Katie Stew

A rich, simmering blend of my favorite things

The Funktastic Birthday Voyage


This past weekend, I threw a birthday party for my boyfriend. It was themed, “Funktastic Birthday Voyage”. 70’s funkadelic. There were decorations and costumes and was all in all, very entertaining.

I have thrown many parties. In college, they were mostly about whatever horrifying punch concoction I came up with. There were the occasional bowls of chips and dips, maybe some pretzels and cookies if I was feeling extravagant. Since then however, I’ve become a bit more sophisticated. Now, I really like to impress with the food spread.

For this party, I wanted to keep the food super simple. The party was mostly a surprise for my boyfriend. I sent him off with the boys a few hours before the party started and had some girlfriends come and help me set up. This means that I had a very limited window to cook. Most of the things I made look complicated, but were super easy. The menu consisted of the following: bbq turkey meatballs, roasted shrimp cocktail, savory palmiers, caprese skewers, chocolate fondue, and the obligatory chips and salsa.

Ina Garten’s Savory Palmiers have become a party staple for me. They are one of the easiest, tastiest, and fanciest appetizers that I have come across. They look like you worked much harder on them than you actually will. I have never had any leftovers when I serve these.

Savory Palmiers
Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics, Ina Garten

1 package frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, defrosted
1/4 cup prepared pesto, store-bought or homemade (recipe follows)
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, such as Montrachet
1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Kosher salt

Lightly flour a board and carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it’s 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto.
Then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sun-dried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.
Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again toward the center until the folded edges almost touch. Fold one side over the other and press lightly. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover both rolls with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place them face up 2 inches apart on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.
The best part is that you can really fill them with whatever you want.  Her recipe is a staple, but I make them without the sundried tomatoes. I have also made ones with just the goat cheese, nuts, and then some chopped dried fruit, like peaches or cranberries. That alteration makes delightful treats that are rich and not too sweet.
I love that Ina Garten embraces puff pastry with the same zest that I do. She has let me know that it is ok to use frozen pastry. If she can do it, so can I.
The other thing that I prepared for the party is Ina Garten’s Roasted Shrimp Cocktail. This recipe takes about 15 minutes, all in all, and is really quite perfect. Why boil shrimp for shrimp cocktail when you can roast them? Everything tastes better roast than boiled. Can you think of anything that doesn’t? And, you don’t have to deal with giant pots of water and strainers or anything. Just one big cookie sheet. If you cover it in foil, cleanup is seriously minimal. Also, I haven’t come across a cocktail sauce I like better. Simple, spicy, yummy.
Barefoot Contessa: Roasted Shrimp Cocktail
For the shrimp:
  • 2 pounds (12 to 15-count) shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup chili sauce (recommended: Heinz)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place them on a sheet pan with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in 1 layer. Roast for 8 to10 minutes, just until pink and firm and cooked through. Set aside to cool.

For the sauce, combine the chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Serve as a dip with the shrimp.

One thing I will amend though, is that I rarely take the time to peel and devein shrimp when I’m doing big batches for parties. You can get 2 pound bags at Sam’s or Costco that are frozen, already cleaned with the tails on, and reasonably priced. All you have to do is put the shrimp in a strainer in your sink and run cold water over them until they thaw. It takes less than 5 minutes, which unless you are a shrimp cleaning savant, will be way less time than otherwise.

Both of these recipes are from “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics”. If you don’t own this book, go and buy it. Right now. No, I’m not joking. You need it. Everything is simple, beautiful, and really darn tasty. Anyone can cook a fabulous meal out of this book. The instructions are simple and straighforward and the flavors are brilliant.


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