When I was growing up, Halloween parties often consisted of dunking for apples and playing pin the tail on the donkey. Some of the more adventurous moms created scary experiences: with blindfolds on, the kids stuck their hands in a bowl of cold spaghetti while being told it was “guts”. Another bowl was filled with “eyeballs” – actually peeled grapes. Those experiences now seem silly, and modern cooks come up with all kinds of creepy Halloween dishes.
As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter Carol goes out of her way to make sure that her kids eat a healthy and balanced diet. She does that with some creative cooking along with her full-time job and community responsibilities. Although not always up to her usual healthy-food standards, her Halloween meals turn into extravaganzas that almost make the requisite trick or treating an afterthought.There are several dishes which have become Halloween traditions. She has found the recipes in several sources including Epicurious.com, but she has put her own spin on them to make them hers.
You, too, can go to the internet to find all sorts of Halloween recipes, but with a little thought and some creativity you can invent your own versions of scary food, keeping in mind the spider webs, ghosts, black cats, skeletons, vampires, and yes, even zombies that make up the modern cast of characters for a Halloween party. To get your brain working, here are a few favorite recipes of Carol and her kids.
Ghost Potatoes (Adapted from Epicurious.com and Gourmet, October 1995)
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper to taste
6 Tablespoons butter
1¼ Cups milk
3 large egg yolks
Place the cubed potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook until easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain and rice with a food mill or potato ricer into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
While the potatoes are cooking, combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan and heat over a medium flame until the butter is melted.
Combine until smooth the riced potatoes, butter and milk mixture, and egg yolks using an electric beater.
Spread about one-third of the mixture in the bottom of a 1-quart baking dish. Then transfer the remaining potatoes to a pastry bag fitted with a ¾ inch plain tip.
Using the pastry bag, pipe individual mounds or ”ghosts” on the bed of potatoes. Garnish each ghost with two caraway seeds for eyes. (You may need clean tweezers for this step)
Bake in a preheated oven at 400° for 20 minutes or until the ghosts are golden
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 pounds beef short ribs, bones in
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
1 stalk celery, cut in thirds
1 large carrot, cut in thirds
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
5 branches fresh thyme
2 whole bay leaves
2 Cups beef stock
1 Cup dry red wine
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound peeled baby carrots
1 Tablespoon corn starch dissolved in ½ cup water
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy metal oven-proof pot with lid, heat the oil over a medium-high flame on the stove. Add the short ribs, turning them frequently until evenly browned on all sides. Remove the browned ribs to a plate.
Add the onion, celery, and large carrot to the pot, Add more oil if necessary. Brown the vegetables over medium-high heat. Then return the ribs to the pot. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, beef stock, red wine, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce . Bring to the boil. Then cover. Transfer to the middle of an oven preheated to 225°.
Continue to braise for at least three hours or until the ribs are tender and the bones are loosened. Check from time to time and add more liquid if needed.
About 40 minutes before you are ready to serve, add baby carrots.
When the meat and vegetables are thoroughly cooked, remove the pot from the oven. Discard the onion, celery, large carrot, thyme, and garlic. Transfer the ribs and baby carrots to a plate. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven.
Drain the liquid into a sauce pan, skimming any excess fat. Then bring to a boil over a medium-high flame and reduce to about one half. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and stir in the corn starch dissolved in ½ cup of water. Stir constantly until the sauce is thickened. Add the lemon juice and stir briefly. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
Divide the ribs and vegetables into four servings and sauce with the thickened gravy
8 ounces refrigerated crescent rolls
8 large frankfurters
Unroll the crescent roll dough and cut into ¼ inch strips
Wrap the frankfurters in the strips of dough to resemble mummy wrappings. If you wish, leave one end of each frankfurter free for a “face”.
Place the wrapped frankfurters on an ungreased baking sheet. Spray them lightly with cooking spray and bake them for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 375°.
Remove from the oven. Decorate, if desired, with dots of mustard for “eyes” and serve immediately.
Two dozen of your favorite chocolate cupcakes
1 batch of homemade chocolate frosting or one 16 ounce can of prepared chocolate frosting
Ice cream, divided into 24 1½ inch balls and frozen until ready for assembly
16 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
48 miniature M&Ms
Cut 1½ inch cone-shapes from the centers of the tops of the cupcakes. Reserve the cones.
Frost the tops of the cupcakes, leaving the hole free.
Place an ice cream ball in each of the holes in the cupcake tops, Top the balls with the cones and press the assembly down to set it in the hole
Place the thawed whipped topping into a large zippered plastic bag. Cut off a corner of the bag and use it as a pastry bag to pipe whipped topping around the ice cream ball and around the base of the cone-shaped cake on top of the ice cream. Then pipe more topping to cover the cupcake and to make a peaked ghost head that covers the ice cream and cake cone.
Decorate the ghost head with two M&Ms for eyes. Return to the freezer until ready to serve. If frozen solid, let the frozen cakes stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.