I’m going to confess a possibly unpopular opinion: I’m not a Halloween person. I’m not the kind of lady to pick out a costume or go to any fun parties, because frankly, I’m a little bitter about the whole thing. I’ve always been stuck at work on Halloween, I’ve rarely gone to a fun, spooky party, and the options for women’s costumes are laughable. Sorry not sorry, but I don’t want to be a sexy firefighter or wear a culturally-insensitive costume. No thank you.
This year turned out to be no different… I was stuck at work in an empty restaurant, while the rest of Kansas City partied it up. I should have been at a zombie pub crawl or a costume party having a good time, but the reality is that I scrubbed the night away and got off at an ungodly hour when all those parties and events were coming to a close.
Pity party aside, I know that next year will be a different story as some career-related changes are coming. So this article is for those who get to party on Halloween and for those who don’t.
No matter the holiday, whether it be Christmas or MLK day, I will be drinking. I drink every day, but that’s beside the point. On any special occasion I will drink MORE than what I’d typically drink. So for this Halloween I’m treating you to two awesome cocktails. Along with those cocktails I have a three course menu, laid out for those who are having a spooky sit down dinner, but it can also be adapted to fit the needs of a large party with small bites.
First off, let’s talk alcohol. If you are having a party, especially a party that involves food, I beg of you not to start off with a heavy cocktail. The last thing you want is to serve a drink that tastes artificial, sugary, or filling. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when the mixed drink of the night tastes like I’ve devoured fifty pixie sticks. We’re adults, let’s drink like adults. The pre-dinner cocktail sticks with the theme of Halloween. It’s a bold red color (that reminds you of blood or other creepy things), and also follows my guidelines on a good first cocktail. This drink is crisp, refreshing, and stimulating to the pallet.
Blackberry Gin & Tonic
For Blackberry Simple Syrup (makes about 2 1/2 cups of syrup):
2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, make sure to thaw overnight)
1 cup water
1 ½ cups sugar
For 1 drink:
1 1/2 oz. gin (I used Beefeater)
3 oz. tonic water
Fresh Blackberries, for garnish
Make the blackberry simple syrup: Combine the blackberries, water, and sugar in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to low and let the mix simmer for 5 minutes. While this happens take a wooden spoon and muddle the blackberries. This will help release some of their natural juices and sugars. This process should take no more than ten minutes. When done, carefully pour into a fine mesh strainer. The goal is to separate the liquid from the muddled fruit and seeds. Trash the muddled berries and refrigerate the blackberry simple syrup until completely cool.
Now let’s build the drink. I used a 5 oz stemless wine glass, but you can use another glass as long as it holds 6 oz or less! Add the ice, it should go up to the very top of the glass. I lightly crushed my ice with a rolling pin so I wouldn’t have large cubes in a small glass. Pour in your gin first, add the blackberry simple syrup, then top with the tonic water. Stir together, then garnish with two blackberries.
To make this party friendly: You can easily premix everything and pour it into a chilled punch bowl. I recommend not adding ice to the mix as the ice will melt and dilute the drink. Instead, leave the ice off to the side or put the punch bowl on ice to keep it cold.
Now that you’ve got a cocktail, it’s time to start cooking. First up on the menu is a butternut squash and pumpkin bisque. This soup is a great starter for fall, and the leftovers are perfect when it’s a little chilly outside and you want something to warm you up. This soup is thick and can be filling, so I highly recommend a small portion when serving this.
Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Bisque
Serves 10 small or 5 regular portions
1 butternut squash
1 stick butter
1 yellow onion, medium dice
2 carrots, medium dice
2 celery stalks, medium dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. ground allspice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, plus 1 cup reserved
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 cups cream
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Creme Fraiche, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400F. Split the butternut squash in half, lengthwise and place onto a pan. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the butternut squash, about 35-40 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce the skin. Set the squash aside to cool before handling. Once cool, take a spoon and scoop out the inside, making sure to not scoop up any skin. The skin should be discarded.
On a cutting board, medium dice the onion, celery, and carrot. Mince the garlic. Set aside.
In a large pot, big enough to hold the soup, melt the butter. Saute the onions in the butter until translucent. Then add the carrots and celery, and keep cooking until everything is cooked through and soft. Add the cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, allspice, and garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes aromatic.
Next add your chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a light simmer and let it go for about 15 minutes. Then add the pumpkin and butternut squash. At this point, the soup will be very thick. Add the reserved 1 cup of stock here and let the mix simmer at a low temperature for another 15 minutes. Then add your cream, which will thin out the soup a bit. Let it go for another 15 minutes.
After the soup has simmered, you’ll need to puree it. Working in intervals, ladle the soup from the pot into a blender. The mix will be hot, so work slowly and carefully. When all the soup has been pureed return it back to the pot. Put it back on low heat and taste the soup. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Garnish the soup with the creme fraiche.
To make this party friendly: In tall shot glasses, or the sturdy plastic ones (the cheap ones will melt!), pour in “shot” sized portions and add a dollop of creme fraiche. This is perfect for parties because they can be easily picked up and carried.
I’m a meat and potatoes kind of lady, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Beer is a great alternative to many braising liquids. Stouts are thick, malty, and full of flavor, which makes it a perfect braising companion to bone-in pork chops. Accompanied by a balsamic glaze that pops on the tongue, creamy mashed potatoes, and pan-seared brussel sprouts that give the dish a great crunch.
Stout Braised Pork Chop w/ Balsamic Maple Glaze, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, & Brussel Sprouts
2 bone-in pork chops
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 12 oz. bottle stout beer (I used Boulevard’s Dark Truth Stout)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
2 oz. whiskey
1 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar
1 Tbsp. sriracha
2 russet potatoes
⅓ cup cream
2 Tbsp. butter
Salt & Pepper, to taste
½ lb. brussel sprouts
1 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
Heat a deep saute pan over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. When pan is hot sear the pork chops on both sides. Add the stout beer to the pan and turn the heat down to low. Cover with lid and cook the chops to your desired doneness.
To make the glaze: add the balsamic, maple syrup, mustard, whiskey, honey, and sriracha in a small pan. Whisk it together over medium heat and let the mix lightly bubble. Reduce by half and then remove from heat.
When the pork chops are done, turn the broiler function on for your oven. With a pastry brush, brush one side of the pork chop with glaze. Transfer them to a sheet pan and put them under the broiler. Pull them out when you see the tops starting to bubble and the glaze is cooked into the meat. The glaze should not be running off the sides.
For the mashed potatoes: wash and peel the russet potatoes. Cut each potato in half, then half again. Cut each into 4-5 equal portions. Place them in a deep pot and cover with cold water. Put the pot on the stove over medium heat and bring the water to a boil. Cook the potatoes until a fork easily pierces them. When done, remove from the heat and strain off the liquid. Return the potatoes to the pan, adding cream, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash with a wooden spoon until the potatoes are creamy.
For the brussel sprouts: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water. Add the brussel sprouts and cook them for about two minutes. Strain them off and stop the cooking process by flashing them in a ice water bath. Once the sprouts feel cool, remove from the ice water and pat dry. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When pan is hot, saute the sprouts until they start to brown on the outside. Add the minced shallot and garlic, salt, and pepper and toss it all together.
To make this party friendly: I would ditch the bone in pork chop and go for a pork loin. I’d braise the loin with the beer in the oven. Slice the pork loin into medallion sized pieces and serve it with a small scoop of potato and sprouts. Don’t glaze the pork but instead use the balsamic maple glaze as a sauce to drizzle over the dish. To plate it, I’d use the clear disposable cake plates (or small bowls) that are supposed to look like china.
Starting to see a pattern? Chocolate goes well with a lot of things, and stout beer is one of them! When making the pudding I highly recommend using a stout beer that you would enjoy drinking. The beer in this recipe is cooked down until it’s a thick syrup, concentrating the flavor. It packs a punch, so make sure whatever stout beer you choose is flavorful.
Chocolate Cake, Stout Pudding, & Spiced Cream Trifle
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup or 1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup water, warm to room temperature
4 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
½ cup sugar
1 12 oz. bottle stout beer (I used Boulevard’s Dark Truth here as well)
2 cups heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
For Spiced Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground clove
1 tsp. ground allspice
To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two round cake pans with nonstick spray. In a bowl of a stand mixer, sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Using a paddle attachment, turn it on low speed and add the sugar. Add the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted butter to the mix and let it go until combined. Make sure to scrape down the edges as you go. Add the water last, and just until incorporated. Pour the batter equally into the two pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. When done, remove from oven and let the cakes rest in the pan for 10 minutes.
Gently remove the cakes from the pan and refrigerate them until they cool completely. When cool, you want to cut the cake into cubes, about ½ inch by ½ inch per cube. Cover and refrigerate cake when not in use.
For the pudding: In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch, set aside. In a pan over medium heat, reduce the stout beer until it becomes a very thick syrup. Remove from the heat.
While beer is reducing combine the heavy cream and sugar. Whisk until the mix just starts to simmer. Add the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate melts completely. Remove from the heat and temper the chocolate cream into the egg yolk and cornstarch mix. To temper, slowly ladle in the hot liquid into the egg yolks. Make sure you whisk the entire time to prevent curdling of the yolks. Return that back into the pot. Add a little of the warmed chocolate cream to the reduced stout beer to help release any beer that is stuck to the pan. Scrape with a rubber spatula and return it all to the pan.
Put the mix back on the stove over medium heat, whisk constantly until the mixture starts to thicken a bit. Remove from the heat and pour it into a bowl. Put the pudding into the fridge and let it cool completely, or until it sets. It will be very thick.
For the cream: In a bowl of stand mixer, with a whisk attachment, add all the ingredients. Whisk until medium peaks form.
To plate this I recommend using small glasses or small mason jars. Begin with a little bit of the spiced cream at the bottom. Add some cubed chocolate cake, then pudding. Repeat until glass is full and top it off with some spiced cream. Sprinkle the top with some ground cinnamon.
To make this party friendly: Do everything exactly as it says in the recipe, just make the container you serve them in smaller. Here I’d recommend those cheap plastic tall shot glasses.
Can you blame me for this? Nutella, chai, and Rum Chata. Yum! I consider this beverage an after-dinner cocktail. This drink should be served an hour to two hours after dinner because I’m sure everyone will be full from all the delicious food. This is a hot beverage that is designed to warm and comfort you. It doesn’t have any added sugar, so it’s not overly sweet. As the night wears on it starts to cool off, this drink is a perfect way to warm up those party-goers.
Nutella Chai Latte
3 cups milk
6 chai tea bags
¼ cup Nutella
1/2 cup RumChata
Heat the milk over low heat until it just starts to bubble. Steep the chai tea bags in the milk for about 10 minutes. Making sure your hand is gloved, gently squeeze the tea bags to release more of their flavor. Return the mix to the stove and add the Nutella, stirring until it is incorporated. Ladle Nutella chai milk into a mug, about halfway. Top with RumChata. Add the whipped cream on top and garnish with cinnamon.
To make this party friendly: Follow all the same steps except when you get to the serving portion. I recommend mixing in the RumChata and transferring the liquid to a thermis, crock pot, or a pot on the stove and let guests serve themselves. You can leave a can of whipped cream and a shaker of ground cinnamon off to the side.
Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?
Because they taste funny! *buh dum tss*
I deserve a drink for that one and so does my editor for putting up with me. Cheers Brittany! Even if you don’t use these recipes for any spooky fair, they are always great during the fall and winter months. It’s starting to get chilly outside so make sure to have these on hand when you need to warm up this fall!