My highest respect and good wishes.


Lori Lynn said...

Oh Deana - So enchanting! I would be in heaven to be at your tailgate. Those ham biscuits are dreamy. Stupendous interpretation of this month's Tailgate Party.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

We used to have a polo field in Milwaukee, Uihlein Field. Now it's been converted to several soccer fields. Times change to fit the needs of the masses.

Tailgating is a huge passion here in Wisconsin. At UW Badger football games in Madison grilling on the campus grounds and entertaining is a full spectacle with games and tables full of food. Lots of fun and no sanitary measures necessary as we are all scientists in this regard ;)

It amazes me how wonderfully your photography fits seamlessly into your informational/historic posts. Another great post!

Anonymous said...

Your delicious looking hazelnut biscuits and deviled ham totally make me think of Patrick O'Connell @ the Inn at Little Washington - so in his style (and he is my all time favorite). I absolutely must make these for 5 star foodie jr.

La Table De Nana said...

I live near a Polo Field.. well close enough ..and have seen gorgeous picniks being set up:)

The biscuits sound so good too..Thank you.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Very elegant options, Deana - I like how you made the topic work for you! And, now I need to take a look at those deep-fried meatballs, too!

angela@spinachtiger said...

Polo tailgating? I love it. And, I love your recipe. But, in reading the comments, I was surprised by DocChuck. Was he kidding? Does he not know blogs are personal expressions. He must be kidding.

Table Talk said...

Pretty much in love with the hazelnut biscuit idea---would be fantastic all on their own! Lovely.

Unknown said...

Mr P was telling me how he was watching a TV show where Michael Palin was in Pakistan and they were having a polo match of sorts and they were roasting whole lambs :D. They know how to party my way :D.
THe hazelnut biscuits sounds absolutely to die for.
*kisses* HH
p.s. I am fascinated by your upcoming project! I Hope you write more about it.

Jessica said...

Deana I just enjoy reading your posts so much! I love the information you always share before leading up to that special dish. You made a seriously gourmet tailgate game dish, especially with the pomegranate cider you are serving the biscuits with! And that polo tailgate picnic photo is simply classic.

DocChuck said...

@ angela@spinachtiger

No, he was not kidding, he was expressing an opinion.

And, YES, he is intelligent, and educated enough, to understand that “ ... blogs are personal expressions.”

And, NO, he was NOT kidding. He was expressing an opinion.

And if that expression of an opinion offends you, I am truly apologetic, although I would NOT retract my comment because of your acrimonious response.

Carrion, please.

Evelyne CulturEatz said...

Love your history research on the origins of tail gating. And I agree as well I would enjoy your style better then a football game lol. Very nice recipes, all of them!

Linda said...

Deana this looks like it was an amazing tail-gate picnic...I am crazy for Calvados...I see that drink in my very near future!
Thank you again for a wonderful post!

Lazaro Cooks said...

Brilliant. Great idea. Beautifully executed.

DavidS said...

Boy, am I glad the you noted that the opening picture was from Tiffany -- otherwise, I was about to get stupidly jealous.

Delicious, delicious all around. Must try everything!

Unknown said...

Growing up, I used to live right in FRONT of a polo field, so watched my fair share of chukkas! My father played (and still does, though he's 67) polo. Sadly we never tailgated out of the back of our four-wheel drive because we always had tents set up near the house. Your glamorous hazelnut biscuits and drinks are totally my kind of tailgating food!

PS. Wished I still lived in NYC so I could help out with your project :-(.

Marjie said...

Love the Edwardian picnic basket. I'm not much of a tailgater or picnicker, because I don't want to eat with bugs. I tell folks it's all part of my charm. But your hazelnut brownies sound great for at home!

I saw a St. Bernard at the book sale today. He had to stay outside, because they didn't want him in the church. He seemed more mannerly than some of the human children to me, but I guess that's why I'm a big dog person.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

How absolutely perfect Deana! :) And that polo tailgate party just looks so ...divine!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

NOW, leave it to you, to make something that is ALSO interesting (to me) and make it posh, elegant and definitely worthy of participating in!!! LIKE YOU, I do not enjoy football or any of those events. I actually LOATH them because my students put more value in that than education...oh yeah, I know....children love that more than school, but it seems to be getting more out of hand these days....BUT LIKE YOU, the only athletes I LOVE to watch, are the powerful and graceful equine beauties. THOSE HAZELNUT BISCUITS are a MUST to try dearest! AND THANK YOU for coming to visit me. I loved how you saw the METAPHOR of the powerful ruby slippers to take that extra step into a new venture. It sure is fun, and in only a week, I have made a little killing!!!!

Je t'embrasse tendrement ma belle, Anita

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Ooops, I meant to say, UNINTERESTING TO ME!!!!!!!! Anita

Frank said...

You are truly unique! Is there any other blog around that includes a Persian miniature in a post on tailgating?

I'm not a big football fan, either, but if I were going to a tailgating party, it'd definitely have to be one of yours. :=)

And, you know, I had no idea that there was actually a recipe for deviled ham. You learn something new every day.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Yours is a positively civilized tailgate :-). It really sounds delicious. I happen to love deviled ham so I was delighted to see your recipe for it. I hope all is well. Have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

Unknown said...

Wow, this is some really impressive tailgate food! I love the sliders, but that pomegranite cider really sounds incredible. Sounds like the perfect compliment to the ham.

Sarah said...

Polo was big in Calgary, too, where I previously lived. Well, it was big for a very select group! So glad I was able to attend a couple of matches. I don't think they tailgated, but if they did, it would be in this fashion!

Tanantha said...

Thanks so much Deana for the history and pictures of tailgate party. I wondered the same thing but never got to discover the story behind it. Boo on me!

Wow. deviled ham sounds really good. Let alone your homemade hazelnut biscuits! The cider..first I love the color but after looking at the ingredients, this is perfect for Fall!

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

So glad you didn't allow your distaste for football stop you! The term "tailgating" may be an American one, but enjoying food and drink as a spectator at sporting events is not a new phenomenon. The photos, the cider, and your lovely biscuits with deviled ham salad depict the elegant origins of this tradition :)

plasterer bristol said...

Yum i love hazelnut, these sound delicious. Thanks for sharing.